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In the Long Run: How Much Does Participation in the Food Stamp Program Reflect Economic Trends?

Participation in the Food Stamp Program (renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the 2008 Farm Act) follows trends in poverty and unemployment, but cycles for the three are not completely in sync. In the 1980s, the number of food stamp participants peaked before the number of people in poverty and the number of people unemployed. But since 1989, the pattern has reversed, with food stamp participation peaking 2-3 years after the unemployment peak and 1 year after the poverty peak. Between 2003 and 2007, participation in the Food Stamp Program grew by 24.5 percent, and the number of people in poverty rose by 3.9 percent, while the number of people unemployed declined by 19 percent.

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