With jobless rates still rising in Florida (we were up .5% from April – May 08 and up 1.6% for the year) and food costs going even higher, more and more working poor are falling in to crises.    According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) from March 2007-March 2008, the price of milk has risen 13.3%, egg prices rose 30%, cheese increased by 12.5% and bread costs 15% more.  Caught in the squeeze many families are for the first time ever needing to reach out for help.

FRAC reports that 1.5 million more people nationwide participated in the USDA’s food stamp program in March 2008 as compared to March 2007.  In Florida we saw an increase of 19% for the same time period. That’s an increase of more than a quarter million persons for our state alone.  From March 2003 – March 2008 we Florida saw a staggering increase of 37.5% in the number of persons participating in the program.  What is even more amazing is that the USDA estimates that approximately 1/3 of all eligible households have not even applied for benefits.

Besides helping families purchase nutritious food, the food stamp program provides local economic stimulus.  According to the USDA, for every $5 in new food stamp benefits, $9.20 is generated in local community spending.  (Click here for the story from the USDA)  They further estimate that a 5% increase in the national participation rate would create 2.5 billion in new nationwide economic activity.

Navigating the system can be tricky for first time users.   If you, or someone you know, wants to find out about eligibility they can either come on down to The Cooperative Feeding Program (we operate a satellite food stamp office on our campus) or check out DCF’s website for eligibility guidelines and other information.