Even as welfare rolls have dropped, food stamp use has increased over the last few years, fueled by a surprising spike among the working class. While overall food stamp use has gone up by more than one-third since 2002, the number of recipients who are able-bodied or working and not on welfare has nearly doubled, said Seth Diamond, executive deputy commissioner for the city’s Human Resources Administration, at a City Council hearing last week. Those recipients now account for about 40 percent of the city’s 1.1 million food stamp recipients—and roughly three-quarters of the increase since 2002. Why the marked increase? Front and center is local government’s increased efforts to enroll eligible people into the program. The state enrolled 60,000 New Yorkers into the program last year with a state regulation change that eased access. Meanwhile, the city has worked to make food stamp offices more user-friendly. The agency is also trying to bolster enrollment, working with anti-hunger groups to develop an electronic application process that would be run out of grocery stores and food pantries. Yet the city has a way to go. A survey of 2001 food stamp enrollment rates for workers across the states found New York’s to be significantly below the national average, according to a Mathematica Policy Research study done for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal agency that administers food stamps. And for all its work to expand access, the Bloomberg administration this week refused to pursue a federal waiver that would have allowed the city to offer food stamps to unemployed workers looking for jobs. [5/2/05]