The Food Stamp program has long been considered a welfare program for the nation's unemployed, but a growing number of consumers with jobs are turning to the aid program to help put food on the table.
Nearly 40 percent of the families receiving food stamps have some kind of earned income, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2007, only 25 percent of working families received the assistance.
USDA reports the number of Americans receiving food stamps rose for an eighth straight month in June to 35 million, a 700,000 increase over May's total. The June food stamp rolls are up 22 percent over June 2008.
While the unemployment rate hit has jumped to 9.7 percent, many people who still have jobs are also hurting. With companies cutting back workers' hours, the average work week is now down to about 33 hours, the lowest on record. The number of people forced to accept part-time work, because they can't find full time employment, has risen 50 percent in the last year.
In addition, many consumers find themselves in a credit squeeze. One bank, JP Morgan Chase, recently doubled the minimum monthly payment for millions of its credit card customers. Other credit card companies have raised rates on existing balances, ahead of new credit card rules that take effect in February.
Rate resets on subprime and adjustable rate mortgages continue to push homeowners into foreclosure. Falling home values have made it next to impossible to tap into a home's equity for extra cash.
Many states - which administer the food stamp program - find the crush of new applications is difficult to handle. In Texas, 2.8 million citizens received food assistance last month, ,compared with 2.3 million in August 2007.
Texas officials haven't been able to keep up with the demand. The state faces a class action suit that accuses it of violating federal rules requiring food stamp applications to be processed within 30 days.
It's a similar story in other states. In Arizona, the number of people on food stamps in June was up 34 percent over June 2008. In Vermont, the number is up 38 percent over last year. In Alabama, officials say the number of people on food stamps in August hit a record high.
Congress appropriated additional money for food stamps when it passed the $787 billion stimulus package in February. The program provides the average recipient nearly $300 a month in food assistance.