Food stamp use is now highest among working Americans, according to government statistics. This is the first time this specific group has had majority use of food stamps in U.S. history. In previous years, the typical food stamp recipients were children and the elderly. One in seven Americans are now receiving food stamps, which comes to over 47 million Americans receiving food stamps.
Formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), food stamps have been a safety net for Americans since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency. The reasons behind the high number of food stamp recipients are a slow economic recovery, high rate of unemployment, the widening gap between low-wage and high-wage jobs and people having fewer children. The U.S. government currently doles out $80 million per year, and the demand for SNAP benefits will remain high for some time even with the turtle-paced recovery from the recession. But even as the economy slowly improves, it will be some time before food stamp applications will go down; it is estimated it will take as long as 10 years before this happens.
What is especially troubling about more people being on food stamps is that corporate profits have been high yet wages continue to decline. Maintaining self-sufficiency in an unsteady economy is especially tough for even people with some college education, the population that now makes up the majority of food stamp recipients. President Obama has spoken about increasing the federal minimum wage and decreasing income inequality while Congress is still discussing more cuts to SNAP benefits. Will Obama’s plan work to bring down the high food stamp use among working Americans?
In November, $5 billion was cut from the food stamp program, which bewildered those who depend on them. Just having a job is no guarantee that one will live comfortably or even with all the basic needs such as food and shelter. Many SNAP recipients need food stamps in addition to their wages. There is evidence that food stamps help families contribute to the economy by using other money to pay rent and utilities. The cut in food stamp benefits will lead to increased requests for support from local churches and food pantries.
SNAP At a Glance
- Most SNAP homes have a child, an elderly person or a disabled person, amounting to 76 percent.
- The poverty guideline of $19,530 for a family of three in 2013 is met by 83 percent of SNAP homes. Many live below the poverty line.
- Two people make up the average SNAP home, with total benefits of $744 and assets around $331.
- The average monthly payment for a SNAP recipient was $133.41 in fiscal year 2012. That amounts to less than $1.50 per meal.
Top Chef host Tom Colicchio has been vocal against the cuts in SNAP benefits. He recently did a personal service announcement for the Food Research and Action Center, in which he said, “The monthly cut per family may only amount to $26, but you can’t truly comprehend the pain of losing $26 until you’re in a situation where your refrigerator is empty at the end of the month.” How long food stamp use among working Americans will last remains to be seen.
By Juana Poareo