U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack

About 13% of all Iowans now put food on the table each day with the help of SNAP benefits.

The latest Farm Bill is providing some $200 million in grants that will be used to help those receiving SNAP benefits to find jobs — or better paying jobs.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the face of the SNAP program has changed in the last 40 years.

“Today, only 7-8% of SNAP beneficiaries are cash welfare recipients,” Vilsack says. “It used to be that hardly anybody had income in SNAP. Today, 41% of households have somebody earning a paycheck of one kind or another. It’s a different mix of people. It’s a different kind of program than it was, ending the stereotypes, making sure people understand there are a lot of folks struggling.”

Almost 421,000 Iowans receive monthly SNAP benefits, about 13% of the state’s population. Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, says the majority of those receiving SNAP benefits work but are under-employed or under-paid.

“Nearly three-quarters of SNAP beneficiaries are senior citizens, people with disabilities or children of moms and dads who are actually in the workforce,” Vilsack says. “Forty-one percent of SNAP beneficiaries live in households where there is income being generated by a job.”

Vilsack says the grant money will be used to provide education and training, rehabilitative services for individuals in need and target hard to serve areas.

He says, “Congress in the Farm Bill basically created a fund of $200-million, said that we could use that fund to fund up to 10 pilot projects, $165-million of that 200-million will be used for actual costs and helping to create new programs and better programs and better linkages to job opportunities and 35-million will be used to evaluate those pilot projects.”

Several of the pilot programs, he says, will be tested in what are considered hard-to-serve areas, including rural parts of Iowa.