Most Americans will spend Thanksgiving Day feasting on turkey and stuffing with loved ones. Unfortunately, a healthy, home cooked meal is out of reach for a growing number of families, as the Washington Post explains: Fueled by rising unemployment and food ...
Most Americans will spend Thanksgiving Day feasting on turkey and stuffing with loved ones. Unfortunately, a healthy, home cooked meal is out of reach for a growing number of families, as the Washington Post explains:
Fueled by rising unemployment and food prices, the number of Americans on food stamps is poised to exceed 30 million for the first time this month, surpassing the historic high set in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. [...]
“We soon will have the most food stamps recipients in the history of our country,” said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, a D.C.-based anti-hunger policy organization. “If the economic forecasts come true, we’re likely to see the most hunger that we’ve seen since the 1981 recession and maybe since the 1960s, when these programs were established.”
Illinois is not immune. The number of people participating in the food stamp program jumped almost 5 percent between August 2007-August 2008, totaling 1.34 million. Only Texas, New York, California, and Florida had more residents qualify. And the benefits one receives haven’t kept up with the soaring cost of food. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average monthly food stamp benefit per person was $105 in 2007. In October, Congress increased the maximum food stamp benefit by 8.5 percent for fiscal year 2009, but even that legitimate bump won’t be enough to cover the Thrifty Food Plan for a family of four in December.
Inadequate public subsidies in turn drive people to food pantries, many of which are having difficulty supplying the rush. As Josh wrote last month, Illinois food pantries saw “a 30 percent increase in people needing food” between August 2007 and August 2008 and the the state was forced to distribute an emergency $500,000 appropriation to the Illinois Food Bank Association in order to solve the problem.
Congress can take immediate steps to aid the hungry. The Democrats’ stimulus proposal will hopefully include a temporary increase in food stamps, which Moody’s Economy says is worth the cost: every $1 spent on food stamp benefits generates $1.73 of economic activity. And it doesn’t hurt that President-elect Barack Obama, whose mother once briefly received food stamps, favors the proposal.