NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Record Number of Americans Rely on Food Stamps

June 3, 2011

Congress is under pressure to cut the rapidly rising costs of the federal government's food stamps program at a time when a record number of Americans are relying on it, says ABC News.

  • On May 31, the House Appropriations Committee reviewed the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill for the Department of Agriculture (USDA) that includes $71 billion for the agency's "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program" (SNAP).
  • That's $2 billion less than what President Obama requested but a 9 percent increase from 2011, which, critics say, is too large given the sizeable budget deficit.
  • A record number of Americans -- about 14 percent -- now rely on the federal government's food stamps program.
  • More than 44.5 million Americans received SNAP benefits in March, an 11 percent increase from one year ago and nearly 61 percent higher than the same time four years ago.
  • Nearly 21 million households are reliant on food stamps.

Opponents of the program argue that money from the food stamps budget -- with what they call its increasingly lax requirements -- needs to be shifted to other programs such as education and child nutrition.  The program's supporters argue that at a time of economic decline, such welfare programs are even more important to try to keep Americans from spiraling into poverty.

  • The cost of the food stamps program has increased rapidly since it was established by Congress in 1964.
  • It cost taxpayers more than $68 billion last year, double the amount in 2007.
  • Nutrition assistance now accounts for more than half -- or about 67 percent -- of the USDA's budget, compared with 26 percent in 1980.
  • That shift in focus, critics say, is ineffective because it hasn't put a dent in poverty or hunger in the United States while taking away money from other programs, specifically agricultural programs that should be the main focus of the agency.

Source: "Congress Mulls Cuts to Food Stamps Program amid Record Number of Recipients," ABC News, May 31, 2011.

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