One in five New Mexicans, or about 20.7 of the state’s population, are on food stamps, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Wall Street Journal reports that 428,642 New Mexico residents use the federal food stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the state has had a 10.5 percent increase in recipients over the past year.
New Mexico is one of five states, including Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and Oregon, where one in five residents use SNAP. Mississippi, where 21.5 of the population uses food stamps, has the highest proportion of recipients of any state, and New Mexico has the second highest proportion.
Stagnating income, persistently high unemployment, and natural disasters like Hurricane Irene all contributed to an 8.1 percent national increase of in SNAP usage in the past year. The program was used by about 15 percent of Americans in August, a total of 45.8 million people.
SNAP usage accelerated rapidly with the onset of the recession, but growth rates have slowed relative to the high increase of previous years.
Earlier this year, a New Mexico program that supplemented food stamps for the elderly and the disabled was imperiled due to lack of funding, but the Legislature re-funded it during its emergency session. The program ensures a $25 per month minimum for New Mexicans who qualify for it, an increase over the $16 per month required by the federal government.
The Center for American Progress recently estimated that SNAP is keeping about 5.1 million people out of poverty.