The federal government is spending a lot of money on supplemental nutritional programs. When you combine what is spent on the traditional food stamps program or SNAP, in addition to what is spent on WIC, which is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). SNAP provides food assistance for households that do not have the means to obtain necessary nutritious food, whiles the WIC program provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk. The key question is why these programs are seeing increasing number of people. The WIC program for mother and infants alone caters to some 9.1 million women, infants and children through over 10,000 clinics nationwide. In 2013, the Maryland WIC program served over 143,000 women, infants and children each month. If you want to know more about the WIC program, watch the video below.
Since the great recession started in 2008, there has been an increase in the number of people needing food assistance under the Food stamps program, otherwise known as SNAP benefits program. The SNAP program is run by the United States Department of Agriculture to help eligible needy individual and families by nutritious food. As a result of the recession, and it’s associated record number of people unemployed, under employed and long term unemployed, there has been a resultant dramatic increase in the number of food stamps recipients.
The numbers are shocking. One is every seven resident of the United States is on food stamps which means that about 15% of the American Society is receiving some form of help from the US government to help buy food for themselves and their families. Specifically, as of April 2013 47,548,694 people are on SNAP benefits, which is a 2.8% from 2012. This makes the program one of the federal government’s biggest social welfare program. Among states, Mississippi has the largest share of people relying on food stamps with 22% of the state’s residents getting food assistance while Washington, DC holds the record at 23%. The following states have 20% of their population on food stamps – Oregon, New Mexico, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky, while Wyoming had the smallest share of its population on food stamps at 7%.
As the economy has started to improve and the unemployment rate goes down, it is easy for our politicians to think it is time to scale some of these program back. However, when you dig deeper into the data, you will find that the recovery is not as broad as it should be. For example, one of the things we know is that more people are finding part time work, versus full time employment. That means that although they have started working and have joined the workforce, they are under-employed. This means that they may have not returned to the income they had before the recession and will still require some government assistance to meet their nutritional needs. As the Politifact link above explains, there is a lot to be learned about this recovery and policy makers need to dig deeper before they start to cut aid to people who may still need them.