Rising use

The percentage of people using food stamps in Fulton and Montgomery counties went up by more than 10 percent from 2000 to 2011, according to data compiled by a Mississippi State University professor.

The data, compiled from data from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census, show 5 percent of Fulton County’s population was receiving food stamps in 2000, while 16.8 percent received food stamps in 2011.

In Montgomery County, 7 percent received food stamps in 2000 and 18 percent received food stamps in 2011.

In Hamilton County, 4 percent received food stamps in 2000 and 7 percent received food stamps in 2011.

The nation went through a recession during the late 2000s.

“It’s a reflection of the economy and we need to be concerned,” New York State Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, said of the food-stamp percentages. “We need to have the jobs for people to stay in the area to build the economy. That has always been the key.”

Butler and Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said the development of the local business parks, including the Tryon park in Perth, will provide new jobs and boost the economy to get people off of public assistance.

However, Stead said the state has been pushing and encouraging more people to access the food stamp program.

“It’s concerning any time you have a percentage like that on a public-assistance type of program, but I think it’s not unexpected given the heavy push New York state officials have had getting more and more people on food stamps,” he said.

He said because of the push at the federal and state level to expand public assistance and social welfare programs, he doesn’t believe the increase has leveled off yet.

“If the economy gets a little bit better, I believe that increase will plateau,” Stead said.

Across New York, 15.7 percent of residents in 2011 received support from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, as the food stamp program is officially known. Nationally, 14.8 percent of the population receives SNAP benefits, according to a report by Emily Guerin and Tim Marema based on the data compiled by Professor Roberto Gallardo, Ph.D. Gallardo is associate extension professor with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

According to the report, places like Fulton, Montgomery and Hamilton counties, which are outside metropolitan areas, tend to have a higher percentage of the population receiving SNAP benefits because incomes are generally lower.

In 2011, Fulton County residents received a $16.2 million in SNAP benefits. The USDA says each $5 in SNAP benefits generates $9.20 in spending, according to the report.

Stead said Fulton County has been working on a number of efforts to boost the economy and job creation. He cited a regional water study, branding efforts and the development of Tryon.

“We have stabilized the county government finances, so now our big push is to create jobs and push economic development,” Stead said. “We think that’s the way locally to try to combat increasing public assistance and food-stamp use. We need to get the local economy rolling.”

According to the USDA Food & Nutrition Service, the average monthly participation in the SNAP program in 2013 was 47.6 million people nationwide. In New York state, the average was 3.2 million people.