Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Food Stamps in the CNMI (part 1 of 2)

The first of this two-post series provides a brief history and current status of food stamps in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The second post will provide a Q&A on your basic food stamp rights in the CNMI.

The CNMI Nutrition Assistance Program

In December 1980, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) worked with American Samoa and the CNMI to design food stamp programs tailored to their unique cultural, social and economic circumstances. Here, those efforts resulted in the creation of the Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP), the CNMI's version of the food stamps program. The NAP is administered by the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs and operates under a block grant from the USDA.

The NAP earmarks 30% of food stamps for the purchase of local commodities (food and nonfood items such as fishing equipment, garden supplies and livestock). The policy provides work incentives to develop self-sufficiency and stimulate the local economy.

In the early 1990s, there were no more than 1,000 food stamp beneficiaries on Saipan, Tinian and Rota. That number increased to 6,773 by 2004. In September 2007, the NAP was serving 7,945 household members. For fiscal year 2008, the NAP’s budget has been capped at $9.42 million. The NAP has recently resorted to across-the-board benefit reductions and waiting lists on an as-needed basis to cope with the limited funding.

USDA Food & Nutrition Service Fact Sheet: Nutrition Assistance Block Grants.

“Food stamp funding capped at $9.4M,” Saipan Tribune, Sept. 28, 2007.

“NMI asks for more food stamp funding, “ Marianas Variety, June 10, 2004.

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