35 Million Americans on Food Stamps: 12 Percent of U.S. Population on Food Stamps Highest Since Records Kept in 1969.

There are a few statistics that you can look at to see actual human pain in the real economy.  You can look at the recent stock market rally yet even a 50+ percent rally is unable to create jobs or stem the economic pain of those at the lower end of the economic spectrum.  Looking at food stamp participation from the United States Department of Agriculture shows us a very disturbing picture.  When we did a report on this in August of 2009 we had 34 million Americans on food stamps.  In the span of one month, the number jumped by over a million.

The raw data shows us that a stunning 12 percent of our entire population is receiving some form of food stamp assistance.  The program is now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program but the theme is still the same.  Let us look at some of the raw data:


Source:  Sudden Debt

This is the highest percentage of Americans receiving food stamps since records started being kept back in 1969.  The average person receiving assistance now receives $133 per month but even a number this low with such a high number of participants is costing the government $56 billion on an annualized basis.

Here are the top 5 states:

-1. Texas –                 3.068 million participants

-2. California –           2.99

-3. New York –           2.57

-4. Florida –                1.77

-5. Illinois –                1.71

What is telling with the data above is that Texas has 24 million people while California has 37 million yet Texas has more people receiving food stamps. Florida and Illinois have nearly the same amount of participants although Florida has 18 million people while Illinois has 13 million people.

When we look at food stamp participation we see the real pain in the economy.  I drive around many local areas in California.  In many lower to middle class areas you will see department store traffic down to levels unseen in decades.  Yet if you look at local dollar stores they are booming with traffic.  People are asking about tent cities or soup lines but some of the “hidden” pain is mitigated by people simply buying at lower priced stores.  After all, you can buy a loaf of bread, some sliced ham, a few cans of soup, and feed your family for a week.  Although this is living on the margins you won’t be starving either but might explain why we haven’t seen a gigantic jump in tent cities or soup lines.

Yet there is a significant jump in traffic to local charities and shelters as you would expect in any deep recession.  Those receiving food stamps will pump practically all the money back into the local economy.  With $133 a month there isn’t much you can do.  Yet it might be enough to provide a tiny buffer.  I can only imagine how our country would look like right now if there were no food stamps or unemployment insurance.  Can you imagine 35 million people out on the street in the United States of America?

Yet the stock market boosted by the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve is only helping the top bracket of our country.  Most Americans have seen their hours cut, wages slashed, and are dealing with declining housing prices and a smaller stock portfolio.  This is the reality on the ground.  If we look at the real unemployment rate we are approaching Great Depression levels:

Chart of U.S. Unemployment

The headline unemployment rate is 9.7 percent.  If we look at the government U-6 rate a broader and better indicator of the true employment situation we find that 16.8 percent of people are either unemployed or underemployed.  A more broader measure already shows the unemployment rate at 20 percent.  Some people have a hard time seeing this in action.  Take a look at Detroit that has an unemployment rate of 28.9 percent.  That is right, 28.9 percent of a city that once had 1.8 million people and was the hub of the automotive industry.

Even though the pundits and the Wall Street crowd are breathing happy in their custom made suits, the reality on the ground is very different.  Those collecting food stamps are only growing.  The unemployment rate is only moving up.  It is hard for most Americans to except the “lagging indicator” argument when we are breaking records left and right.  This is not your typical recession so why are we to expect that things will move out in a typical fashion?  Ask those 35 million Americans if they feel the recession is over.

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13 Comments on this post


  1. C said:

    So much for people growing their own food. With about a million people per week moving into the cities of the planet it’s all about corporatization. Luckily other nations are willing to prop up our dollars to keep this ponzi scheme going.

    September 27th, 2009 at 1:11 pm
  2. Blacktiger said:

    I have come to the conclusion that you would let them all die. 35 million is more than the total population of Canada!!!For shame on you, sure we have homeless people. and out of work people here but they are on the street because they don’t want to toe the line like the hard working tax-payers do. You won’t find anyone denied health care here.

    September 27th, 2009 at 2:46 pm
  3. Alfred E. Neuman said:

    What, me worry?

    September 27th, 2009 at 4:46 pm
  4. Patriotic American said:

    Who, me worry?

    September 27th, 2009 at 4:54 pm
  5. Tim Lucas said:

    Many are on food stamps because of choices made that were hardly in the interest of the American people. To run up a big debt was not in our interest and alot of blame rest upon the American people for the voting choices they have made. The press in this country have been of no benefit what so ever by saturation and un-yielding run-off coverage of the canidate that they supported, for the republican party. They have sold this country out to have a socialist or communist view of how this country would look and are completely in the tank for Obama while we burn to the ground with hatred from the left. There was a template after Jimmy Carter, formed by Ronald Regan that allowed us to recover but was completely ignored by the left that has a hidden agenda. Things will come to pass as they should, never mind the correct answers and the should of’s. But tell me for the record, what God would grant one soul, let alone 76 virgin souls, for one mans gradification?

