New Photo Essay Shows Human Dimension of Food Stamps

More Americans than ever before, 50 million, are in poverty. One in seven people rely on the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or food stamps. And they are not always the people you might expect. Formerly middle class families, veterans, college graduates and farmworkers are featured in our latest report, a photo essay produced by the Food & Environment Reporting Network in collaboration with Switchyard Media. The slideshow first appeared on MSN.

Reporter Malia Wollan found that many of those featured are relying on foods like pasta and peanut butter to stave off hunger. Recent veteran Steven Johnson of Leander, Texas, was medically discharged from the Army in January, but has yet to begin receiving his disability benefits, which take an average of 394 days to process. After pawning jewelry and attempting to sell his TV on Craigslist, his family signed up for nutrition assistance. “Food stamps were the last resort for me,” says Johnson.

Half of all food stamps recipients are children. Another subject, Alejandro, a farmworker in the Central Valley of California, harvested tomatoes, chilies, oranges and pineapples this year. But when there is nothing to pick he goes without income for weeks, making it difficult for his girlfriend and their three children. Food stamps cover the basics. “If we had more money to spend I’d buy more milk and more juice for the children,” he says.

The Faces of Food Stamps

The slide show was originally published here on MSN.

About Paula Crossfield

Paula is the Managing Editor and a Founding Director of the Food & Environment Reporting Network. She is a founding editor of Civil Eats, a site with over 40 contributors covering sustainability and food. Her reporting has been featured in The Nation, Gastronomica, Index Magazine, The New York Times online and more, and she has been a contributing producer at The Leonard Lopate Show on New York Public Radio. An avid cook and gardener, she currently lives in Oakland.
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