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The USDA has posted shocking increases in the use and cost of food stamps (renamed the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, just within the last two years). The USDA data and statistics web pages provide data for SNAP participation and costs from 1969 to 2010.

Here's what's happened in the last three years:

    • 2008: 28.2 million participants received an average benefit of $102 per month for a total cost of $37.6 billion.

    • 2009: 33.5 million participants received an average benefit of $125 per month for a total cost of $53.6 billion.

    • 2010: 40.3 million participants received an average benefit of $134 per month for a total cost of $68.2 billion.

Caroline Scott-Thomas of FoodNavigator.com points out that in 2009 eligible people were signing up for SNAP benefits at an average rate of 20,000 a day. This year, the rate increased to 22,000 a day.

What, she asked, did I think of all this?

Nutrition professor Dr. Marion Nestle told FoodNavigator-USA.com: "Pretty obviously, this is a sign that the economy is still in bad shape, especially at the lower income ends. Wall Street may still be giving bonuses, but more and more Americans don't have places to live or food to eat" ... Nestle added that funding for this level of food stamp use could prove unsustainable in the current economy. "Some funding has already been cannibalized to fund the Child Nutrition Reauthorization," she said. "The more expensive it gets, the more the program will be a target for lawmakers looking for moveable cash."

With an estimated one-eighth of the population on food stamps each month, and no improvement to the economy in sight, it seems like there is plenty to worry about.


This post also appears on foodpolitics.com.