One in five Floridians - about 3.6 million - is receiving food stamp benefits and the number is rising in South Florida, according to new data released by the state..
Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties all saw increased enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in October.
The Sun Sentinel reports that the trend is particularly troubling for Broward County
October saw a bigger than expected increase with those on food stamps in Broward growing 0.8 percent to 282,830, despite the county dropping to 280,830 in September. In a year, Broward’s food stamp rolls have jumped nearly 13 percent or more than 32,000 people.
There may be some good news buried in the data released by Florida's Department for Children and Families. For one, enrollment seems to be stabilizing. "Right now we're seeing a 0.4 percent increase or a 1 percent increase [in food stamp enrollment]," said Erin Gillespie, press secretary for the DCF. "A few years ago we were seeing 10, 12 percent increases every month."
Even more promising, Gillespie said, is that the average benefit is dropping. Which means the average recipient is doing better financially. "In January 2011, the average monthly benefit was $253 for a family," Gillespie said. "Today, it's about $247."
Not a huge drop, she admitted, but a healthy trend.
Perhaps the best trend, Gillespie noted, is that the number of food stamp recipients finding work has jumped more than 20 percent during the past year-and-a-half.
"People come onto the food stamp program when they're in times of crisis. They have lost their job. Maybe their house is in foreclosure. They're children are hungry. They need emergency assistance," Gillespie said. "And so what we're seeing is that people who have been on the program for a few months now are able to find employment."