Prices are on the rise again, making life more difficult for the poor. The Nantou County Government is expediting its plans for opening food banks. Some food will be made available as early as the beginning of April, while food stamps are expected to be available by the end of April and early May. Local government offices will be in charge of quickly supplying food stamps to the poor, who will then be able to exchange stamps for lunchbox meals and bread at convenience stores.
Prices increased once again during the Lantern Festival. Pork, eggs and nearly all daily goods have seen price fluctuations, putting a heavy burden on the poor. The first food bank in the entire county has been set up in Caotun Township. The number of people applying for aid since the Lunar New Year has skyrocketed. The local district office’s social affairs department says that by the end of last year less than 200 people had applied, while by the middle of this month 350 people had already applied this year.
Caotun Township Office also discovered that among the applicants considered to be poor, one lives in Nantou City while being registered to a household in Caotun Township. He hopes to also procure daily goods and three warm meals a day. He is not eligible for aid, however, because he has lived in Nantou City for so many years, which highlights how the number of county residents in need of food banks has risen.
For this reason, the county government has sped up planning for setting up the food banks. Lin Jung-sen, head of the local government’s Social Affairs Department, says that funding for the county’s food banks is currently around NT$15 million (US$492,433). The food bank will be concentrating on two areas — providing food aid and distributing food stamps. Food aid will be carried out similar to the Caotun food bank, allowing the local government office to manage it to avoid giving out food repeatedly to the same person and wasting resources.
Food stamps will be offered in two forms — cash vouchers and merchandise gift certificates. Village and borough officials from local government offices will be in charge of appraising and allocating stamps. Once a poor person receives stamps, they can go to local convenience stores to exchange the stamps for lunchboxes or bread. If there are no convenience stores in the area, the stamps can be traded at local buffet restaurants or snack establishments for lunchboxes or bread.
Due to fears that poor people might not know how to apply with local officials for food stamps, staff at selected convenience stores will also be given the authority to give lunchboxes or bread to those in urgent need and put them up for review afterwards. If it is discovered that the person is not actually poor, food stamps will not be given to them again.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)