More Americans than ever before have applied for Federal food aid over the course of the year.
About 46.3 million people received a total of $75.3 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or what was formerly known as the food stamp program, in fiscal 2011, according to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics released earlier in the week. Officials said participation spiked after residents in a dozen States hit by Hurricane Irene applied for assistance in late August and September, according to The Washington Post.
Food stamp use is up about 8 percent, and about $7 billion more in food stamps was distributed this year than in fiscal 2010, according to the report. The USDA said that more than half of food-stamp recipients are children.
In response to the growing use of food stamps, the Federal government said it is developing new procedures to cut down on food-stamp abuse and fraud.
The USDA and its State partners are developing new penalties to punish food-stamp “traffickers” who either steal benefits or misuse them to earn cash payments. Trafficking can account for as much as $753 million of food-stamp payments each year, according to The Washington Post.
According to the article, in fiscal 2010, State governments conducted more than 847,000 investigations that led to the disqualification of 44,483 food-stamp recipients, and Federal investigators with the Food and Nutrition Service conducted nearly 5,000 undercover investigations.