36 million Americans using food stamps, 1/8 adults 1/4 children

Discussion in 'Economics' started by crgarcia, Dec 7, 2009.

  1. The Safety Net
    Food Stamp Use Soars, and Stigma Fades
    Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

    A GROWING NEED FOR A PROGRAM ONCE SCORNED Greg Dawson and his wife, Sheila, of Martinsville, Ohio, help feed their family of seven with a $300 monthly food stamp benefit. Center and right, the food pantry in Lebanon, Ohio, where residents can also enroll in what is formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

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    Published: November 28, 2009

    MARTINSVILLE, Ohio — With food stamp use at record highs and climbing every month, a program once scorned as a failed welfare scheme now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children.

    With millions of jobs lost and major industries on the ropes, America’s array of government aid — including unemployment insurance, food stamps and cash welfare — is being tested as never before. This series examines how the safety net is holding up under the worst economic crisis in decades.

    It has grown so rapidly in places so diverse that it is becoming nearly as ordinary as the groceries it buys. More than 36 million people use inconspicuous plastic cards for staples like milk, bread and cheese, swiping them at counters in blighted cities and in suburbs pocked with foreclosure signs.

    Virtually all have incomes near or below the federal poverty line, but their eclectic ranks testify to the range of people struggling with basic needs. They include single mothers and married couples, the newly jobless and the chronically poor, longtime recipients of welfare checks and workers whose reduced hours or slender wages leave pantries bare.

    While the numbers have soared during the recession, the path was cleared in better times when the Bush administration led a campaign to erase the program’s stigma, calling food stamps “nutritional aid” instead of welfare, and made it easier to apply. That bipartisan effort capped an extraordinary reversal from the 1990s, when some conservatives tried to abolish the program, Congress enacted large cuts and bureaucratic hurdles chased many needy people away.

    From the ailing resorts of the Florida Keys to Alaskan villages along the Bering Sea, the program is now expanding at a pace of about 20,000 people a day.

    There are 239 counties in the United States where at least a quarter of the population receives food stamps, according to an analysis of local data collected by The New York Times.

    The counties are as big as the Bronx and Philadelphia and as small as Owsley County in Kentucky, a patch of Appalachian distress where half of the 4,600 residents receive food stamps.

    In more than 750 counties, the program helps feed one in three blacks. In more than 800 counties, it helps feed one in three children. In the Mississippi River cities of St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans, half of the children or more receive food stamps. Even in Peoria, Ill. — Everytown, U.S.A. — nearly 40 percent of children receive aid.

    While use is greatest where poverty runs deep, the growth has been especially swift in once-prosperous places hit by the housing bust. There are about 50 small counties and a dozen sizable ones where the rolls have doubled in the last two years. In another 205 counties, they have risen by at least two-thirds. These places with soaring rolls include populous Riverside County, Calif., most of greater Phoenix and Las Vegas, a ring of affluent Atlanta suburbs, and a 150-mile stretch of southwest Florida from Bradenton to the Everglades.

    Although the program is growing at a record rate, the federal official who oversees it would like it to grow even faster.

    “I think the response of the program has been tremendous,” said Kevin Concannon, an under secretary of agriculture, “but we’re mindful that there are another 15, 16 million who could benefit.”

    Nationwide, food stamps reach about two-thirds of those eligible, with rates ranging from an estimated 50 percent in California to 98 percent in Missouri. Mr. Concannon urged lagging states to do more to enroll the needy, citing a recent government report that found a sharp rise in Americans with inconsistent access to adequate food.

    “This is the most urgent time for our feeding programs in our lifetime, with the exception of the Depression,” he said. “It’s time for us to face up to the fact that in this country of plenty, there are hungry people.”

    The program’s growing reach can be seen in a corner of southwestern Ohio where red state politics reign and blue-collar workers have often called food stamps a sign of laziness. But unemployment has soared, and food stamp use in a six-county area outside Cincinnati has risen more than 50 percent.

    With most of his co-workers laid off, Greg Dawson, a third-generation electrician in rural Martinsville, considers himself lucky to still have a job. He works the night shift for a contracting firm, installing freezer lights in a chain of grocery stores. But when his overtime income vanished and his expenses went up, Mr. Dawson started skimping on meals to feed his wife and five children.

    Matthew Ericson and Janet Roberts contributed reporting.

  2. These are REAL recession indicators?

    Forget about the phony unemployment figures by the gov't, where if people can't find jobs they are taken off the employable list.
  3. “It’s time for us to face up to the fact that in this country of plenty, there are hungry people.”

    That quote stuck out when I read this article yesterday. Obesity comes to mind so did Wall mart and chips and cookies and twinkies, diabetes and knee replacement surgery.
  4. 151


    What comes to mind for me is the time I watched the lady in front of me at the store pay for her groceries with food stamps and then pay cash for beer and cigerettes.
  5. copa8


    i once saw a kool moe dee lookalike paid for his with the food stamps card and saw him packed them into his cadillac escalade...as i was walking the 10 blocks home :eek:
    i assumed it was his ride, but he could've just borrowed from a friend.
  6. Pimps gotta eat too ya' know?
  7. Retief


    Ain't that America? The country with the fattest poor people in the world.
  8. Incredible - a country where 50% of the population is clinincally obese, and they subsidize food?
  9. Yes, this program falls under the new guidelines known as "food insecurity".:cool:
  10. 1/8 Adults with 1/4 kids

    Those least able to afford kids have the most kids. Seems to be a universal law.
    #10     Dec 7, 2009