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The continued normalization of food stamps

In November 2009, the New York Times ran a news story about how food stamps had “lost their stigma” and how 36 million people were now making use of the program. Salon even had a snarky article about how 20-something hipsters used food stamps for gourmet food. Well, a year later food stamp participation has quietly continued to skyrocket. The Christian Science Monitor cites the latest U.S. Dept. of Agriculture stats showing that between September 2009 and September 2010, food stamp use increased 15.4 percent by individuals and 18.2 percent by households. In one month alone, 541,000 people were added to the food aid program.  As of September 2010 there are 43 million people on food stamps — there were 31 million people in September 2008. In Illinois, there’s a record level of food stamp use.

Food stamps use remains a “somewhat good, mostly bad” story.

It is somewhat good that the federal government has steadily funded food stamps, a process that started in the Bush administration — though the federal Medicaid and education mini-stimulus to states this summer was partly offset by cuts to food stamps. However, the mostly bad part is that like the long-term unemployment benefits that were extended yesterday, an increase in food stamps shows that the economy is still awful for most people. As Ned has blogged, food stamps work. But the federal government has failed to find policies that lift people out of the material want that requires food stamps.

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