Why Food Stamp enrollment has risen

Enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as Food Stamps, rose by almost 20 million people in recent years. Was the jump due to the economy — or were there other factors at work? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“Recent research shows that some of it was due to the relaxation of some of the rules that people had to follow in order to see if they were eligible for Food Stamps — specifically, some of the rules on how many assets you could have and how long you can stay on Food Stamps were relaxed. …

“But this new study that looked at the increase in enrollment in Food Stamps found that two-thirds … of that 20 million person increase was really due to economic factors — the fact that over the last five years the economy has deteriorated. And it was not just due to the fact that we had more people on the unemployment rolls, but it was also a factor into whether people who were still working had their hours cut back and perhaps their pay cut back and therefore they could qualify for Food Stamps.

“And, indeed, the study found just that. In fact, the study found that the biggest increase in enrollment came from people who still had jobs but they were just above the poverty limit and, therefore, they did just qualify for Food Stamps.

“Now, one good news part of this study for those who are worried about the expansion of the Food Stamp program is that as the economy improves and as the job market improves, we should see enrollment in Food Stamps go down.”

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