Public health students work to enroll more needy residents in food stamp program

January 23, 2009

(L-R) Evans, McDougal and Baldwin get together in the School's atrium.

(L-R) Evans, McDougal and Baldwin get together in the School’s atrium.

Graduate students at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health have offered advice to the Durham Co. (N.C.) Board of Social Services about ways to increase food aid to eligible residents in the county.

The students include Kat McDougal and Josh Evans, master’s candidates in the School’s Public Health Leadership Program, and Courtney Lyndrup and Glenn Baldwin, in the master’s program in the Department of Health Policy and Management.

The project came about through a health policy and management course (HPM 465: Undeserved Populations, Safety-Net Programs and Market-Based Changes) taught by Pam Silberman, JD, DrPH.

By reviewing food aid registrations and poverty data, students found that perhaps half of Durham County’s older adults and those aged 18 to 24 were not receiving aid for which they were eligible. The federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formerly known as the Food Stamp Program – claims that about 66 percent of eligible aid recipients receive aid, but that data is based on census data from 2000. Since then, the number of people living in poverty has increased. To be eligible, recipients must earn no more than 130 percent of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ poverty guidelines. The students sought to locate and include potential participants in the program, many of whom are elderly.

Courtney Lyndrup

Courtney Lyndrup

“We wanted to help Durham Social Services increase their SNAP participation rate,” said Lyndrup. “So we found innovative forms of outreach being used in other states and programs, along with ways to fund these activities.”

In December, the students presented the results of their findings to the Durham Board. Their recommendations included printing information about SNAP on grocery bags and receipts, locating eligible families through the public schools’ free and reduced-price lunch program, and working with AmeriCorps to screen residents for a variety of social services, including the food program. <p”> <p”>”We hope that Durham and North Carolina will utilize our report and hope to be of assistance in the future if some of our proposals are considered for implementation,” <p”>said Lyndrup. <p”> <p”>”This project allowed us to reach out to the immediate community and make an impact, both now and through promising collaboration at a later date,” McDougal said. “I think the Durham Department of Social Services appreciated our efforts and we learned so much in the process. It feels good to make a difference in our own community, especially during hard economic times.”

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or