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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