LIHUE — The hungry on Kauai are finding other ways to eat without cashing in on food stamps.
“What we hear from our partner groups, like Kauai Economic Opportunity, Catholic Charities of Kauai and the Salvation Army, is there are so many church and other groups that go out and feed people that they aren’t coming in to get food stamps and other counsel,” said Scott Giarman, executive director of Kauai United Way.
The state receives more than $500,000 annually in federal funds to run the food stamp program and has some of the lowest participation rates in the country, according to the Associated Press.
The low number of people getting help is a concern, Giarman said.
“Feeding people is a wonderful impulse, but that’s the first step,” he said.
Guidance allows conversations to happen, and that’s when problems are solved, Giarman added.
“Counsel is needed to help figure out why people are hungry,” he said.
To increase the number of people using food stamps, Hawaii lawmakers are discussing a bill that would increase the state’s participation in the federal food stamp program.
The bill, introduced by Democratic Sen. Josh Green, would have health care providers ask clients who are enrolled in Medicaid if they are participating in SNAP.
Green, a physician, said he wanted to introduce the bill after realizing many of his patients didn’t know they could have assistance through SNAP and other programs.
“I see a lot of people in my other life as a doctor that are in poverty, and I’ve noticed that a lot of them weren’t getting the full complement of resources that they’re eligible for,” he said.
There were 159,603 people in Hawaii who were enrolled in Medicaid but not in SNAP, according to the bill.
“If these additional, eligible . individuals participated in SNAP, the state could receive more federal funding, an estimated ($247 million) which would ultimately be injected into the economy in Hawaii with no negative impact on the state budget,” the bill states.
Citing implementation and confidentiality concerns, the Department of Human Services has testified against the bill. It also said the department is working on allowing people to apply for Medicaid and SNAP simultaneously.
Kauai residents need to be encouraged to participate in those and similar programs, Giarman said.
“People need to live, not just survive,” Giarman said. “That takes counselors who can work with the homeless, to help them address their underlying problems and live independent, productive lives in their own homes.”