Stepping Up

West Virginia was one of only seven states in which the number of people receiving food stamps increased, as of February. In most of the rest of the country, the trend is much more positive, with the number of people enrolled in the program nationwide hitting a three-year low.

But here in the Mountain State, more and more families feel the need to seek government assistance to feed themselves. According to a senior policy specialist with the Department of Health and Human Resources, there are several factors contributing to such a state of affairs – 3.51 percent more residents received food stamps than in February 2013. Chief among those factors is job loss, though there is also an increased awareness of eligibility for the program as residents enter the world of federal assistance through Obamacare.

Of course, the amount received from such programs does not increase during the summer months, when children are out of school. Locally run summer meal programs must try to fill the gaps. Schools, summer camps, and the West Virginia University Extension Service, among other groups, do their best to provide meals for children in low-income families.

In fact, those programs were the go-to answer from the same DHHR specialist, when it came to the question of how kids could stay well-fed during the summer months.

“There are feeding programs, different types, and those are not necessarily administered by the (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) but there are summer feedings,” she said.

It will be up to folks from all parts of the community to fill in the gaps left when the unemployment our state continues to suffer at the hands of national policy runs up against the rigidity of a federal program that does not adapt to changes in the number of mouths in a household during the summer.

Of course, here in the Mid-Ohio Valley, residents will step up – and local school systems will bear a large portion of that burden. With the federal government handing out hits on both sides of the equation, thank goodness our communities are willing to do so.