According to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a new all time record number of Americans, close to 46 million, or 15 percent of the population relies on food stamps to survive.
NPR notes that Mississippi leads the U.S. in reliance on food stamps. Twenty-four percent of the population in Mississippi receives food stamps, or put another way, the state is feeding one Mississippian in four. That is the highest percentage of any state in the country.
Ironically, NPR also notes that in Mississippi, 7 of 10 adults in the state are either overweight or obese. NPR’s Debbie Elliott adds that roughly 1 in 3 adult Americans is now obese. And ground zero for the nation’s obesity battle is Mississippi.
Elliott claims “the problem is most pronounced in the Mississippi Delta — the flat, fertile flood plain fed by the Mississippi River. It’s a region with a history as rich as the soil, but with deeply rooted social problems.”
Mississippi Rep. Steve Holland (D) told NPR: “We have a culture of easy living, good eating with fatback and lard and things like that. We like to sit on our porch, and we like our adult beverages, we like our fellowship and that kind of thing,” Holland says. “And when you put all that together over generations, you’ve got a bad health problem.”
John Davis, director of the SNAP program in Mississippi, told NPR the economic downturn is a contributing factor to the increase in the state’s food stamp participation. “And we know that from a historical standpoint anytime there is a decrease in the job availability, there’s going to be an increase in our program.”
Davis says a family of four in the program receives about $668 a month in food assistance, or roughly $150 a week, but notes “this program is a supplemental program. It was never intended to fully fund the families in need for food.”
The SNAP program may never have been intended to fully fund families in need of food, but that is precisely what the program does, and is doing — especially in view of the economic devastation in Mississippi caused by the BP oil spill.
Families were forced to go on food stamps as a result of the damage that the BP oil spill had on the fishing and tourism industries. “We track those numbers and we find that there was an increase based on the oil spill,” Davis says.
Davis said his staff did outreach along the coast, and found industries that were either closed or went into hibernation. “Therefore, it was just a ripple effect. If the fishermen weren’t fishing, then there were other industries affected as well.”