MEDIA RELEASE: New Report: Food Stamp Caseloads Soar in All 100 Counties

1.2 million North Carolinians now live in families receiving food assistance

RALEIGH (May 20, 2009) - The severity of the current recession has fueled a dramatic expansion in North Carolina's Food Stamp Program. Since the start of the recession, the number of individuals living in assisted families has jumped by 231,000. Put differently, North Carolina's food stamp caseload has gained slightly more people than reside in the City of Winston-Salem.

These findings come from a BTC Brief authored by John Quinterno, a research associate at the NC Budget & Tax Center. Quinterno used data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to analyze changes in the food stamp caseload between December 2007 and April 2009.

"Food stamps help low-income families and households coping with dramatic drops in income make ends meet," says Quinterno. "Given the magnitude of the recession, more and more households are turning to the food stamp program to help purchase basic groceries."

"In April, 1.2 million North Carolinians lived in families receiving food assistance," notes Quinterno. "If those individuals gathered in one place, they would form a metro area more populous than Raleigh-Cary."

Even more striking is just how rapidly the caseload has grown. Since the recession's onset, the number of people living in assisted families has grown from 985,000 to 1.2 million. Some 57 percent of that increase occurred between September 2008 and April 2009. Two months - February and April 2009 - account for a quarter of the change.

"Food stamp caseloads have soared across North Carolina," adds Quinterno. "While urban counties like Mecklenburg have added the greatest numbers of individuals to their caseloads, rural counties have posted the largest increases in percentage terms. Overall, caseloads in 21 counties - 20 of them rural - have grown by at least a third."

Food stamps are becoming increasing vital to the well-being of families across the state. In April, 13 percent of North Carolinians lived in families receiving food stamps. Moreover, in 88 counties at least 10 percent of the population lived in families receiving food assistance. The five counties with the largest population shares are Burke (30 percent), Vance (28 percent), Edgecombe (26.5 percent), Halifax (25.8 percent) and Robeson (25.4 percent).

Food stamp payments, which are financed by the federal government, benefit not only families, but also communities, as benefits typically are spent quickly at local stores. Previous research by the Budget & Tax Center found that found stamp payments generated $2.8 billion in economic activity across North Carolina between December 2007 and March 2009.

The full brief is available on-line at
For More Information, Contact: John Quinterno, 919-622-2392 (mobile)

This brief is part of an occasional series documenting the impact of the recession and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on North Carolina. A previous analysis of the impact of unemployment insurance payments is available at while one detailing the impact of food stamp payments is available at


The NC Budget & Tax Center provides timely, accessible and credible analysis of state and local budget and tax issues with a special focus on the impact on low- and moderate-income North Carolinians.