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USDA Justifies More Spending for Food Stamps

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"...this is not the time for cuts..."

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17: Tom Camarello with Progressive Democrats of America and members from several other organizations hold a rally in front of Rep. Henry Waxman's office on June 17, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The protestors were asking the congressman to vote against a House farm bill that would reduce federal spending on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program by $20.5 billion and affect food stamps and other services for the poor. Credit: Getty Images

As the number of Americans on food stamps continues to rise, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is using a new study that actually shows a nominal reduction in household “food insecurity” to advocate continued spending for the program.

Tom Camarello with Progressive Democrats of America and members from several other organizations hold a rally in front of Rep. Henry Waxman's office on June 17, 2013 in Los Angeles, asking the congressman to vote against a House farm bill that would reduce federal spending on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program by $20.5 billion and affect food stamps and other services. (Getty Images)

The USDA study found little change in “food insecurity,” dropping from 14.9 percent in 2011 to 14.5 percent in 2012. Children were “food insecure” in 10 percent of households, the USDA study said, the same as in 2011.

Still, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said it shows the vital need for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps.

“Food insecurity remains a very real challenge for millions of Americans,” Vilsack said after the study's release last week.

The study defined food security as “meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.”

“As the recovery continues and families turn to USDA nutrition programs for help to put good food on the table, this is not the time for cuts to the SNAP program that would disqualify millions of Americans and threaten a rise in food insecurity,” Vilsack said. “For our part, USDA will continue to deliver a strong nutrition program with an error rate that is at a historic low.”

The number of Americans on food stamps climbed from 26 million in 2007 to 47 million in 2012, according to the Congressional Budget Office, with total spending more than doubling from $35 billion to $80 billion over those years.

Last month a USDA inspector general's report stated that the United States did a poor job of preventing food stamp fraud and frequently allowed “permanently disqualified” people to continue using the taxpayer-funded program to purchase items.

In April, the conservative government watchdog group Judicial Watch revealed numerous documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act showing that the USDA was working with the Mexican government to promote food stamp use among new immigrants.

The new USDA study stated that 85.5 percent of Americans households were “food secure.”

It also found that 59 percent of food insecure households participated in the food stamp program or a similar USDA program.

“Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line, households with children headed by single women or single men, and Black and Hispanic households,” the study stated. “Food insecurity was more common in large cities and rural areas than in suburban areas and exurban areas around large cities.”

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