The number of Americans relying on food stamps to stay fed has been steadily on the rise, hitting an all-time record this year, with more than 47.1 million Americans using government assistance to obtain food.
The US Monthly Data report, released by the Department of Agriculture (USDA), is normally issued at month's end. But the most recent report, which shows the record-breaking surge in food stamp dependence, was published on November 9 – three days after the presidential election.
About 15 percent of all Americans, or 47,102,780 people, are now enrolled in the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This is the highest number on record, and surpasses the number of unemployed Americans who found jobs during the same time period.
Dave Gibson of the Examiner attributes the delayed release to the Obama re-election campaign, claiming the agency waited to release the dreary data, which could have cast a negative light on the president.
“Obviously, this dose of reality would have harmed the Democratic Party’s false narrative of a ‘recovering economy,” he wrote.
When President Obama was first elected in November 2008, 30.8 million Americans were on food stamps. As of August 2012, 47.1 million were – a rise of about 50 percent.
The Washington Post reports that many of the new food stamp users are college students struggling to pay tuition and living expenses. Rather than pay for expensive campus meal plans, college students are increasingly applying for food stamps, “an option that once carried a social stigma on campus but no longer does,” writes Post reporter Breanna Hogan.
“I am receiving about $200 worth of food stamps per month, and I can’t imagine living without them,” said Sheena Vails, a sophomore at the University of Missouri.
About 15 million additional Americans have enrolled in SNAP since Obama took office. And the number could continue to rise, especially since Hurricane Sandy left thousands homeless across New York and New Jersey.
After the storm devastated New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered $65 million in new food stamp money to be automatically placed into the cards of displaced families who live in storm-affected areas. There are 77 zip codes in the region whose residents are eligible to apply for food stamps as they struggle to put their lives back together.
While the data for November food stamp usage will not be released for some time, the additional applicants could close 2012 with a much higher, record-breaking number of SNAP members – a number that clashes with rising job figures and the narrative of an improving economy.