As the economic downturn continues, many customers are applying for food stamps, which now are being given in the form of food debit cards, prompting more retailers to begin accepting the cards.
States hardest hit by the housing market collapse have seen some of the biggest increases in food stamp demand, although Western states like Idaho and Utah are also seeing an increase in applications.
In Montana, as of July more than 100,000 residents-more than 10% of the state’s population-are on food stamps, the federal anti-hunger program now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the IR State Bureau reported.
Utah, meanwhile, saw a 45.5% increase in SNAP recipients between April of 2008 and April of 2009. In total, more than 34 million Americans participated in the program in May, a new national record.
The food stamp program, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and entirely paid for by the federal government no longer uses “stamps” or paper food vouchers, but instead relies on a plastic card that people can use like a debit card at grocery or convenience stores.
In fact, demand is growing so quickly, some recipients now have to wait to receive their SNAP card.
Given this increase, more retailers are now also signing up to accept SNAP cards. Target stores, Sam’s Club, Walgreen’s, Costco, CVS and convenience stores, including Town Pump, Holiday and Noon’s have recently signed up to participate.