Number Of New Yorkers Receiving Food Stamps Reaches 3 Million

The number of New Yorkers needing food stamps is growing rapidly.

Three million people now count on food stamps to survive in the state. That's an 11 percent increase from 2009 and a 65 percent spike from five years ago.

From the Daily News:

"We've been at an all-time high, and it keeps increasing," said Anthony Farmer, a spokesman for the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which administers the federally funded program.

The majority of the state's cases are in the city, with nearly 2 million people enrolled at the end of 2010, up from 1.6 million in 2009.

Though federal funding for food stamps increased from $4.3 billion to $5.1 billion last year, advocates said that doesn't keep up with soaring demand.

The average monthly benefit is $150, which often doesn't cover the whole month. Recipients frequently supplement their food stamps with trips to food banks, advocates said.

"It helps out a little, but it is not enough," said Bronx resident Patrick Mitchell who collects $78 a month.

Doreen Wohl, director of the West Side Campaign Against Hunger, said the situation is worse than the numbers show because some people who qualify for food stamps don't get them because of a fingerprinting requirement.

"Finger imaging is something you do for criminals in this country," Wohl said.

City officials defended the practice, which they said helps prevent fraud.

Food stamps are federally funded, so the program won't be affected by state budget cuts. But other programs that aid the hungry might have to do more with less if the state reduces their funding.