UW Today

This is an archived article.

December 1, 1998

100 policymakers from eight states paired with welfare recipients, will feed their families for a month on food-stamp budget

One hundred legislators and other public officials from eight states across the country are closing out 1998 by learning first-hand more about one of the nation’s most vexing problems, the welfare system.

The officials from Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin are participating in the Walk a Mile program, which pairs a policy maker with a welfare recipient. As part of the program, which was developed at the University of Washington in 1994, the officials have agreed to feed their families on a food stamp budget for one month – extending from November into December.

The Walk a Mile program was created to educate public officials about the welfare system by having them interact with experts, people in their districts who are welfare recipients. At the same time, it provides welfare recipients an opportunity to increase their understanding of government and the legislative process. More than 600 public officials and an equal number of welfare recipients in 14 states have participated in previous Walk a Mile projects, according to Natasha Grossman of the UW’s School of Social Work , the program’s creator and founder.

As part of the program, the policymakers and welfare recipients have agreed to participate in two joint activities such as going to the welfare office or food bank together, attending a government-related meeting, or shopping at the store to experience what it is like to find the cheapest foods and make purchases with food stamps. In addition, each pair is expected to stay in regular contact by telephone.

“Walk a Mile educates government leaders and policy makers about the reality of life for people on welfare,” said Grossman. “One of the goals of the program is to break down the myths and stereotypes about the welfare system.”

The 1998 Walk a Mile program is being funded by grants from the Anna E. Casey, C.S. Mott and George Gund foundations.

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For more information, contact Grossman at (206) 543-3027 or natasha@u.washington.edu