Jump in usage of food stamps in the Chicago suburbs

The effects of the American economic crisis are also being felt in the suburbs. In the Chicago area, usage of food stamps has increased dramatically since 2006:

Since 2006, the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps and administered via Link cards, has seen a rise in the number of people in the program in an average month by 46 percent in Cook County, 133 percent in DuPage County, 84 percent in Lake County, 96 percent in Kane County, 168 percent in McHenry County and 74 percent in Will County.

“It’s easy to assume hunger is an urban problem,” said Lake, whose food bank serves 13 counties. “But the fact of the matter is, hunger is everywhere.”

In the suburbs, the increase in food stamps use could be the result of previously middle-income families getting caught by a tough break, said Jennifer Yonan, a vice president of the United Way of Lake County…

To qualify for food stamps, a household has to meet certain income requirements. A family of four, for example, must have a gross monthly income of less than $2,389 to qualify.

The suburbs were once considered the bastion of the wealthy but this is changing as more suburbs encounter issues that were once thought to be big city problems.

The 133% rise in DuPage County is particularly interesting. In recent decades, DuPage County was transformed from more of a bedroom county, meaning that workers lived in DuPage but commuted elsewhere for work, to a job center. In figures from the early 2000s, DuPage County had more jobs than eligible workers, meaning that the county needed outside workers to fill all of its jobs. If you look at the unemployment rate for DuPage County (not seasonally adjusted), the rate was as low as 2.7% in October 2006, as high as 9.4% in January 2010, and is now at 8.6%.

It would be interesting to see more exact data to figure who exactly has started using food stamps since 2006.

This rise in food stamp usage is a similar phenomenon to reports about the black middle class or the increase in foreclosures: when an economic crisis hits, people living on or near the economic edge will have more difficulty.

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