Our recent economic woes have hit everyone but it has impacted those with the least the most. Nothing brings home the plight of many Americans as recent the recently released government statistics on SNAP/Food Stamp participation. As of January one out of every ten Americans (32 million) is receiving food stamp assistance, the highest participation rate ever. How does this compare to the good times when the economy was humming along in 2000? Well, the number of people participating in Food Stamps in July was 16.8 million individuals, 15 million less than today.
As the economy has continued to weaken and unemployment has surged many households are in trouble. It has hit every region of the country with every state reporting a year-over-year increase in families requesting and receiving aid. The pain was not felt by just the families living in the Sunbelt states and the industrial heartland. In fact, you may be surprised by some of the states that have been hit the hardest.
Eleven states reported greater than 20% increases in their caseloads from the previous year. Idaho experienced the highest year-over-year increase surging 32% followed by Utah (29%), Florida (29%), Nevada (29%), Arizona (25%), Wisconsin (25%), Georgia (23%), Vermont (23%), Maryland (22%), Texas (22%) and Massachusetts (21%). Below is a chart prepared by Food Research and Action Center which shows by state the annual increase in Snap/Food Stamp participation.
The non-profit and private sectors food banks have been overwhelmed by the surge of people needing help. Many local food banks are struggling to stay open because contributions have dried up.
Granted that Food Stamp statistics are lagging indicators like the unemployment rate but it does show the pain that many Americans are experiencing. It will likely get worse so it is important for all of us to look around our own communities and help. Our lives are so busy that it is easy to miss that others need your help. So on this Christian holiday weekend make a donation (of time or money) to your local food bank or food pantry and help combat hunger.