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.”