Skip to content

You are here

Top 10 Myths about Food Stamps

What's the most effective way to stop hunger? Read below to discover the truth about SNAP/Food Stamp benefits.

Myth #1 – Food stamps are welfare.

False: Food stamps help keep people off welfare. The Food Stamps Program is known in public policy as a “work support,” meaning it is used by people looking for a job, or employed but not making enough to make ends meet. Because food stamps allow these people to maintain their low-wage employment, food stamps actually help people get off and stay off the welfare rolls.

Myth #2 – The Food Stamps Program costs NYC taxpayers too much.

False: The Food Stamps Program is a federal program – all the benefits are paid for by the federal government. New York City only picks up a small part of the cost of administering the program, while the federal and state governments picks up the rest.

Myth #3 – OK, the Food Stamps Program costs American taxpayers too much.

False: The benefits of food stamps far outweigh their costs. Currently, paying for the Food Stamps Program takes about 1 cent of every federal budget dollar. In addition to lifting people out of poverty, the USDA has concluded that every dollar of emergency money spent on food stamps during a recession sparks $1.82 in local economic activity, leading to more jobs and productivity . As if that weren’t enough, food stamps help keep working families fed.

Myth #4 – Food stamps are easy to obtain.

False: Nationally, only 66 percent of people who are income-eligible for food stamps receive them. In New York City, roughly 700,000 people are eligible to receive food stamps but don’t, costing NYC businesses roughly $1 billion in lost sales. Studies conclude that the main reason eligible people don’t participate  in SNAP is the complex bureaucracy involved in applying, which is frustrating and humiliating .

Myth #5 – Most people who don’t receive food stamps simply don’t want help from the government.

False: National opinion surveys conducted by the USDA have found that just 17 percent of eligible but non-participating families don’t participate in the program because they don’t want the help. Most are either unaware they are eligible, or don’t want to go through the onerous process of applying .

Myth #6 – The Food Stamps Program is a wasteful, inefficient bureaucracy.

False: The Food Stamps Program has been praised by the Government Accountability Office and the current White House administration as a model of government efficiency. In 2002, the nationwide administration of the Food Stamps program amounted to only 11% of its program costs .

Myth #7 – The Food Stamps Program is rife with fraud and abuse.

False: Since the introduction of the EBT card system, fraud in the Food Stamps Program has reached an all-time low. 98 percent of food stamp benefits now go to households that are found eligible under very strict rules. At last count (2005), only 4.56 percent of food stamps benefits were found to be overpaid, down more than a third from six years earlier. At the same time, 1.28 percent were found to be underpaid! Two thirds of all improper payments were found to be the fault of the caseworker, not the individual.

Myth #8 – Fingerprinting applicants prevents fraud and abuse.

False: There in no evidence that fingerprinting food stamps applicants reduces fraud. However, it does increase the cost of the program’s administration and is known to humiliate applicants, which is why only three states still have this regressive policy: California, Arizona, and Texas.

Myth #9 – Food stamps benefits go to illegal immigrants.

False: Illegal immigrants are not eligible to receive food stamps, and never have been; there are stringent processes to determine citizenship in the program. Legal immigrants are also not allowed to receive food stamps until they have been in the country for five years (with the exception of asylum cases and some other situations). Immigrants generally are far less likely than other groups to apply for food stamps, both because they fear jeopardizing their immigration status, and because the complex application process is doubly hard for those who do not speak English well.

Myth #10 – Food stamps cause obesity and unhealthy eating habits.

False: National studies of food stamps users have found that program participation has no significant effect, positive or negative, on the consumption of healthy foods. Several years of studies have produced no clear evidence that food stamps affect overeating or weight gain in either direction.

To learn more about the work NYCCAH does around SNAP/Food Stamp benefits, visit our Benefits Access program page.