The number of food-insecure U.S. households rose from 13.0 million (11.1 percent of all households) in 2007 to 17.1 million (14.6 percent) in 2008. The additional food-insecure households were nearly evenly split between households with and without children, about 2 million in each group. However, the increase was proportionally larger for households with children. Among these households, the prevalence of food insecurity rose from 15.8 percent in 2007 to 21.0 percent in 2008. The corresponding increase for households without children was from 8.7 to 11.3 percent.
It seems reasonable to assume that food insecurity continued to increase in 2009, and that it is likely to worsen in 2010 as food prices continue to rise.From the NY Times:
The Agriculture Department is forecasting that food prices will increase 3.5 to 4.5 percent in 2009, compared with an estimated 5 to 6 percent increase by the end of this year.
Some economists project even steeper increases next year. For instance, Bill Lapp, principal at Advanced Economic Solutions in Omaha, said he expected food prices to jump 7 to 9 percent next year.
These price increases are tied to the high prices for commodities such as grain, wheat, and corn earlier in the year. The commodity prices are coming down, but food costs haven't caught up yet. Meat and poultry producers say they will have to significantly increase their prices.
As a result, more people are using the available food safety nets than ever before. According to the NY Times more than 36 million people in the US are using food stamps.
From the ailing resorts of the Florida Keys to Alaskan villages along the Bering Sea, the program is now expanding at a pace of about 20,000 people a day.
The program, now called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) would like to do more:
“I think the response of the program has been tremendous,” said Kevin Concannon, an under secretary of agriculture, “but we’re mindful that there are another 15, 16 million who could benefit.”
Nationwide, food stamps reach about two-thirds of those eligible, with rates ranging from an estimated 50 percent in California to 98 percent in Missouri. Mr. Concannon urged lagging states to do more to enroll the needy, citing a recent government report that found a sharp rise in Americans with inconsistent access to adequate food.
“This is the most urgent time for our feeding programs in our lifetime, with the exception of the Depression,” he said. “It’s time for us to face up to the fact that in this country of plenty, there are hungry people.”
SNAP issues plastic cards - like debit cards. Mercifully the day of the big, fake, food stamp dollars, and the stigma that accompanied them is over.
cross posted at working america blog