Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
Today’s Yesterday’s Telegram had an article by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting on food stamp fraud. The article in a nutshell:
Daniels says electronic monitoring has been so effective that it has cut the annual rate of food stamp trafficking to an estimated 1 percent, or about $241 million, down from 3.8 percent 10 years earlier. That 1 percent figure touted by the government has remained constant despite an explosion in the number of food stamp recipients. From June 2008 to June 2009, the number of people receiving food stamps jumped by 22 percent because of the lingering nationwide economic crisis. By June 2010, nearly 41.3 million people were receiving food stamp benefits, an increase of almost 475,000 people from just one month earlier. Yet despite the phenomenal growth in the number of recipients, retail trafficking in food stamps remains at 1 percent, USDA officials said.
Burns, however, doubts that government claim. He said that it’s difficult to even conceive of a 1 percent trafficking rate in so vast a program as the $50 billion food stamp industry, where an estimated one out of every eight people is receiving food stamp benefits and more than 193,000 vendors are authorized to redeem them.
The line in there — the “explosion in the number of food stamp recipients” — isn’t much of a hyperbole.
In October MuckRock.com, a website devoted to aiding reporter and citizen’s public record requests, obtained statewide SNAP data* from the Department of Transitional Assistance which shows that food stamps can translate into big bucks.
Between financial years 2006 and 2009, according to the data, SNAP reimbursements grew from almost $240 million to almost $559 million, a 132 percent increase in just three years. The greatest increase occurred in the last year for which MuckRock had full data, financial year 2009, which saw a 39 percent spike in just one year.
Stores like Whole Foods, Wild Oats and Trader Joe’s have steadily tapped into the SNAP market. A Whole Foods in Brighton raked in $260,000 in 2009, while the Trader Joe’s in Shrewsbury pulled in $172,000 in 2009, versus nearly $39,000 in 2006. In today’s Telegram they’ve added partial 2010 data for Worcester County vendors. See their excel sheet here.
Statewide, in 2009 Worcester came in #5 in 2009 for SNAP spending, behind Springfield, Chicopee, Dorchester and Chelsea. In 2006 Worcester ranked 6th.
*MuckRock has actually gotten into some trouble for publishing these statistics after the Department of Transitional Assistance wrote that the information was “erroneously released” and called for its removal from the site. MuckRock has not complied with the request yet, and instead is keeping people informed here and here.