Food Stamps

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"Food Stamps" is the name (formerly official, now colloquial) for various U.S. government programs intended to help people with low incomes buy food. Since 2008 the official name of the current Food Stamps program has been Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The first such program began in 1939 as the Food Stamp Plan during the Great Depression in an effort to relieve the economic strain on low-income families. In 1961 the Food Stamp Program as we know it today was implemented as a pilot program, which in 1964 was made permanent. Further, in 1974 Congress passed legislation requiring all states to provide this program to their low-income citizens..”[1]

The Food Stamp program is administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Various state agencies then administer this program on the state and county level. Although Food Stamps are often associated with state or local departments of public welfare (DPW), they are not actually welfare; instead the DPW is often the agency administering the program on the local level.

The goal this program is to provide low-income families with access to nutritious food. Monthly allotments of money are provided to each participant on an electronic debit card known as an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card. This card allows families to purchase food from their local grocery store just like a bank debit card, bringing an end to the use paper coupons or “stamps”. Monthly allotments are determined based on a family’s income, size, resources and costs. The gross monthly income of a family must be at or below 130% of poverty based on the Federal poverty guidelines to receive food stamp benefits. Currently the minimum allocation for a household is $10 a month.

For more information visit the USDA website at