Food stamps on decline nationally; not so much in TN

The number of people drawing food stamps declined nationwide last year, according to new federal figures reported by The Tennessean, but not as much in Tennessee as elsewhere.

In Tennessee, about 13,000 fewer people were enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrion Assistance Program, or SNAP, in January compared to the year before — a decline of 1 percent. Nationwide, the drop in enrollment was much a steeper 2.6 percent, leaving a million fewer people enrolled.

“Our hope is that this is going to continue,” said Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Congressional Budget Office has revised downward the program’s projected cost to $728 billion over 10 years, a decrease of about $33 billion.

Still, Tennessee continues to rank among the highest in the nation for reliance on the federal food assistance. Nearly one in five Tennesseans continues to receive food stamps. The high rates have prompted criticisms by some state lawmakers, who have advocated for deeper cuts and proposed restrictions such as banning junk food purchases by recipients.

Proposals to significantly cut or restrict food stamps “often in my view reflect a lack of real awareness of what’s going on in the economy,” said Concannon. “It’s troubling that many legislators are so removed from the circumstances of people they allegedly are elected to serve.”