COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio already has a high rate of food insecurity, and during this Hunger Action Month, there are concerns it could become an even bigger problem if eligibility changes for SNAP benefits.
An estimated 61,000 Ohioans could lose their food assistance if what is known as "categorical eligibility" is eliminated as proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Federal officials have said it will prevent program abuse and save money, but Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, countered that the rule helps streamline eligibility and provides states with flexibility.
"This broad-based categorical eligibility is the law; it is not a loophole as it has been portrayed," she said, "and this rule has been rejected in the last two farm bills on a bipartisan basis."
Categorical eligibility means families that qualify for one anti-poverty program also are eligible for SNAP benefits. As part of Hunger Action Month in September, Hamler-Fugitt encouraged Ohioans to weigh in on the proposed change. The USDA is accepting comments until Sept. 23.
About 13% of Ohioans struggle with food insecurity, more than the national rate of 11%. Hamler-Fugitt said people can get involved in the fight to end hunger by urging elected leaders to support nutrition programs, volunteering at a local food bank and collecting non-perishable foods for donation.
"Despite some signs of recovery in the economy, far too many of our hungry friends and neighbors are struggling," she said, "and we need to maintain a solid nutritional safety net to ensure that hunger does not continue to increase in our great state."
Thursday is Hunger Action Day, and Ohioans can wear the color orange or change their social-media profile to orange to show their support for hunger relief.
The USDA proposal is online at federalregister.gov.
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