FACTS and MYTHS about Food and Nutrition Services (FNS):

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FNS stands for Food and Nutrition Services; this program was formerly known as Food Stamps.

MYTH: Most people are on food stamps for life.
FACT: The average length of time on FNS is 8-10 months.

MYTH: Benefits are too generous.
FACT: The average monthly FNS benefit per person is $133.85, or less than $1.50 per person, per meal. The average FNS household consists of 2.1 people with a gross monthly income of $744.

MYTH: FNS is for lazy people.
FACT: 76% of FNS households include a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person – the most vulnerable in our society. These households receive 83% of all FNS benefits. Many qualifying families include full-time workers at low wage jobs.

MYTH: FNS recipients don’t work.
FACT: The overwhelming majority of FNS recipients who can work do so. Almost 70 percent of FNS recipients are not expected to work, primarily because they are children, elderly, or disabled. In North Carolina, almost 73% of all FNS participants are in families with children. Of households with children, almost 87% worked in the previous or following year of receiving and 60% worked while receiving FNS. This supports the strong correlation between unemployment and food stamps.

MYTH: FNS fraud and abuse is out of control.
FACT: SNAP has a strong record of program integrity. FNS error rates are at a record low of 3.80% in FY2011. The FNS accuracy rate of 96.2% (FY2011) is an all-time program high and is considerably higher than other major benefit programs.

MYTH: FNS is a drain on taxpayers.
FACT: $1 in FNS benefits generates about $1.70 in localized economic activity. Overall FNS pumped about $2.43 billion into North Carolina’s economy in 2012. FNS not only helps low-income people buy groceries, it frees up cash for other expenses, such as medical care, clothing, home repairs and childcare. That benefits local businesses and their employees, which boosts the economy as a whole.

MYTH: Participation in the program has ballooned in recent years, that proves it is being exploited and abused.
FACT: The FNS program is designed to be responsive to economic downturns; it closely correlates to unemployment. The number of unemployed people increased by 94% from 2007 to 2011; FNS participation increased by 70% during the same time period. As the economy recovers and people go back to work, FNS participation and program costs, too, can be expected to decline. FNS is responsive to changes in need, providing needed food assistance as families fall into economic hardship and then transitioning away as their financial situation stabilizes.

Sources are Feeding America, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the USDA.