The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. The SNAP/Food Stamp Program is the largest nutrition assistance program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). As of August 2013, 47.6 million persons were participating in SNAP.
The goal of the program is “to alleviate hunger and malnutrition … by increasing food purchasing power for all eligible households who apply for participation” as stated in the Food Stamp Act of 1977, as amended (P.L. 108-269). The program provides monthly benefits to eligible low-income families which can be used to purchase food. Through the electronic benefit transfer systems (EBT) the use of food stamp “coupons” is no longer the means in which a client receives their benefits. EBT replaces paper coupons through use of a benefits card, similar to a bank card. USDA reports that all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico are now using EBT systems.
The federal government pays 100 percent of SNAP/Food Stamp program benefits. Federal and State governments share administrative costs (with the federal government contributing nearly 50 percent). Every 5 years, the SNAP/Food Stamp program is reauthorized by Congress as part of the Farm Bill. The reauthorization establishes who is eligible for SNAP/food Stamps and addresses program access, benefit levels, and other matters.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Food and Nutrition Service continues to conduct research and studies aimed at improving the program. By improving access to the program in addition to on-going outreach and education, the USDA hopes to increase participation rates for those who are eligible for the SNAP/Food Stamps, but are not receiving benefits.
For more information on this issue, visit CHN’s Public Policy Priorities, 2013-2014.
Policy Analyses and Research
- March 5, 2014Center for American Progress: The Effects of Minimum Wages on SNAP Enrollments and Expenditures
- December 2, 2013Bread For The World: The 2014 Hunger Report