Budget / Poverty

One in Five Louisianians Now on Food Stamps

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State has 3rd highest recipient rate in nation

NEW ORLEANS – The latest data from the United States Department of Agriculture shows that 852,000 Louisiana residents receive food stamps, up by 12.1 percent since July of 2009. Recipients now account for 19.0 percent of the state’s population, well above the current national average of 13.6 percent. Nationwide, there is now a record total of 41.8 million food stamp recipients.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Number of Individuals Participating

Jul-09 Jul-10 Percentage Change
Louisiana 760,022 851,744 12.1%
USA 35,602,939 41,836,330 17.5%

Louisiana’s recipient growth over the last year was slightly lower than the national trend, which has been on the rise with the latest recession. Still, only Mississippi and Tennessee have higher participation rates – each with 19.9 percent versus Louisiana’s 19.0 percent. Wyoming’s rate of 6.5 percent is the lowest.

Leading States for Resident Food Stamp Participation

State Percentage
1 Tennessee 19.9%
2 Mississippi 19.9%
3 Louisiana 19.0%
4 Oregon 19.0%
5 New Mexico 18.8%
6 West Virginia 18.7%
7 Michigan 18.5%
8 Kentucky 18.4%
9 South Carolina 17.9%
10 Maine 17.9%
USA 13.6%

Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services oversees the food stamp program, and Trey Williams, the department’s director of communications, has observed the “consistent increase over the past year in [food stamp] cases.” He believes it is “primarily attributable to changes in the economy and the impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on coastal parishes.”

This year the federal government renamed the Food Stamp Program the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” or SNAP, and they assign the administrative costs to the state but fund all recipient payments. In the first 10 months of this fiscal year alone, SNAP cost the federal government almost $56 billion – including $1.1 billion in Louisiana. If one takes into consideration other food support programs, the federal government has spent $78 billion. On average, Louisiana spends $4.5 million a month on SNAP administrative costs, including salaries for workers.

Each of Louisiana’s food stamp recipients must meet “resource and income tests,” which equate to less than $2,000 or $3,000 on hand, depending on age, and a sliding scale of income bands. The income criteria are here, and a relatively lower income and larger household size lead to increased payments. Households with individuals already on some form of welfare program are exempt from the resource limit.

Like the published cost of SNAP, however, household recipient numbers would be higher if they were to account for all governmental food provision. Some participants in the National School Lunch and Women Infants Children programs, for example, are not included. However, since there is crossover – people collecting in more than one program – precise data on all food provision recipients is not readily available.

Fergus Hodgson is the capitol bureau reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be contacted at fhodgson@pelicaninstitute.org, and one can follow him on twitter.


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