ST. LOUIS (AP) — The number of people on food stamps declined after Missouri ended most face-to-face contact between social services caseworkers and people seeking public assistance.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that state officials say centralized processing and a new software system will make the application process more efficient. But social services advocates say the new process is making it harder to sign up and easier to get thrown off the rolls.

The process has food stamp applicants drop off their paperwork at a family support office and wait for a telephone call from a caseworker. But advocates say missed calls and other issues are leading to a denial of benefits when a 30-day deadline hits.

Food stamp rolls have shrunk 3.3 percent since the changes began in July.