Nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population relied on food stamps in August, as the number of recipients hit 45.8 million.
Food stamp rolls have risen 8.1 percent in the past year, the Department of Agriculture reported, though the pace of growth has slowed from the depths of the recession.
The number of recipients in the food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), may continue to rise in coming months as families continue to struggle with high unemployment and September’s data will likely include disaster assistance tied to the destruction and flooding caused by Hurricane Irene.
Mississippi reported the largest share of its population relying on food stamps, more than 21 percent. One in five residents in New Mexico, Tennessee, Oregon and Louisiana also were food stamp recipients.
Food stamp rolls exploded during the downturn, which began in late 2007. Even after the recession came to its official end in June 2009, families continued to tap into food assistance as unemployment remained high and those lucky enough to find jobs were often met with lower wages.
States also made changes to make it easier for residents to tap into the program, such as waiving requirements that limited the value of assets food stamp recipients could own.