Another record-breaking month for food stamps

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The number of households on food stamps reached another record high in June, according to recently released data from the Agriculture Department.

According to the USDA, 23,116,928 households participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps in June, up from 23,071,020 the month prior and up from the previous record high of 23,115,206 in March.

While the number of households increased by 45,908, the monthly benefits each household received remained lower than previous years, at $274.55.

The number of individuals on SNAP in June clocked in at 47,760,285 — an increase of 125,059 from the previous month, but not the record high individual participation record from December 2012 of 47,792,056.

According to the USDA, the June and March totals include Disaster SNAP, food assistance extended to victims of disasters.

The June results come shortly following a USDA Economic Research Service analysis of “Household Food Security in the United States in 2012,” which detailed the extent of hunger in America.

The report found that 14.5 percent of households, or 17.6 million households, struggling at some point in 2012 to provide food for all the household members due to lack of resources. In other words, they were “food insecure.” Of that total, some seven million households experienced “very low food security” or periods in which members of the household had their food intake reduced or eating patterns disrupted. Further, the report noted “the prevalence of food insecurity has been essentially unchanged since 2008.”

In recent years, the number of participants in SNAP has increased dramatically from 28.2 million participants in 2008 to 46.6 million in 2012. And with it the cost has increased, from nearly $35 billion in 2008 to about $80 billion annually.

The House is expected to take up food stamp legislation shortly and with Republican lawmakers eyeing some $40 billion in savings over ten years by looking to tighten eligibility requirements and closing loopholes, critics pointed to the ERS report last week to argue against cuts.

“As the recovery continues and families turn to USDA nutrition programs for help to put good food on the table, this is not the time for cuts to the SNAP program that would disqualify millions of Americans and threaten a rise in food insecurity,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week of the ERS analysis.

Megan Whittemore, spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, noted that the House legislation is meant to ensure those who need assistance most are the ones who receive it.

“House Republicans are working to restore the integrity of this safety-net program and protect it for those who need it most,” Whittemore wrote in an email to TheDC. “We want to help provide jobs and opportunities for those who are able to work in order to get government benefits. By encouraging people to engage in job training or workfare we can help those in the program build the skills and gain the experience they need to become self-sufficient in the future.”

The Senate-passed farm bill cuts about $4 billion from SNAP over ten years.

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