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Will bare all for food

Are you or anyone in your house fleeing from New Jersey? Sure, it’s an odd question. But to apply for food stamps in Ohio, you are required to answer it. Many states, including Michigan, require answers to similarly strange questions when applying for food stamps; for instance, do you own livestock or have a burial plot? That’s according to a recent report by America’s Second Harvest, the nation’s largest food bank network.

Deborah Leff, president of America’s Second Harvest, says that many questions are invasive and unnecessary because they do not determine food stamp eligibility. Most bothersome, she says, is that the questions lengthen applications and scare applicants out of applying. According to the report 29 states have food stamp applications between 10 and 36 pages.

The report, “The Red Tape Divide: Barriers to Food Stamp Access,” also says that food stamp rolls have dropped from 23 million in 1996 to 17 million today, while the number of people depending on food banks and soup kitchens is rising.

Maureen Sorbet, Family Independence Agency deputy communications director, says Michigan’s food stamp application is only 14 pages, and only six require applicant information.

Michigan’s food stamp rolls have dwindled from about 946,000 individuals participating in 1995 to nearly 654,000 in 1999, according to Sorbet. She says that more people are working and fewer people are eligible for food stamps, according to 1996 welfare reform regulations.

Fortunately for Michigan food stamp applicants, they do not have to include income earned from bingo, donating blood and panhandling, which some states require.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or