A record 47 million Americans rely on SNAP -- formerly known as food stamps -- available for those with annual incomes of $15,000 a year or below. Ten million Americans dropped into poverty during the recession that began in December 2007, adding to the numbers eligible for SNAP assistance.
State governments and their partner organizations have become active promoters, creating official "SNAP outreach plans" and hiring hundreds of recruiters to sign up people for food stamps, The Washington Post reported.
Rhode Island hosts SNAP-themed bingo games for the elderly. Three states in the Midwest throw food-stamp parties and Alabama hands out fliers that say: "Be a patriot. Bring your food stamp money home."
Nowhere has SNAP grown more than in Florida, where enrollment rose from 1.45 million people in 2008 to 3.35 million last year, the Post said.
Many retirees lost much of their retirement savings in the stock market and their homes to foreclosure and are in need of food stamps, but many are reluctant to sign up for the program.
Florida SNAP brochures designed to prompt them to get the federal benefit bear such slogans as: "Applying is easy." "Eat right!" "Every $5 in SNAP generates $9.20 for the local economy," the Post said.
For the state of Florida, SNAP is a means of economic growth, bringing almost $6 billion of federal tax money each year into the state, the newspaper said. Similar to unemployment the money has a high multiplier effect and helps to sustain communities, grocery stores and food producers.
However, it also adds to rising federal spending and the U.S. debt.