In this Associated Press article found in the Chattanooga Time Free Press, those in charge of the system say it's directly effected by the slumping economy.
“Food stamps absolutely trend with the economy,” said Human Services Department spokeswoman Michelle Mowery Johnson. “And when the economy is doing poorly, we get really busy.”
An Associated Press analysis of the state Department of Human Resources data shows the rate of food stamp usage was highest in West Tennessee, where 324,000 people, or 21 percent of the grand division’s population of 1.55 million, were receiving assistance.
Similar numbers of people received food stamps in the other two divisions of the state, but since their populations are larger the rates came in at 15 percent in East Tennessee and 14 percent in Middle Tennessee.
Food stamps contribute an average of about $100 to a family’s monthly food budget and is available to people who earn less than 1.3 times the federal poverty rate, or $27,560 for a family of four.
Tennessee’s highest food stamp rates were in Hancock, Scott and Grundy counties, where about one in three people received assistance. At least a quarter of the people in six other counties received food stamps.
The almost 200,000 people on food stamps in Shelby County made up the highest number of individuals receiving assistance in the state. But the rate of 22 percent of the county’s 911,000 people on food stamps ranked Shelby County 19th among Tennessee’s 95 counties.