A Supplemental Nutrition Health Overhaul

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance programs should be fine-tuned to encourage healthy food selection and meal preparation, and, accordingly, purchase of empty calorie foods with EBT cards (formerly foods stamps) should be properly limited. Resources, like fitness centers or discounts and assistance with transportation to them (as could be deducted from EBT benefits), should also be available via the Department of Human Services to encourage exercise amongst program participants. Healthy cooking classes would also be an ideal component of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs.

The Department of Human Services assuming a more proactive role in preventive healthcare via educating EBT Supplemental Nutrition recipients and the general public on diet and nutrition, and providing site fitness centers for use by SNAP, Medicaid, and TANF recipients would eventually translate to substantial improvements in public health and savings in terms of public health care costs.

EBT Card Public Purchasability Juxtapose the Traditional Supplemental Nutrition Program

EBT cards should be purchasable for cents on a dollar at grocery stores, and primarily for underemployed parents/guardians of students who do not qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, although the cards should be purchasable by anyone.

Making EBT cards available for purchase to anyone at .60 cents on a dollar, for example, and with respect to restrictions on unhealthy foods, would avail more food to consumers as a condition of eating healthier and decreasing likelihood of development of serious health problems and/or helping to reverse any existent illnesses.

The proposed purchasable EBT cards would come with brochures discussing the initiative, and would entail coupons for discounted access to local gyms or health clubs; they’d also inform of locations and times of health-related seminars, i.e. healthy cooking classes, etc. The noted brochures would also entail subscription cut-outs or applications for regular mailings of health tips, etc., and provide a web address where consumers could sign-up online to receive the mailings in either printed or electronic form.

Mergence of WIC and EBT for Benefactors of Both Programs

WIC and EBT programs and facilities (WIC offices and clinics and DHS offices) should be merged as a matter of convenience and to preserve resources; and applying to both programs should be feasible with a single application.

In lieu of vouchers, WIC benefits would be loaded onto EBT cards, and program recipients would be disbursed one itemized list of purchasable WIC items that grocery clerks would sign or initial upon disbursement of each item, and while all relevant information that stores would need for their records would be captured on duplicates of receipts for those transactions that they would retain.

Mergence of WIC and EBT would also circumvent any potential loss of WIC provisions due to misplacement of vouchers or even misplacement of EBT cards, which are recoverable.

DHS Emergency Food Pantries

All DHS facilities should be equipped with emergency food pantries for applicants in need while awaiting approval for Supplemental Nutrition benefits.

DHS Products Purchasability

DHS pantries/warehouses, as proposed, would also be operable as wholesale/retail stores for Supplemental Nutrition, TANF, and Medicaid clients, and would market grocery and other items, from food to toiletries, and vitamin supplements, etc. that would be purchasable with EBT benefits.

Personal Improvement Activity Requirements and Incentives for EBT and Medicaid Recipients

All recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance and Medicaid should be required to participate in personal improvement activities, i. e. employment searches,* obtaining General Equivalency Diplomas or participating in other educational or health/weight management programs, which would, accordingly, merit provision of resources, where essential, for clients to participate in those activities (*employment searches conducted under TANF should be guided and performed on site at DHS career centers).

DHS Client Fitness Centers and Support Services

DHS fitness centers and support services would avail exercising privileges to DHS clients who cannot afford memberships and/or transportation to traditional health clubs. DHS clients should also have a period of transitional access to the facilities once they are sufficiently employed, and in alignment with any other transitional benefits.

Clients not participating in TANF career steps programs requiring transportation assistance to DHS fitness centers or designated health clubs should be disbursed gas or bus cards upon request, with costs deducted from EBT benefits. As an incentive, clients who work out for a certain length of time and number of days per week should receive free gas or bus cards or points towards monetary EBT privileges.

