A record 32.2 million people — one in every 10 Americans — received food stamps at the latest count, the government said on Thursday, a reflection of the recession now in its 16th month.
Food stamps, the major U.S. anti-hunger program, help poor people buy groceries. The average benefit was $112.82 per person in January.
The January figure marks the third time in five months that enrollment set a record.
“A weakened economy means that many more individuals are turning to SNAP/Food Stamps,” said the Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger group, using the acronym for the renamed food stamp program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
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The U.S. unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in February, the highest in 25 years. New claims for jobless benefits totaled 669,000 last week, the highest in 26 years, the government said on Thursday.
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Food stamp enrollment rose in 46 of the 50 states during January as the national total rose by 580,000 people, or 1.3 percent, from December, when the previous record was set, said Agriculture Department figures.
Vermont, Alaska and South Dakota had increases of more than 5 percent. Texas had the largest enrollment, 2.984 million, down 65,000, followed by California at 2.545 million, up 43,000, and New York with 2.211 million, up 37,000.