    September 27th, 2009 at 7:24 pm
  6. Ben said:

    I’d be interested to see a match-up of this graphic with who was president at the time. My guess is that the spikes are during republican administrations.

    September 28th, 2009 at 6:58 pm
  7. Bobby said:

    Tim Lucas, YOU NAILED IT. YOU NAILED IT. Why is it a schock that Americans are on food stamps, when the elite in this nation have sold off all heavy industry, are vigorously writing bills to facilitate, insourcing of–teachers, nurses, engineers, and even hotel industry workers like maids. That is correct, some of the traitors we have in office have allowed H2-B visas to import foreign labor.

    The only thing I disagree with you on Tim, is that the left has a hidden agenda. They aren’t hiding it at all. They want the displacement of the American citizenry with labor from the third world–just as the Republicans do. Traitors to the taxpaying citizenry–ALL OF THEM.

    September 28th, 2009 at 7:35 pm
  8. Mike Donelson said:

    If anyone ever wanted to see the results of Ronald Reagan’s “Trickle Down Theory”, here it is. Companies have stressed profits over people for years now and this is what happens. Where are all the jobs that were supposed to have been created by corporations being allowed to amass obscene profits? All it’s done is obliterate the middle class.

    September 28th, 2009 at 8:40 pm
  9. Pascal said:

    I am French and know that we support the American people but we detest your government as much as our besides
    The American system and what there is a worse you work hard and all this to be ruins as you do not know the French system you come in France would be at the badly received beginning but we are not resentful and you would be there happy even if we too have difficulty of and besides it is has reason of destructive policy of every your previous government

    October 2nd, 2009 at 7:40 pm
  10. Brad Blinstrub said:

    I am ever so amazed by people who’d take Social Security benefits, unemployment comp., a government stipend, Veterans Benefits, etc. moan about the country going socialist. Especially certain rich Republicans and their flag worshipers who enable them like co-alcoholics enable a drunk. In this case we now have another Republican backlash, and the handlers got more power booze.
    First off, we are not a Socialist country. I wish we were. In fact I wish we were Communistic and just get it over with. The only ones who would hurt would be the real parasites. Not little ones.
    I’d love to see banks and insurance companies bankrupted and their criminal CEO’s and possibly, certain former criminal Pentagon military personnel put in extreme insufferable hard labor, and even given the quick death sentence when necessary, and only if judicially and correctly reviewed, and applied. The sense of terrorism from our “enemies” would lessen considerably. After all, we are terrorists. And most of all, the most terrorized are the American people, who are financially terrorized every moment of their slave driven debt laden lives. You must break from this. Then you’d be penalized for not using your credit card. Yes. Aren’t we free? Food stamps? Not even a band-aid.
    This would be taken up as a duty, and the populace would not starve, they’d always have enough. There’d be a STATIST warning to any who’d not comply. There’d be no need for prisons, most would be rebuilding our collapsing infrastructure and the rest would be executed if applicable. The corrections industry, as we know it, would be all but vanquished.
    Eventually, we could return to a more permissive system of controlled profit. Why not? Your profits are always under scrutiny and control anyway, and you better believe you are curtailed from the Capitalist dream of financial freedom. The only difference between this Fascist Corporate State that gives an illusion of safety, and total and honest Communism, is that under Communism no one lives without some sort of safety net. This is total corporate Communism and guess what? You get NO SAFETY NET. Your world is a world led by criminals and cronies of criminals.
    So, when some bozo says we are in a free market society tell them that it is a FREE MARKET when there is little government and not an inch of tax on your labor. But Now:The Market is Free to those who Rule, and no one else.

    November 9th, 2010 at 8:37 am
  11. greg said:

    Why can’t some of the people on Food stamps use coupons like the folks that get $100.00 of food with coupons and even get $5.00 back?

    September 8th, 2011 at 12:21 pm
  12. Tom said:

    Ben said: I’d be interested to see a match-up of this graphic with who was president at the time. My guess is that the spikes are during republican administrations.
    I say to Ben, who is President isn’t nearly as interesting as who is in Congress!! What party is controlling congress when this happens!

    November 20th, 2012 at 11:02 pm
  13. Melissa said:

    Actually if you look at the spikes it’s during democrat presidency (the highest ever being currently)

    August 19th, 2013 at 1:10 pm


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