Immigrant Policy Project

Food Stamp Access for Immigrants:
How States Have Implemented the 2002 Farm Bill Restoration

Prepared by: Katherine Gigliotti, Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow
August 2004

Adobe Acrobat Logo (printer friendly version of Full Report )

Executive Summary  

In the eight years following welfare reform, immigrant eligibility for the Food Stamp Program has undergone significant change.  Many legal immigrants lost eligibility to the program as a result of federal welfare reform in 1996.  Since that time, the federal government has restored eligibility to specific categories of legal immigrants twice, in 1998 and in 2002.  States, the entities responsible for administering the Food Stamp Program, have been faced with the challenges of implementing these federal changes as well as responding to the increased language and cultural diversity of the immigrant population.

This report explores how states have responded to the most recent change to the Food Stamp Program, brought about by the 2002 Farm Bill: the restoration of eligibility to legal disabled immigrants, immigrants that have resided in the U.S. for at least five years, and children of immigrants.  Selected states were surveyed, representing “traditional” and “new” immigrant states, states that had implemented a state-funded food replacement program, and those that had not.  The report describes their approaches to restoring eligibility and highlights promising practices in language access and in conducting outreach to immigrant and non-English speaking communities. 

Promising models that states have implemented include partnerships within state government and with the non-profit sector.  State food stamp agencies have joined with school districts, health departments, and other immigrant-serving agencies to conduct outreach for the Food Stamp and Child Nutrition programs.  Food Stamp agencies have also worked closely with a variety of non-profit organizations.  For example, states have worked with food banks and food pantries to produce outreach guides in various languages and to conduct outreach clinics at sites within the community.  In addition, states have contracted with community-based organizations to conduct culture-specific outreach and have facilitated the use of web-based screening tools by local non-profit agencies.  These partnerships within states and with a range of non-profit agencies have led to effective methods for conducting outreach and ensuring language access for minority and non-English speaking populations.