UPDATE, March 2: Food Stamp use rises again
Food stamps have become a political hot potato for President Obama, thanks to GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich calling him “the best food-stamp president in American history.” But the number of Americans using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, also known as Food Stamps, was down in November of 2011, the most recent month for which data is available, the US Department of Agriculture reported today.
The Agency's revised figures also show that Food Stamp use fell in October of 2011, after increasing each month but one since December of 2008.
About 46.134 million Americans received aid in November of 2011, down 0.2 percent from USDA's revised 46.228 million for October. The government spent $6.22 billion on the program for November, up from $5.8 billion in 2010. Participation in November of 2011 was 5.8 percent higher than a year earlier.
The all-time high for Food Stamp usage was in September of 2011, when 46.268 million Americans received benefits. The President for the first time pushed back against Gingrich's accusation during an interview last week.
"First of all, I don't put people on food stamps," President Obama said.
"People become eligible for food stamps. Second of all, the initial expansion of food-stamp eligibility happened under my Republican predecessor, not under me. No. 3, when you have a disastrous economic crash that results in 8 million people losing their jobs, more people are going to need more support from government."
In August of 2011, after three years of increases in Food Stamp numbers, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack characterized the nutrition safety net as a "direct stimulus" for the economy that was creating and saving jobs. The Secretary was responding to May 2011 data, when close to 46 million people--or 1 in 7 citizens--were using the program.
"Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in the economy in terms of economic activity," Vilsack said. "If people are able to buy a little more in the grocery store, someone has to stock it, package it, shelve it, process it, ship it. All of those are jobs. It's the most direct stimulus you can get in the economy during these tough times."
*USDA's latest Food Stamp numbers.
*White House photo by Pete Souza