What made sense the first time makes equal sense the second. When the Bush administration crafted a stimulus package last year, the suggestion was made that shoring up the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp program) should be included in the package. The proposal was premised on the idea that spending money for food was better for the U.S. economy than, say, for imported electronic equipment.

With a new, far larger stimulus package pending, grain-based foods together with the food industry should urge Congress and the Obama administration to apply a portion of the funds toward food assistance.

In the current issue of Milling & Baking News, Robbin S. Johnson makes a strong case for such assistance, with particular focus on raising participation in the program from 65% of those eligible for SNAP toward 100%.

"As in so many cases of government programs, fear of abuse has resulted in paperwork and bureaucratic procedures that make the process of establishing eligibility cumbersome at best," he said. "What may be needed is a new mindset: instead of ensuring that no one who is ineligible gets a benefit, the program goal should be to ensure that everyone who is eligible receives the benefits to which they are entitled."

With the deteriorating economy, hunger issues are worsening, and Mr. Johnson cited a study showing that food stamp purchases generate $1.84 in business activity for every $1 spent. For grain-based foods, there is an additional multiplier effect. On average, 20% of food stamp spending goes to grain-based foods. That’s far higher than the 14% of overall food spending devoted to grain-based foods.