Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Historic American High: 45.8 Million Citizens On Food Stamps

Agriculture Secretary says Food Stamp use declining, but newest government report shows an increase; working families depending on federal aid...
The number of Americans using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also called Food Stamps, has increased each month since President Obama entered office. Food Stamp use hit an all-time high in August, the latest month for which data is available, the US Department of Agriculture reported on Tuesday. 45.8 million Americans received Food Stamps, an increase of 1.1% from July. It's more than an 8.1% increase since August 2010. There were 31.9 million Americans on Food Stamps when President Obama was sworn into office in January of 2009. The Food Stamps program became a permanent federal component in 1964. (Above: President Obama with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack)

Spending on Food Stamps also hit an all-time high in August: The government spent $6.13 billion on benefits. Texas was the #1 state for Food Stamp use in August, with 4.1 million beneficiaries, and California was #2, with 3.82 million citizens.

On Oct. 24, as he unveiled his priorities for the Farm Bill, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted the level of Food Stamp users at 44 million Americans, and said use is declining.

"That number's coming down from an all-time high earlier this year as more Americans are finding work with the creation of nearly 2 million private-sector jobs over the last 19 months," Vilsack said.

The last time the number of Food Stamps users was at 44 million was in December of 2010, according to USDA.

Working families use Food Stamps...
The use of Food Stamps has set a record each month but one since December of 2008, and Vilsack in his remarks pointed out that the high unemployment rate, stuck now at about 9.1% for months, has contributed to the record levels.

"Over the last 20 years that program has transitioned from a welfare program to one that is primarily utilized by working families and seniors. Children of those working families are nearly half of all of the SNAP beneficiaries, and the elderly make up nearly 8 percent," Vilsack said.

In June of 2011, USDA began offering guidance on NON-citizen eligibility for Food Stamps. First Lady Obama's Let's Move! campaign has encouraged citizens to apply for Food Stamps. Faith-based and community organizations have been charged with signing citizens on to the program, under the rubric of the Let's Move Faith and Communities component of the anti-obesity campaign. The Food Stamps program allows users to purchase a wide variety of foods, including soda and sugary beverages, chips, cookies, ice cream, and cake.

In August of 2011, Vilsack hailed the SNAP program as an economic stimulus, a theory echoed by other top Administration officials.

"Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in the economy in terms of economic activity," Vilsack said. "If people are able to buy a little more in the grocery store, someone has to stock it, package it, shelve it, process it, ship it. All of those are jobs. It's the most direct stimulus you can get in the economy during these tough times."

*AP photo

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