More people use food banks, food stamps

Another month, another record number of Americans on food stamps.

More than 40.8 million people, or 13 percent of the country, are now receiving monthly help for basic groceries as the unemployment rate remains stuck at 9.5 percent.

Newcomers are joining the food stamp rolls all the time. One of them is LeAnn Ward of Kansas City, who made her first visit to a food pantry Friday while waiting to receive her initial monthly allotment of food stamps for herself and her son.

"I'm to the point where I don't know how I'm going to pay the rent, but I know I need to feed my family," said Ward, who received canned goods and produce from Metro Lutheran Ministry in midtown along with fellow pantry first-timer Letrice Sanders. Both women recently lost their jobs in the home health care industry.

Neither wants to be on food relief forever.

"Oh no!" Sanders said. "But without food stamps I would not make it."

Nationally the number of people receiving food stamps, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, jumped 19 percent from May 2009 to May 2010. The number of recipients in Kansas saw a jump of 20.8 percent during the same period, to 272,550 people.

But Missouri’s numbers are problematic because the Department of Social Services discovered in December that it had been overcounting. Correcting for that made it appear Missouri was the only state to see a decrease in food stamp recipients, which those familiar with the situation say is obviously not true.

As a result, “we’re not even giving the individual number anymore,” said Arleasha Mays, a spokeswoman for the department.

But the agency released data showing the number of Missouri households receiving food stamps rose 11.8 percent from May 2009 to May 2010, to a total of 409,735. Both the Kansas and the national household participation rate were up more than 21 percent.

Regardless of the government numbers, private social-service agencies report a continuing increase in demand for food and other assistance.

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