Food Stamp Applications Rising Rapidly
Contra Costa Times
By Sara Steffens
Struggling with rising prices and a stalled economy, a growing number of Bay Area families are turning to food stamps.
Here, as across the nation, enrollment in the federal entitlement program has jumped significantly in the past year.
Last year, Contra Costa County approved 18 percent more applications for food stamps than in 2006.
In January alone, the county approved 1,105 applications -- 28 percent more than during the same month in 2007.
Comparing January with January, the overall number of people receiving food stamps grew 8.2 percent in Contra Costa, and 5 percent in Alameda County.
The numbers reflect not only growing unemployment rates, but households coping with the high cost of living here, advocates say.
"More and more, the people the food stamp program is serving are people who are working, but simply aren't earning enough money," explained Jessica Bartholow, food stamp outreach manager at the California Association of Food Banks.
Food stamps are among the first public assistance programs to respond to tough times, experts agree, because so many people qualify to receive them.
"The food stamp program is there to help people in an economic downturn," said Dorothy Rosenbaum, senior policy analyst for the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "It helps people make ends meet and it responds automatically." ...