Increasing Demand for Food Stamps: Echoes of the Great Depression?


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Are we witnessing a return to the bread lines of the Great Depression? Image courtesy of the George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

Are We Witnessing a Return of the Bread Line?

The spectacular so-called ‘Black Tuesday’ stock market crash of 1929, which saw major indices lose up to 90% of their value, prompted the downward economic spiral that led to unprecedented levels of unemployment and hardship.

With budgets stretched to breaking point, many families found themselves forced to turn to food handouts known as bread lines.

Today, the economy is in a similar predicament: many individuals are facing financial uncertainty, and the stock markets are starting to dip.

Unemployment, whilst still a far cry from the levels of the 1930s – when a record-breaking 23% of the population were jobless – rose last month, by 0.1%, for the first time since 2010.

Social Handouts: A Worldwide Concern

Much like the dependency on food handouts during the Great Depression, the need for government-funded aid is a world-wide issue. In the UK, the number of people dependent on so-called ‘food banks’, which are run and funded by charities, is rising and predicted to double in the next year. The Trussel Trust estimates that as many as one in 120 children in Britain have been fed with food funded by charitable donations. In addition to continuing economic fluctuations, other factors such as poor weather throughout the summer – which resulted in low crop yields and a sharp rises in the cost of many food staples this fall – are being blamed for the upsurge in those seeking help feeding themselves and their families.

Food Stamps and Bread Lines: Another Great Depression?

The similarities between the hardship of the Great Depression and the outreach for support we are seeing now are striking; if another stock market crash is on the horizon, the situation could become something of a national crisis, with lines for assistance stretching even further along the block.


USDA. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. (2012). Accessed November 14,2012.

Dissell, R. Up to 90,000 poor families in Cuyahoga County will see food benefits cut next year. Cleveland. (2012). Accessed November 14, 2012.

Malik, S. and Burn-Murdoch, J. Number of UK Poor Receiving Food Aid Doubles. Guardian. (2012). Accessed November 14, 2012.

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