Debunking Common FoodShare Myths

FoodShare is an important investment in our communities. It helps participants stretch their food dollars and have enough energy not just to get by, but to thrive. FoodShare benefits are often spent at local grocery stores, which helps boost the local economy. Despite all the benefits FoodShare offers, several myths and misconceptions about FoodShare still persist:

Myth: Once people enroll in FoodShare, they stay in the program for years.
Truth: According to the USDA, households are enrolled in FoodShare for an average of 11.7 months.

Myth: FoodShare participants don’t work and have no incentive to work.
Truth: Most FoodShare participants are children, seniors, or disabled and are not expected to work. However, the majority of FoodShare participants who can work do so. Among households who have a working-age, non-disabled adult, 58% had income while enrolled in FoodShare.

FoodShare also has built-in work incentives. For every additional dollar earned, a household’s benefits only decrease by about 24 to 36 cents. Additionally, working-age adults without dependents are only able to get 3 months of benefits in a 3-year period unless they work or participate in a training program.

Myth: Enrolling in FoodShare takes away benefits from someone else.
Truth: Everyone who applies for and is eligible for FoodShare receives benefits. Enrolling will not affect anyone else’s eligibility or benefits.

Myth: Fraud and abuse are widespread in FoodShare.
Truth: Every public dollar is precious, and anyone who is caught abusing and defrauding FoodShare faces serious consequences. The good news is that the rate of fraud is at an all-time low of 1.6%, and 96.2% of FoodShare households receive the correct amount of benefits. Also, there are initiatives in place to continuously improve these rates.

Myth: FoodShare is a drain on taxpayers and the economy.
Truth: FoodShare participants usually shop at local grocery stores and farmers’ markets, which helps the local economy. In fact, the USDA estimates that every $5 of FoodShare benefits generate about $9 in local economic activity.

Myth: Undocumented immigrants are eligible for FoodShare.
Truth: Undocumented immigrants have never been eligible for FoodShare. Documented immigrants are only eligible for FoodShare after they have lived in the United States for 5 years, with certain exceptions for children, refugees, and people granted asylum.

It’s important to remember that FoodShare is not a welfare program, and documented immigrants will not be deported, denied permanent status, or denied entry to the country if they apply for or enroll in FoodShare.

Myth: Homeless individuals are not eligible for FoodShare.
Truth: You do not need to have housing to qualify for FoodShare. You also don’t need to have a place to cook to qualify. Homeless participants are also able to use their FoodShare benefits to pay for meals at shelters and meal sites that are authorized to accept benefits.

Myth: The increase in FoodShare participation since 2008 is due to people taking advantage of the system.
Truth: The FoodShare program responds quickly to changes in need, growing in real time in response to increases in poverty and unemployment. As more people faced reduced hours and unemployment during the recent recession, FoodShare helped them keep food on the table. Now that the economy has started to improve, participation in FoodShare has gone down.