Nominal Monetary EBT Privileges

Nominal monetary EBT privileges, i.e. $40 monthly, should be availed to Non-TANF Supplemental Nutrition recipients who participate in either or a combination of either or all of the prescribed personal improvement activities, for the purchase of non-food necessities, like soap, deodorant, toilet paper, shampoo/conditioner, laundry and dish detergent, etc., amounts that could be deducted from EBT food allotments.

DHS Healthy Cooking Classes

DHS healthy cooking classes would introduce Supplemental Nutrition recipients and the general public to a vast number of healthy recipes, in parallel of healthy cooking curriculums in Teen Living (Home Economics) courses in public and other schools, as another significant component of re-conditioning public cooking patterns that have caused epidemic cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and other synonymous illnesses.

Clients would be encouraged to actively participate in the classes, sample foods, offer input, and take printed recipes of sampled items that they like.

DHS Career Centers

All DHS offices should be equipped with on-site career centers for utilization by DHS clients and the general public, although priority should be given to DHS clients, stressing that public assistance should be a stepping stone for all participants, and not a crutch.

All career centers should offer skills training, i.e. Business Clerical (typing, 10-key, data entry, business writing, Microsoft applications, etc.), Grammar, Punctuation, QuickBooks, and/or any other programs as would be offered at the discretion of each DHS facility.

All career centers should additionally entail mounted televisions for showing of videos of relevance to available services, tips for job searching, and employment retention.

A Proper Order of Activities Requirements for TANF Recipients

Client Assessments

TANF clients should be assessed, first and foremost, before placement in activities, to determine whether they are employment ready or in need of job training or experience to warrant placement in work activities. If clients are employment ready, they should be assigned to structured/guided employment search activities that would, for the most part, be conducted in DHS career centers for the duration of required activity hours, and until the clients become employed. An exemplary program of this nature is Spexcell Training and Professional Development in Atlanta. http://www.spexcell.com/index.html and Ringer Employment Solutions “MOVE” (Motivated to Obtain Valuable Employment) program in East Point, Georgia, formerly “Shift.” http://www.ringeremployment.com/index.htm.

Educational Placement

Clients lacking high school diplomas and those who are interested in higher education opportunities should be placed in educational activities, i.e. GED classes, college, or technical schools.

Career Steps Volunteer Placement

No client lacking a high school diploma should be placed on a Career Steps volunteer assignment before acquiring at least a high school diploma or GED; and clients who are employment-ready should neither be placed in Career Steps “Volunteer” programs, unless they do so VOLUNTARILY for the purpose of acquiring additional job skills, and/or juxtaposed continuing structured/guided DHS employment search activities.

Rigorous employment search activities for clients who are employment ready that would result in clients obtaining employment sooner would save the government substantial revenues that are otherwise spent for TANF monetary expenditures, childcare, Medicaid, and fees paid to companies for hosting Career Steps volunteers.

Mergence of Career Steps and Unemployment Programs

Career Steps volunteer assignments would best be staffed by individuals receiving livable income from unemployment benefits [and/or other sources], and who would, as a benefit of participation, receive Medicaid or other forms of health insurance.

Work from Home and Entrepreneurial Assistance for DHS Clients

DHS should establish partnerships with and offer incentives to companies that provide outsourced or work from home opportunities to clients.  DHS should also provide resources, i.e. any startup costs, computers, business phones, noise cancelling headsets, etc., for which clients would incrementally pay, whether via transitional benefits and/or automatic payroll deductions. This could potentially save millions of dollars in childcare costs that are paid by DHS for program participants, and generate substantial business for office product and other relevant suppliers.

Public Call Centers

DHS facilities [as well as public libraries] should entail call centers that would be available for use by outsourced clients who may be approved for opportunities before necessary equipment is available to them, and/or those who may be experiencing technical issues with any home office equipment, and until such equipment can be repaired.

General DHS Facility Makeovers

All DHS facilities should be distinct in appearance, and decorated with motivational lithographs and other items, i.e. Successories, thus communicating elevated expectations of clients.