In the past three years, the number of Americans on food stamps has increased dramatically; 13 million more Americans used the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in fiscal year 2012 than in 2009. The total today is close to 47 million individuals.
It's understandable that the recession would cause a sharp rise in food stamps. People lost their jobs, saw incomes decline and many lost their homes due to heavy mortgages that could not be met. Nevertheless, reducing the numbers of Americans who rely on food stamps must be a priority in the next few years, particularly if the economy improves. Any economic recovery that is not accompanied by a sharp reduction in Americans needing to rely on food stamps is not a full recovery.
If the numbers don't drop as the economy improves, it will be an indicator that the food stamp program will have become a normal procedure for a substantial percentage of Americans. That would be a dysfunctional event. With the debt crisis and the need to reform entitlements, we can't have the SNAP system creep into the middle class.
The average person receiving food stamps gets $133.42 a month from SNAP; families on average receive $278.48. The program cost $74.6 billion this fiscal year, compared to $50.4 billion in fiscal year 2009. The numbers are small compared to other budget programs, but there's a social factor involved.
As the government numbers slowly improve, it is the responsibility of the private sector to invest in success, and increase the job market. We need a self-sufficient middle class that can rebound from the past few years and contribute to overall economic growth. A recovery is supposed to do that, and increase wages.
The onus is on the private sector to increase wages for Americans as the economy improves and get the food stamp numbers decreased.