The Great Depression
Food stamps are the symbol of poverty in the US. In the era of the credit crunch, a record 28 million Americans are now relying on them to survive – a sure sign the world's richest country faces economic crisis
Symbolic of the downturn until now has been the parades of houses seized in foreclosure all across the country, and myriad families separated from their homes. But now the crisis is starting to hit the country in its gut. Getting food on the table is a challenge many Americans are finding harder to meet. As a barometer of the country's economic health, food stamp usage may not be perfect, but can certainly tell a story.
Michigan has been in its own mini-recession for years as its collapsing industrial base, particularly in the car industry, has cast more and more out of work. Now, one in eight residents of the state is on food stamps, double the level in 2000.
Inevitably, comparisons with the Great Depression, when food stamps did not exist, are being made. Then, a quarter of the workforce was unemployed, compared with just 5 per cent today. By one estimate, 60 per cent of the populace lived in poverty in the depths of the Depression. The 30 per cent poverty experienced in some US inner cities and depressed rural areas today is showing signs it is capable of reaching that level.