CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) - Many families are struggling to put food on the table and thousands of them are eligible for food stamps. But some people feel they are getting denied at a time when the government wants more people to sign up.
The US Department of Agriculture announced that they want more people to sign up for food stamps and are spending millions to get the word out but not everyone feels the right people are getting the assistance.
Farmers markets around Western Massachusetts aim to help families put healthier meals on the table. There has been a push in recent years to have food stamp recipients spend their benefits at local farmers markets.
Shannon Donnelly of the Massachusetts Farmers Makets said, "[The purpose is for] healthy eating, trying to get more fruits and vegetables in their diet because a lot of people have an overweight problem."
That's part of the reason why the US Department of Agriculture is pushing for more people to sign up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Snap. They say many are not taking advantage of the assistance.
Jeff Cole from Mass Farmers Markets says they see many people who qualify, but don't want to take the help. "I think that's the prevailing sentiment, I talk to elderly people who are eligible for food stamps and they express the thing ‘you know, I get by, I want to leave that money for someone who's really desperate," said Cole.
But Jeff says they are coming out with new ways to cut back on outdated, wasteful spending to help more families. Brand new to farmers markets this year is new EHIP technology where vendors can just swipe an EBT card making it much easier and more efficient for the shopper and the vendor.
But for those who feel they should qualify, it still comes down to how much money they bring home.
Jesse Torres of the Pioneer Valley Opportunity Council said, "If their income qualifies then we fill out the paperwork, if not then we just tell them right there that I'm sorry, you're over income I don't think you're going to be qualifying for food stamps but it's kind of hard because they do walk out of the office sad but there's really nothing we can do."
Cole also said, despite a feeling that some are taking advantage of help that they don't need, there is only a 4% error in the food assistance system.