Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides financial assistance for food purchasing to low- and no-income people and families living in the U.S. It is a federal aid program, administered by the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but benefits are distributed by the individual U.S. states. It is historically and commonly known as the Food Stamp Program.In the 2010 fiscal year, $65 billion in food stamps were distributed, with an average benefit per recipient in a household of $133 per month.As of October 2011, 46,224,722 Americans were receiving food stamps. In Washington, D.C., and Mississippi, more than one-fifth of residents receive food stamps.Recipients must have at most near-poverty incomes to qualify for benefits.Since June 2004, all states have used Electronic Benefit Transfer (debit card) for all food-stamp benefits. For most of its history, however, the program actually used paper-denominated stamps or coupons worth US$1 (brown), $5 (blue), and $10 (green). These stamps could be used to purchase any prepackaged edible foods regardless of nutritional value (for example soft drinks and confectionery could be purchased on food stamps). In the late 1990s, the food-stamp program was revamped and actual stamps were phased out in favor of a specialized debit-card system known as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) provided by private contractors. Many states merged the use of the EBT card for public-assistance welfare programs as well. The 2008 farm bill renamed the Food Stamp Program as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (as of October 2008), and replaced all references to "stamp" or "coupon" in federal law to "card" or "EBT."


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