Anoka County gets national recognition for food stamp outreach

Anoka County will receive an award from the federal government later today for its help enrolling more Minnesotans in food stamps.

The award from the United States Department of Agriculture recognizes the county for a program that seeks out Minnesotans who are eligible for food assistance.

The county works with two nonprofits to send teams to food shelves and subsidized senior housing, where they identify people who are eligible and help them fill out the eight-page application.

Jerry Vitzthum, director of the Economic Development department in Anoka County, said delivering applications and helping low-income people fill them out can remove some of the barriers to applying. He says the program is catching people who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

"It's a lot easier. For example, some of the food shelves are in the northern parts of the county where we don't have any offices. And transportation and that kind of thing is a difficult situation for people," he said. "And there's help in gathering the information. Because it is confusing to a lot of people. It's a lot of work to apply for the public assistance."

Right now, 65 percent of those eligible for food stamps — now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — in Minnesota are actually signed up, and 41 percent of seniors.

"It's a good way to outreach to the groups who are most in need and get them the nutrition that they need," Vitzthum said.

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