American food-stamp use rose nearly 3 percent between April 2012 and April 2013 according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Data from the Department of Agriculture shows that enrollment for food stamps (SNAP) is 47.5 million, or one in six Americans.
An interactive map put together by the Wall Street Journal shows a state by state comparison of food stamp enrollment, along with information factors that likely contributed to higher enrollment in particular states.
With 22 percent of residents relying on food stamps, Mississippi is at the top of the list for states with high enrollment in food support programs. The higher enrollment in Mississippi can be traced back to Hurricane Katerina in 2005 and the economic downturn of 2008, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In Oregon, New Mexico, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky, one in five residents receives food stamps. Wyoming had the smallest share of its population on food stamps — 7 percent.
Although food stamp use is pervasive, hunger is a relatively unexamined issue in American media. A three-year study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a media watchdog organization, examined the content of news stories on CBS, NBC and ABC. The three networks combined for a total of 14,632 news stories, however only 58 of those stories, 0.004 percent, were about poverty.
In a piece for the Neiman Center for Journalism at Harvard University, Joel Berg speculates on some of the reasons media ignore poverty:
"Given that the media cater to the advertisers of luxury products, and further given that people employed in the media mostly earn well above poverty wages, it is not surprising that the media usually overlook poverty and hunger, except for obligatory holiday stories that make it seem as though charity will solve the problem," he wrote.
It is a view shared by other media observers. Brent Cunningham, managing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, said “today’s journalists are more isolated than ever from the lives of poor and working-class Americans.”
Cunningham interviewed Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne for the story who concurred with his observation. “I actually think there’s structural bias in the media against the poor. Newspapers are built to cover the wealthy and famous much more than they are built to cover the working class and the poor,” said Dionne in his interview with Cunningham.