Big Island sees drop in food stamp participation

HILO, Hawaii — The number of food stamp recipients on Hawaii Island declined slightly in 2017.

Data from the Hawaii Department of Human Services shows while 37,964 people on the Big Island benefited from the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program — commonly referred to as food stamps — by the end of November 2016, only 37,349 did so by the same time in 2017, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported .

The decline reflects an ongoing trend in program participation since 2015. An average of nearly 40,000 people per month benefited from the program on the island that year.

The data shows $9,113,778 in benefits was distributed to island residents in 2017, with each participant receiving an average of $244.02 per person.

Total program participants dropped statewide from 148,848 in 2016 to 142,616 in 2017.

National data for the 2017 fiscal year was not available, although a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities earlier in 2017 revealed 12 percent of Hawaii’s residents were involved in the program in 2016, slightly less than the national average of 14 percent.

But, while fewer families with children are involved in the program than the national average — 64 percent versus the nation’s 68 percent — 53 percent of participants are in working families, compared to the national average of 44 percent.

The program issued over $66 billion in total benefits in 2016.

Meanwhile, a budget resolution passed in October will cut $193 billion from the program over the next 10 years, equaling a 25 percent cut.

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