One of the harshest indicators of the economic recession showed up Thursday evening in a budget presentation in Washington County.

Food support cases jumped 117 percent in the past four years to 4,466 this year. Each case, administered by the county's community services department, represents an average of two people.

"It really is the economy that brought people to our doorstep," said Dan Papin, who heads the department.

Evidence of the sharp increase began before 2008, he said, when middle-class people who had lost jobs initially didn't qualify for the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known informally as food stamps. They later became eligible when they spent their savings. The program also assists the working poor, he said.

Residents on food assistance receive from $200 to $300 a month but also have to rely on local food shelves and other sources, Papin said.

All the money paid in food assistance comes from the federal government, he said.