Food stamp usage at record levels – America the hungry

Published on WSWS, by Patrick Martin, 30 November 2009.

Among the significant findings:

  • In 239 counties, more than a quarter of the population receives food stamps.
  • In more than 750 counties, at least one in three African-Americans receives food stamps.
  • In more than 800 counties, more than one-third of all children depend on food stamps.
  • In 62 counties, food stamp rolls have doubled over the past two years.
  • In 205 counties, food stamp rolls are up by two-thirds.

The geographical dispersal of the mounting social need for food is staggering, from traditional centers of poverty such as rural Appalachia and inner-city urban ghettos to the suburbs built up in the Sunbelt in the last two decades.

The map showing the counties where food stamp usage is growing most rapidly includes the affluent Atlanta suburbs, most of the state of Florida, most of Wisconsin, western and northern Ohio, and most of the Mountain West, including large swathes of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and Idaho.

While unemployment is the main trigger of rising food stamp usage, the immediate economic cause varies widely, from the collapse of the housing bubble in the southwestern states and Florida, to the collapse of the auto industry in the Great Lakes region, to the layoffs sweeping through white collar America as the recession worsens.

The Times notes the impact on affluent suburban areas, long dominated by the Republican Party, where food stamp usage has more than doubled since the official start of the slump in December 2007, such as Orange County, California and Forsyth County, Georgia. Food stamp use has grown more slowly, in percentage terms, in cities like Detroit, St. Louis and New Orleans, but only because so much of their populations were already living in poverty and receiving food assistance when the slump began … //

…Young people face the greatest challenge. According to a Pew Research Center report issued last week, 10 percent of adults under 35 have moved back with their parents due to the recession. More than half of men 18 to 24 were still living with their parents, and 48 percent of young women. The proportion of young people with jobs—46 percent—is the lowest since records began in 1948.

These figures are an indictment of American capitalism and its criminal sabotage of the productive forces of society. How is it possible that in a country whose agriculture is so productive that it can literally feed the world, tens of millions of people struggle to feed their children and themselves? It is because production and distribution take place on the basis of private profit, and feeding hungry children is far less profitable for the ruling elite than speculation in the financial markets.

These figures are also an indictment of the political representatives of big business in the Obama administration and the Democratic and Republican parties. Apparently hunger, like unemployment, is viewed by Obama merely as a “lagging indicator”—something that the American people simple have to endure, but not a crisis, not even a cause to lift a finger.

Having funneled trillions into the financial system, to ensure a return to profitability and seven-figure bonuses on Wall Street, and set his course for military escalation in Afghanistan at the cost of countless billions, Obama is now declaring that his top domestic priority is deficit reduction. After Wall Street and war, there will be little or nothing left over to meet the needs of hungry children—or their parents. (full text).

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