Food stamp use in Minnesota continues to rise

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The United States Department of Agriculture released numbers this week that show about one in seven Americans uses food stamps.

Altogether, about 44.2 million Americans receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The program is called Food Support in Minnesota.

According to the U.S.D.A., Minnesota had more than 500,000 people on the program in February, an all-time high. The state saw a 19 percent increase between February 2010 and February 2011, higher than the average national increase of 11.6 percent.

This map, however, that shows Minnesota still ranks below many other states in the percent of the population receiving the benefits.

Nationwide, the number of people who relied on the program in February wasn’t significantly higher than January, prompting the Wall Street Journal’s Sara Murray to explore whether a recent surge is ending:

The food stamp program ballooned during the recession as workers lost their jobs or saw their hours and income reduced. The rise in recipients has begun to flatten in recent months, which may mean that as the economy is improving fewer Americans are seeking to join the program. Enrollment in the program is still high though, with 11.6% more people tapping benefits in February than the same month a year earlier.

Murray adds that food stamp numbers aren’t seasonally adjusted, so any number of factors could push them up in coming months.

Much of the jump in Minnesota over the past year can be attributed to a rise in need. But advocates for the poor have also increased outreach to eligible Minnesotans, particularly seniors. What’s more, changes in program rules in Minnesota have made more people eligible.