From the NY Times:
The number of New York City residents receiving food stamps reached 1.6 million in August. The figure has surged nearly 30 percent in less than two years, the largest increase in the city in enrollment in the federal program since the early 1970s.
“From January 2008 through August 2009 food stamp enrollment increased by 354,000 persons, expanding the caseload by nearly 30 percent,” the city’s Independent Budget Office reported on Thursday. “Based on the current average monthly grant, the increase of food stamp recipients over the same period should result in about $680 million annually in additional federal assistance to low-income city residents, a level that’s juiced by the increase in benefits under the stimulus act.”
The magnitude of the surge has been “unprecedented,” the budget office found, noting that the state and city had taken steps in recent years to make it easier for eligible residents to apply for food stamps, but that the recession was probably an even greater explanation in accounting for the increase. The previous peak of food stamp enrollment, 1.46 million, occurred in April 1995.