Food stamps don’t meet needs, recipients say

Rapid City, South Dakota (AP) 4-08

Some American Indians say their buying power is shrinking as food prices climb and that food stamps aren’t stretching nearly as far as they used to.

It’s children and the elderly who are suffering from it, state Social Services Secretary Deb Bowman was told at a meeting with American Indian food stamp recipients this past week.

“Food stamps are not keeping up with the cost of living,” said Dennis Grinnell, who lives on his veteran’s benefits. “Food stamps have got to keep up with the times.”

He said his food stamps decreased by $10 when his veteran’s benefits rose by $21.

Bowman said that when it comes to raising food stamp allocations, her hands are tied. The decision makers are in Washington, she said at the meeting. Federal guidelines require cuts in food stamps when household income goes up, she said.

“That’s just the bottom line,” Bowman said. “We take the brunt of the punishment for a lot of the decisions that are made at the federal level.”

“It’s not restricted to Native Americans,” said Andrew Ironshell of the Western South Dakota Native American Organizing Project. “It’s all colors. With the economic situation in our country now, more and more people are maybe accessing services.”

Some people at the meeting wanted to talk with Bowman about children in the child-protection services system. Bowman would not discuss child-protection issues in public but invited families to contact her.

She did say that when the Department of Social Services takes custody of children, it’s almost always at the request of law enforcement or the courts.

Bowman invited people to use her department’s complaint procedures and assured them her goal is to see that her staff treats people with dignity.

“I take bad and poor customer service very seriously,” Bowman said.