Maryland must feed, find all of its hungry

Outreach: Regulatory gridlock reduces state's ability to get food stamps where they're needed.

March 15, 2001

LET THEM EAT regulations.

With apologies to Marie Antoinette, regulatory purity has become a roadblock to feeding the hungry.

Rather than run afoul of federal restrictions, the Glendening administration seems determined to defend a maze of obstacles that makes it difficult to get food stamps.

Let's replace unnecessary frustration with common sense. There's no excuse for hunger in a state and nation with enormous budget surpluses.

If human concerns were not enough, welfare reform's success depends on maintaining food assistance to new workers who are only marginally capable of sustaining themselves as they start low-wage jobs.

Many new workers, surveys show, get wages that leave them far below the federal poverty level.

Yet advocates for the poor say the state's obsession with avoiding eligibility errors has led to a tight-fisted approach in determining who gets the food-buying coupons.

Maryland blames the federal government even as eligible people may be going hungry.

More can and should be done by Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

A January study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that in Maryland, 66 percent -- 288,000 of 437,000 potentially eligible recipients -- were getting food stamps in 1998.

The number compared well with the surrounding mid-Atlantic states at that time. More current data is not available.

But at the same time, the figures showed that 149,000 people in Maryland who might be eligible were not in the food-stamp program, despite attempts to find them.

Many families in our own communities feel some of that "hunger insecurity," as bureaucrats and academics coldly call it.

People should not have to steal or do other harmful things to be able to feed their children -- particularly when our government is supposed to provide a benefit that these citizens need to become healthy and self-sufficient Marylanders.

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