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DCF Reports Big Jump in Food Stamp Cases During 2009

Department of Children and Families workers saw a jump in monthly food stamp caseloads of about 5,000 during the last year, the agency said.

This month, the food stamp caseload in Florida stands at more than 60,000, up from 55,000 in January 2009.

“It's totally the economy, people have lost their jobs,” said DCF Spokeswoman Pat Smith. “There are so many new clients, people who haven't applied for food stamps in their whole life.”

Currently, Florida's unemployment stands at 11.5 percent, with some counties, such as Flagler, registering rates as high as 16.8 percent. This doesn't even begin to track the number of people who have seen their wages decrease in the sour economy.

The monthly caseload steadily climbed from the 55,379 mark a year ago to 60,611 this month. It's high point was in November 2009 with 60,760 cases.

“It's sad because there are people out there that need help,” Smith said. “And people are one paycheck away from it being them.”

Florida isn’t alone. Nationwide, the number of people on food stamps has grown.

National figures aren’t available for the increase over the last year, but the number increased significantly last year and is expected to again. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the total number of people on food stamps nationwide in September 2008 was about 31.6 million. A year later, the number had jumped to 37.1 million.

Florida is currently fourth for the number of residents receiving food stamps behind Texas, New York and California. According to the USDA, about 2.3 million people in Florida received food stamps in September 2009. Federal officials track food stamp users by people, while state case loads reflect families receiving assistance.

Alaska has the lowest number of residents on food stamps with about 70,000, though the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands both have registered lower numbers than that.

The state's economists predicted in an October meeting that the number of caseloads would continue to rise throughout the 2010-2011 fiscal year, but that they would eventually level off and decline by the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

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