Need for food aid and unemployment way up in Philadelphia region

As you may have guessed, many more people in the Philadelphia region need help filling the refrigerator.  The new numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare show enrollment in the SNAP program, formerly food stamps, is up 46 percent in the city since 2007.  It’s up even more in some suburban counties.

Bucks and Montgomery counties showed the biggest rise in need.  Montgomery county also showed the highest growth people collecting unemployment.  It’s up more than 109 percent in the county over the last three years, statewide it’s 80 percent.

Kathy Fisher is Family Economic Security Associate for Public Citizens for Children and Youth.  She says people often rely on food stamps longer than unemployment.

“When do people stop being counted among the unemployed versus when they actually financially get back on their feet may be two different times,” Fisher said. “you know, so some families may continue to need SNAP for a much longer time even when the unemployment rate starts to lessen.”

In Philadelphia, more and more people are using their vouchers for fresh foods.  The Food Trust reports food stamp use at farmer’s markets in the city rose a whopping 144 percent last year.  Yael Lehmann is Executive Director of the Food Trust.

“Being able to accept food stamps at all the farmers markets is critical to the success of the farmers markets in low income areas as well as programs like Philly Food Bucks,” said Lehmann, “as well as programs like the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and when you bring all those together, it really makes this very very affordable.”

Philly Food Bucks is a partnership between the Food Trust and the city that rewards food stamp users with two dollars back for every five dollars they spend at farmers markets.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.