Evidence of harm

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More evidence of the severity of the Great Recession’s impact on average Americans came in the form of a recent New York Times analysis of the federal food stamp program. Thirty-six million people are using the federal food stamp program to bridge the gap between what they earn—or no longer earn after a job loss—and the groceries they need to keep their families fed. According to the Times, more than 20,000 people are joining the program each day. In 239 U.S. counties, one-quarter of the population receives food stamps, and in 800 counties one and three children is being fed through the program. As the foreclosure and Wall Street meltdown morphs into a national unemployment crisis, more than 250 counties have risen between 66 and 100 percent as the program expands at a record pace. Efforts have been made to reduce any sociological shaming associated with using the program. (It has even been redubbed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.) But despite the recent expansion, the program is still only reaching only two-thirds of the people who are eligible. The program still draws fire from conservative critics as a form of dependence-inducing welfare, but the folks who are applying for aid now are just as likely to live in America’s newly afflicted suburbs as in urban strongholds of poverty. Food stamps are reaching folks all over America in any community where the layoff notices are being posted and the foreclosure signs are going up. These days, that's just about everywhere.