2 days after Thanksgiving, the NY Times continued its profile of Federal Aid programs in “The Safety Net: Food Stamp Use Soars, and Stigma Fades. “The Safety Net” is a part of their Living With Less section, which has become increasingly relevant as the effects of the Recession are more dispersed and prolonged. Many middle class families have been humbled by the economic downturn into using government food aid despite their initial reticence due to historical social stigmas. Through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) “now nearly 12 percent of Americans receive aid — 28 percent of blacks, 15 percent of Latinos and 8 percent of whites. Benefits average about $130 a month for each person in the household, but vary with shelter and child care costs.” The online feature includes a great interactive map of SNAP use and trends found here. The geography of food aid programs reveal a dramatically augmented population facing hunger. Suburban communities are using the SNAP program and feeling food security concerns that have been present in impoverished urban areas for decades. The image above shows how suburban communities, maybe unsurprisingly, show the strongest growth in food stamp use since the beginning of the Recession. Experimenting with the map further reveals that urban areas are still struggling, and persistent barriers will remain to alleviating hunger and food access long after the economy has recovered. Exploring the racial features of the map exposes a great disparity for blacks.
The foreclosure crisis and rising unemployment rates have helped reverse a lingering resentment of food stamps as their use expands beyond the urban core to the suburbs. Perhaps in an enlightened, post-Recession climate, food aid programs, urban food deserts and urban agriculture initiatives will be met with more generosity and respect.
Read the NY Times article here
Carl Kunda, VERTICES intern