Unfortunately, she said, she would not be surprised to see the need for food stamps and food shelves continue to rise.
“Last year, we had a pretty mild winter and people didn’t have to spend as much on heat, but this year they might have to make a choice,” she said.
While the program helps individuals get food for their families, it also helps the local economies.
In Clinton County, about $18 million is spent at local stores each year.
“That’s a lot of money going into stores,” LePage said.
As with any social program, fraud is always a concern with SNAP. To better monitor the program and purchases made, the USDA changed the way benefits are obtained.
As of June 17, 2009, according to the USDA, electronic benefit transfers became the sole method for issuing SNAP benefits, phasing out the food-stamp paper coupons.
The system allows all electronic retail transactions to be monitored and identifies potentially high-risk retailers based on patterns. The information is used to help with investigations, often leading to sanctions against retailers, according to the USDA.
In 2011, there were more than 231,000 stores accepting and redeeming SNAP benefits.
About 83 percent of SNAP benefits were redeemed in supermarkets or super stores in 2010, the USDA said, and about 80 percent of benefits were redeemed within two weeks of issuance.
Email Joe LoTemplio: firstname.lastname@example.org