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Food stamp recipients growing

With unemployment numbers the highest the state has seen in 25 years, the number of those requiring food assistance has grown.

“Participation has increased every month since October 2007,” said Pike County Department of Human Resources Director Florence Mitchell.

Mitchell said the number of people in Pike County utilizing the food assistance program has grown from 2,453 in June 2008 to 3,106 in October 2009.

Mitchell said according to statewide data, there was a 10-14 percent increase from October 2008 to July 2009.

“FY 2009 has the largest growth ever in the program, nationally, in Alabama and in Pike County,” Mitchell said. “Alabama’s growth was 27 percent with every county in the state experiencing a positive growth ranging from 5 to 46 percent. In Pike County there was an increase in growth between 10 to 14 percent.”

For the last budget year, statewide the monthly average of individuals participating in the program was nearly 680,000.

According to Mitchell, children made up nearly half the number of people benefiting from the program.

The monthly average for budget year 2009, which ended Sept. 30, was 2,796 people.

Mitchell said on average, in Pike County, $745,334 was issued monthly.

And, that’s only a portion of the nearly $81 million issued monthly throughout the state.

Pike County issued a total of $8,944,003 in the last budget year, Mitchell said.

Statewide $971,365,417 in assistance were issued.

Mitchell said for October 2009, the average benefit in the county was $127.64 per person.

But families aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits Mitchell said.

“(The assistance) resulted in a $1.8 billion boost to the state economy,” Mitchell said.

“Every $5 in benefits issued generates a positive impact of approximately $9.20.”

Across the state, many small grocers depend on the food assistance program to stay in business, particularly in the current economic downturn, Mitchell said.

“When you ask if we’ve seen an increase in requests for food assistance, the answer is a resounding ‘yes,’” Mitchell said.

“For those in our community who have donated food to our emergency food pantry, we say ‘thank you.’ I would like to publicly say thanks for two recent food donations made by staff and students of Troy University and Troy Elementary School. “