As a logical consequence of the prolonged economic downturn, participation in the federal food stamp program is continuing to rise. In fact, household participation has been climbing so steadily that it has dwarfed the last peak (which looks like a minor blip by comparison) set as a result of the immediate fallout following hurricane Katrina. The latest data released by the Department of Agriculture indicated that in March a notable 168,888 individual recipients were added to the food stamps program, with the current total increasing 2.85% on a year-over-year basis.
Individuals receiving food stamp benefits increased to 47.72 million, which as a ratio of the overall civilian non-institutional population now stands at a whopping 19.48% of the population. Households receiving food stamps benefits increased by 109,731 to 23.11 million, with the current total rising 3.86% above the level seen a year earlier. As participation continues to swell so too has the total nominal benefit cost, climbing 2.58% on a year-over-year basis to $6.34 billion for the month.