Food stamp use spikes: One in seven rely on them - Dec. 21, 2010
1 in 7 Americans rely on food stamps
A cashier in Massachusetts swipes a food stamp debit card provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
December 21, 2010: 5:27 AM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The use of food stamps has increased dramatically in the U.S., as the federal government ramps up basic assistance to meet the demands of an increasingly desperate population.
The number of food stamp recipients increased 16% over last year. This means that 14% of the population is now living on food stamps. That's about 43 million people, or about one out of every seven Americans.
In some states, like Tennessee, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oregon, one in five people are receiving food stamps. Washington, D.C. leads the nation, with 21.5% of the population on food stamps.
"The high unemployment rate caused the high participation rate," said Dottie Rosenbaum from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank.
But it's not just the nation's stubbornly high unemployment rate of 9.8%
that's driving the increase in food stamp use. Some states are expanding their definitions of poverty to include more people.
At the same time, the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act boosted annual funding to the nationwide food stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, by $10 billion.
The average recipient receives $133 in food stamps per month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That amount varies from state to state; in Hawaii the average is $216, while it's $116 in Wisconsin.