The number of South Floridians on food stamps continued to climb in October with even Broward adding 2,000 more people to the rolls despite its September decline that had been the first drop in more than five years, state officials said.
In all, more than 17,000 South Floridians went on food stamps last month to add to the 1.1 million already on the program in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, according to the caseload data released by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
South Florida accounts for almost a third of the 3.6 million Floridians on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program or SNAP as it is also known.
Despite the Great Recession officially ending nationwide more than three years ago, DCF expects those on food stamps to "be fluctuating for some time," said the agency’s press secretary Erin Gillespie. "Hopefully the trend will begin to decline regularly soon. We will just have to wait and see."
Floridians have been leaving the program after receiving the food aid for about an average of 10 months, Gillespie said.
October saw a bigger than expected increase with those on food stamps in Broward growing 0.8 percent to 282,830, despite the county dropping to 280,830 in September. In a year, Broward’s food stamp rolls have jumped nearly 13 percent or more than 32,000 people.
In Palm Beach County, those receiving the food aid grew 1.4 percent last month to 190,096. That’s a 14 percent increase from a year earlier with 23,251 more people in Palm Beach County on food stamps, according to state statistics.
Social service programs have been stretched to accommodate the increasing number of needy since the Great Recession began in December 2007.
Just in Palm Beach County, the number of people on food stamps has skyrocketed 300 percent since 2008, said Marilyn Munoz, executive director of the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County.
"Regarding hunger, at least 17 percent of Palm Beach County residents do not know where their next meal will come from, according to Feeding America," a nationwide network of food banks, Munoz said in a written statement.
Indeed, when Palm Beach County’s first government center for the homeless -- the Philip D. Lewis Center -- opened some four months ago, "nothing could have prepared the organizations involved for the onslaught of homeless seeking services first," she added.
More than 3,200 people or 2,325 households are homeless in Palm Beach County, Munoz estimated.
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