As the number of Americans receiving food stamp assistance grows to record levels, the number of Hesperians receiving the federal food aid is accelerating.

According to Brian Pickering, an administrative supervisor with San Bernardino Human Services, 2,267 Hesperian households received Food Stamp Program assistance in April 2006. A year later, that number had grown 15 percent, to 2,613 households. And by April 2008, the number had grown another 36 percent, to 3,560 families.

Final figures for overall San Bernardino County food stamp numbers will not be available until later this month, when an annual report is released, but Pickering says that Hesperia seems to be growing exceptionally fast.

"I don't have reliable figures for the countywide increase over the same period, but it appears that Hesperia has experienced a larger increase in Food stamp receipt than the county overall."

The Food Stamp Program is a federal assistance program providing food to the poor and unemployed. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but funds are distributed by the individual states.

Since 2004, the stamps have been replaced by the Electronic Benefit Transfer card, which works similarly to a debit card. In California, the EBT card is known as the Golden State Advantage card.

The rise in food stamp recipients comes at a time when the national, state and local economies are slowing down: According to city spokeswoman Kelly Malloy, Hesperia issued 364 permits for new single family home construction during the 2006-2007 fiscal year, which begins on July 1 of each year. A year later, the number of permits issued had dropped to 106.

It's estimated that 28 million Americans will receive US Food Stamp Program assistance by October 1, up from 27.8 million in October 2007.

For more information on the Golden State Advantage card program, call the Hesperia office of the San Bernardino County Transitional Assistance Department at 956-4697.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.