Ten percent of Americans on food stamps

    A new report shows that 1 in 10 of us are getting grocery help from the gov.

    Chances are, a whole lot of people you know are on food stamps, Reuters reports.

    The government recently released some hard data about their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. They put the exact figure at 32.2 million Americans, or about 10 percent of the population, now receiving benefits from the program. The record-breaking figure is reflective of the nation’s economic recession, which is about 16 months old.  January 2009 is the third time in five months that the number of food stamp registrants has made history.

    People receiving the benefits in January got an average of $112.82 per month.

    "A weakened economy means that many more individuals are turning to SNAP/Food Stamps," said the Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger group.

    The rate of unemployment in America was around eight percent in February; that’s the steepest incline in joblessness we’ve seen in 25 years. Claims for unemployment benefits also broke a record and totaled 669,000 last week, which is the most this country has had since 1986.

    Nearly all states saw an increase in SNAP enrollment this January (46 of them), while the country’s total also rose by 580,000 (about one percent) since December, reports the Department of Agriculture. December was also a record-breaking month for folks applying for food stamps, but of course, ceded the title to January.

    The states that were hit the hardest were the bigger ones; Texas had the largest enrollment at nearly 3 million, but they were still down 65,000 applications from the previous month. California was next with 2.545 million (they were up 43,000). New York closely followed with 2.211 million people entering the SNAP program; it was up 37,000 registrants. Vermont, Alaska and South Dakota each saw their programs swell by more than five percent.

    "It is a very difficult time for low-income families and individuals and also a difficult time for the groups that serve them," said Valentine Breitbarth of Bread for the City, a group that works with low-income residents of Washington.

    There’s a bit of good news for those receiving food stamp benefits: President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan will boost their monthly allowance about 13 percent, or $80 per month for a family of four.

    Here’s the most recent food stamp data:

    September 2008: 31.587 million

    October 2008: 31.050 million

    November 2008: 31.097 million

    December 2008: 31.784 million

    January 2009: 32.205 million



    — Whitney Teal


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