Pages: 1 2
As exposed by the Daily Caller, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is apparently unsatisfied with the fact that a record-setting one-in-seven Americans, totaling 46 million people, are currently receiving food stamps. In an effort to get that number even higher, the Department has created a series of radio “novelas” aimed Spanish speakers, promoting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). “Our common goal is to increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program )SNAP) (sic),” reads the opening paragraph at the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service website. “Our purpose is to ensure that those going through difficult times can feed their families healthy, nutritious food. By working as a team, we can accomplish these goals.”
The goals include a series of ten novelas, with titles such as “At the Park,” “Celebration,” “Success,” and “Kid’s Talk.” They are available as both MP3 files and written radio scripts. Each one of the written scripts begins the name of the episode, its purpose, its setting and a “myth buster.” For example, episode one, “At the Park” (At El Parque”), states that its purpose is “program introduction.” Its setting is “at a neighborhood park.” Then come the myth busters. “1) MYTH: SNAP IS NOT WELFARE. FACT: SNAP IS A NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM. 2) MYTH: ONLY UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE CAN GET SNAP FACT: MOST PEOPLE WHO WORK LOW WAGE JOBS CAN GET SNAP BENEFITS. (italic, caps, and the apparent mistake in myth one, which should read SNAP is welfare, all in the original).
One of the myth/truth exchanges is aimed at de-stigmatizing the program. The myth expresses the concern “that other people will know I use SNAP.” The fact section reassures the potential user that “the SNAP EBT card makes it discreet.” Another myth-busting fact assures potential users that they can “own a car and still get assistance.”
All of the scripted scenarios consists of characters convincing skeptics to join the program or explaining how much healthier it is to be on food stamps. The majority of the stories end as “cliff hangers,” with an announcer encouraging the listeners to tune into the next program to see if the character skeptical of using the program is convinced to apply for benefits, or at least begins to understand how important the program is for maintaining one’s health.
A USDA guide titled “Engaging Special Populations” is a blueprint detailing the most effective ways to reach Americans and get them in the program. It begins with a section that emphasizes the “importance of effective SNAP outreach across cultures.” And while the section provides “suggestions” and “practical tips” for doing so, it warns that these are not “intended to provide specific strategies and tactics for reaching individuals of distinct races, ethnicities, cultures, or other demographic groups.”
That last bit is disingenuous at best. As the the Daily Caller reveals, there is no English-language equivalent program being produced by the USDA, and telenovelas are a popular form of entertainment in Spanish-speaking countries. The radio novelas overcome the “lack of knowledge” the USDA contends is one of main hurdles hampering greater participation in the SNAP program.
Furthermore, as far as the USDA is concerned, outreach to American citizens is insufficient. Another guide, “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Guidance on Non-Citizen Eligibility” outlines the various non-citizen categories under which one is still eligible for the program. Some of these “qualified aliens” include green card holders, people granted asylum, parolees, Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants, non-citizens who may be victims of human trafficking or domestic violence, and others. The guide bemoans the lack of participation by such non-citizens. “In 2008, the participation rate for non-citizens was 51% and the rate for citizen children living with non-citizen adults was 55% as compared to the national participation rate of 67% among all eligible individuals,” it reads.
Pages: 1 2