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The US is officially  enjoying an economic recovery  and the unemployment rate is falling. However, the usage of food stamps continues growing.

Around 46.4 million Americans are dependent on the  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the annual cost is over $76.7  billion.

The participants received an average of $133.14 per month in food stamps. Data compiled by Tim Wallace and featured  here, shows that the biggest jump in usage was in 2010, and the rise has been slowing down since then. Nevertheless, the numbers of participants and the cost of the program continue rising. A rise was seen in 2011 and so far in 2012.

Apart from 2007, the usage has gone up since 2000. For the poorest Americans, there was no growth during most of the growth years in the mid-2000s.

The number of  participants  rose by 170% since 2000 and 64.7% in the past 4 years. Nominal costs have risen at a faster rate.

There is a positive way to look at the data: every dollar spent in this program returns to the economy with a significant multiplier. In 2008, Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi  estimated  that a temporary increase in SNAP was the most effective stimulus action, with a multiplier of 1.73. Another estimate discusses a return of $1.84 to the economy for every dollar spent in the program.

For those living on food stamps, this money is hardly enough to get by.

Further reading:  State of the States: A Weak Signal for Every Strong One