As Food Stamp Use Explodes, Stigma Fades

Americans 'who never thought' they'd use aid are relying on it

By Jen Paton,  Newser User

Posted Nov 29, 2009 7:14 AM CST

(Newser) – With one in eight Americans now using food stamps and 20,000 more signing up each day, "nutritional assistance" is becoming a normal part of American life rather than a shameful secret, reports the New York Times. In analyzing local data, the paper found that in 239 counties—as large as the Bronx and Philadelphia—at least 25% of residents collect food stamps; use is also booming in formerly affluent areas like Riverside County, Calif., a number of tony Atlanta suburbs, and Warren County, Ohio, a place so against government aid that is rejected a federal stimulus grant.

While the need behind the numbers is helping to chip away at the stigma, the change began pre-recession, notes the Times, thanks to efforts by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to promote a program that has been critically branded "cash welfare" in the mid-'90s. Said one man who finally got aid when he was skimping on meals himself to feed his family: “I always thought it was people trying to milk the system. But we just felt like we really needed the help right now.”

A Link card, Illinois' version of food stamps.   (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
One Stop Food & Liquors in Chicago, where doors open at 12am at the beginning of each month to let people to start shopping the instant they have access to the new month's stamps.   (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
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