Sunday, November 29, 2009
One in Eight Americans Now Receiving Food Stamps
The use of food stamps has reached a record high and is climbing every month.
Due to the recession, the number of recipients has soared. One in eight Americans, and one in four children, are now fed by food stamps. That amounts to more than 36 million people.
Virtually all have incomes near or below the federal poverty line, and include single mothers and married couples, the unemployed, the chronically poor, longtime recipients of welfare checks, and workers facing reduced hours and/or low wages.
Almost 90 percent of food stamp beneficiaries live below the poverty line.
However, the federal poverty level has a very conservative definition, and is set according to the number of persons in a family.
1 person: $10,830
2 people: $14,570
3 people: $18,310
4 people: $22,050
Individuals earning $11,000 annually are not considered in poverty. And the government does not define a family of four subsisting on $23,000 as living in poverty either.
Despite the strict definitions of poverty, the number of people receiving "nutritional assistance" has been steadily rising. The program is currently expanding at a rate of 20,000 people every day.
The stigma once associated with food stamps has eroded, and even large numbers of "red state" voters are beneficiaries.
In fact, the food stamp program is now officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
For many recipients, that acronym probably has a much nicer ring to it than "food stamps" ever did.
While the number of recipients of the federal cash welfare program has remained flat, the number of food stamp recipients has been steadily climbing.
According to an analysis done by the New York Times, there are 239 U.S. counties where at least a quarter of the population now receives food stamps.
And in 205 counties, the number of people receiving food stamps has risen by at least two-thirds since the recession started two years ago.
Yet, incredibly, the program will almost surely grow considerably larger; only two-thirds of eligible recipients are presently enrolled nationwide.
As it stands, roughly 12 percent of Americans receive food aid.
Professor Mark Rank, of Washington University, recently found that half of Americans receive food stamps at some point by the age of 20.
In Ohio alone, the cost of food stamps to the federal government was $2.2 billion last year. That's just a microcosm of the larger national cost.
According to the government, in 2008, SNAP served 28.4 million people a month at an annual cost of $34.6 billion.
But since that time, the ranks of recipients have swelled by some six million people.
And with it, so have the costs.