Commentary: Food stamps are feeding more people in U.S.

Use of food stamps is soaring across the nation, and not just in urban pockets and rural backwaters where poverty has long been a way of life.

The demand for food stamps is becoming common in the suburbs too, where the ranks of the needy have grown with the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

In California, food stamp usage jumped 24 percent in the last 12 months. But it has grown even more in 25 other states. Neighboring Nevada had a 53 percent increase. Oregon? A 31 percent increase in the last year.

When it comes to food stamps, California has consistently lagged behind most other states in making sure that more of its residents receive assistance when they are eligible for it.

The United States Department of Agriculture issued its annual food stamp participation report this month and, once again, California ranked near the bottom. It is estimated that, in 2007, the most recent year surveyed, only 48 percent of California residents eligible for food stamps received them. Only Wyoming ranked lower.

Among the working poor, California ranked dead last, with only 33 percent of those eligible receiving food assistance.

The state's bureaucratic barriers are largely responsible. Thousands have been deterred by the requirement that every adult member of a household receiving food stamps submit to fingerprint imaging before the benefit can be delivered.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.