I have been studying the food stamp and food bank surveys that ask for the reason people need food stamps or food bank assistance and I do have a concern. First of all, when the food stamp people draw up a survey with a long list of fed answers, it is easy to see where something might be missed. For example, if 10 per cent of the respondents said “unusual expenses”, wouldn’t that beg the question “What was the unusual expense”? Was it drugs, a new refrigerator, a vet bill for your pet, a 500$ driver’s license reinstatement, a car repair bill, a 700$ mandatory auto insurance cost, etc?
So, the best approach to finding out the reasons for needing food stamps would be an open-ended question: What was the main reason (trigger) that caused you to seek food stamps? There are two main reasons for seeking food stamps and they would be a decrease in income (loss of job, divorce, etc), or an increase in expenses (medical costs, etc). I did a food stamp survey on the Yahoo Answers web site, asking for the main reason for needing food stamps, got 54 responses and they fit these categories:
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From 1987 to 1996, I obtained the food stamp numbers for the 50 states and located the various food stamp skyrockets and tried to find out if there were any food stamp skyrockets linked to mandatory auto insurance laws. This was at a time when many states did not have mandatory auto insurance laws and some states that had the laws, did not have the food stamp numbers. My attention was quickly diverted to all the many food stamp skyrockets linked to DUI school laws. But I did find a fair amount of food stamp skyrockets linked to mandatory auto insurance laws in Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Oregon, Utah, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Maryland.
So, I went thru a local representative, who went thru the Montana DPHHS and in October of 2004, they did a poorly produced food stamp survey in Billings, MT, which found that 18 of the 96 food stamp applicants said auto insurance, fines, or mandatory auto insurance was a reason for needing food stamps. Billings, MT has a 100$ DUI school, and it would have been better to use a city with a 250$ school since the higher the expense, the more likely it would cause an indigent to go on food stamps. But that would equal 70,000 over the last 20 years in Montana that would have listed DUI, fines, or mandatory auto insurance as a reason for needing food stamps. (The Billings food stamp survey and the other above study are at http://www.foodstampstudy.com.)
I have just finished another food stamp survey, and I did this by using the survey form on the news topix sites. Every town seems to have one and you can get an example of one by typing the words “Helena, MT news topix” into your yahoo search engine. The first site to appear should say “Helena news – topix, local news for Helena, MT” Click onto that and you should get a “Recent Forum Discussions” section. At the end of that section is says “click for more”. If you will click onto that, a page will come up with a search engine box. If you type “Food stamps” into that, you should get my two internet food stamp survey pages. On these pages, you will find around 100 cities with people listing DUI, mandatory auto insurance. or fines as the main reason for needing food stamps. Instructions are included to locate these 100 food stamp surveys. The survey found out that there are around 8 per cent of the food stamp respondents that said auto insurance, DUI, or fines were the main reason for needing food stamps.
In conclusion, the Billings, MT food stamp survey was an historical survey, in that it was the first food stamp survey to determine that there are people on food stamps due to DUI, mandatory auto insurance, and fines. The internet food stamp survey was also significant in that it was probably the first food stamp survey done over the internet. But we do need a really good food stamp survey to determine the main reason people are on food stamps, so we can get people off food stamps if we, for example, change motor vehicle laws: mandate community service in lieu of fines, exempt indigents from the costs of the DUI school laws, and find a different way to fund motor vehicle accidents rather than put millions on food stamps for the next gazillion years.