Food Stamps Hit Record High In June 2012

09/05/2012 10:30 am ET | Updated Sep 05, 2012
  • Bonnie Kavoussi Master's student in economics, the University of Michigan

A record 46.7 million Americans -- or roughly one in five adults -- used food stamps in June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently reported.

Food stamp use has spiked 51 percent since October 2008, when the economy was in free fall. The number of Americans now using food stamps is roughly the same as the number of Americans living in poverty.

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan has proposed slashing food stamp spending and turning food stamps into a block grant program, as Republican leaders have blamed President Obama for the record rise in food stamp spending.

Food stamp benefits cost a record $71.81 billion in the 2011 fiscal year, up 43 percent from two years before, according to the USDA. (To put things in perspective, that's roughly one-tenth of federal defense spending in 2011.)

Obama at least can take credit for overseeing slower growth in food stamp use, which spiked 23 percent during his first year in office, according to the USDA. In contrast, between June of last year and June of this year, food stamp use grew only 3 percent.

Even with food stamps, many Americans are struggling to put food on the table. Nearly one in five Americans did not have enough money to pay for food some time in the past year, according to Gallup.

Some economists point to spending on food stamps as an effective way to jumpstart the economy, since every dollar spent on food stamps leads to $1.73 circulated through the economy, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics.

(Hat tip: Bloomberg.)

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