Use of Food Stamps rises in Polk County

Published 10:00 pm Monday, May 19, 2014


by Emily Guerin and Tim Marema
The use of food stamps in Polk County increased during the recession, assisting families in stretching their food dollars, contributing to local spending and helping spark a national debate about the future of the federal nutrition program.
The proportion of Polk County residents receiving food stamps hit 14.0 percent in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services. That’s an increase of 6.9 percentage points since 2007, the year the recession started.
Polk County’s food-stamp usage rate is lower than the state rate.
Across N.C., 17.1 percent of residents in 2011 received support from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as the food stamp program is officially known. Nationally, 14.8 percent of the population receives SNAP benefits.
Places like Polk County, which are located outside metropolitan areas, tend to have a higher percentage of the population receiving SNAP benefits. That’s because incomes are generally lower in nonmetropolitan counties.
The inflation-adjusted median household income in Polk County in 2011 was $43,346, compared to the N.C. median of $45,600. Nationally, median household income was $52,306 in 2011.
In 2011, residents of Polk County received a combined $4,099,353 in SNAP benefits. The USDA reports that each $5 in SNAP benefits generates $9.20 in spending.
SNAP benefits start to circulate in the economy quickly. Participants spend nearly all their food stamps within one month of receipt, according to a study by the University of New Hampshire Carsey Institute.

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