Is It Food Stamps or SNAP: Understanding the Program and Its Eligibility

Are you confused about whether it’s called food stamps or SNAP? You’re not alone. The government program that provides assistance to low-income families with food purchases has gone under several name changes over the years. SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is the name that is currently used. However, many people still refer to it as food stamps, which was the name used from its inception in 1961 up until 2008.

Regardless of what you call it, SNAP is intended to help those who are struggling to put food on the table. The program issues electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards to eligible recipients, which can be used to purchase food at participating retailers. This helps to ensure that those who receive SNAP benefits have access to nutritious food, which can help improve overall health, especially for children.

Despite being a vital resource to millions of Americans, SNAP is often met with criticism and negativity. Some argue that it encourages a culture of dependency, while others believe that it doesn’t do enough to combat hunger. However, regardless of one’s opinion on the program, it is clear that SNAP plays a crucial role in providing relief to those who are struggling to make ends meet. Whether you call it food stamps or SNAP, it is an important lifeline that helps to ensure that everyone has access to one of the most fundamental needs: food.

History of Food Stamps and SNAP

Food assistance has long been a concern in the United States, starting with the Food Stamp Program in 1939. The original program, run by the Department of Agriculture, sought to help farmers by using surplus crops to feed the needy. The program was small and limited in scope, and participation was restricted.

Over the years, the program expanded, and by the 1960s, a growing number of Americans were in need of food assistance. In 1964, as part of his War on Poverty, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Food Stamp Act, which created a more comprehensive food assistance program. The program was renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, in 2008, to reflect a more modern approach to fighting hunger.

The History of Food Assistance in America

  • The Food Stamp program began in 1939 as a way to help farmers with surplus crops by giving food to the needy.
  • The program expanded and, in 1964, became a comprehensive food assistance program called the Food Stamp Act.
  • The program was renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, in 2008.

The Impact of SNAP on Hunger in America

Snap has been a critical tool in the fight to end hunger in America. The program is designed to provide low-income individuals and families with nutritional assistance, allowing them to purchase food items from participating retailers. Currently, around 42 million Americans rely on SNAP benefits to make ends meet.

A 2019 study by the Urban Institute found that SNAP benefits had a profound impact on both food security and poverty rates. The study found that the program lifted an estimated 3.4 million people out of poverty, reducing the poverty rate by 1.2 percentage points.

The Key Differences Between Food Stamps and SNAP

While SNAP is the modern incarnation of the Food Stamp Program, there are several key differences between the two. Food stamps were more restrictive, with limited eligibility and participating retailers. SNAP, on the other hand, is more comprehensive, with open eligibility and the ability to use SNAP benefits at most grocery stores.

Food StampsSNAP
Only certain types of people could qualifyOpen eligibility for low-income individuals and families
Participating retailers were limitedCan use benefits at most grocery stores
Benefits were in the form of paper couponsBenefits are provided on an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card

Overall, SNAP is a more effective and efficient program that has helped millions of Americans in their time of need. By providing access to healthy, nutritious food, SNAP has worked to end hunger and improve the lives of countless Americans.

Eligibility and Application process for SNAP

SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is a government-run program that provides food assistance to millions of Americans in need. Eligibility for SNAP is determined based on various factors, including income, household size, and citizenship status.

To be eligible for SNAP, applicants must have a gross monthly income that is at or below 130% of the federal poverty level. For a household of one, this would mean a gross monthly income of $1,383 or less. For a household of four, the gross monthly income limit would be $2,833 or less. In addition to income, applicants must also meet certain asset requirements, which vary by state.

The application process for SNAP varies by state, but typically involves filling out an application form and providing documentation to prove eligibility. This can include proof of income, citizenship status, and household expenses. Applicants may also be required to attend an interview with a caseworker as part of the application process.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • Must have a gross monthly income at or below 130% of the federal poverty level
  • Must meet asset requirements, which vary by state

Application Process

Each state has its own application process for SNAP, but generally, applicants can apply online, in person, or by mail. The application form will ask for information about the applicant’s income, household size, and expenses. Applicants will also need to provide documentation to support their eligibility, such as pay stubs, tax returns, and utility bills.

Once the application is submitted, it will be reviewed by a caseworker, who may require additional documentation or schedule an interview with the applicant. The caseworker will then determine if the applicant is eligible for SNAP and, if so, the amount of benefits they will receive each month.

SNAP Benefit Levels

The amount of SNAP benefits a household receives is based on their income, expenses, and household size. The maximum benefit level for a household of four is $782 per month, but most households receive less than this amount. The average monthly benefit per household in 2021 was $236.13.

Household SizeMaximum Gross Monthly IncomeMaximum Monthly Benefit

While SNAP benefits may not cover all of a household’s food expenses, they can make a significant difference in a family’s ability to provide nutritious meals for themselves and their children. If you think you may be eligible for SNAP, visit your state’s Department of Social Services website for more information on how to apply.

Advantages and Disadvantages of SNAP

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is a government-funded program that provides financial assistance to low-income individuals and families to purchase groceries and other essential food items. While it aims to alleviate hunger and improve nutrition for those in need, there are both advantages and disadvantages to the program.

  • Advantages:
  • SNAP helps alleviate hunger and food insecurity among low-income households, ensuring families have access to enough food to meet their basic needs.
  • The program promotes better nutrition by providing access to fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods that may be otherwise unaffordable for low-income families.
  • SNAP also offers economic benefits by stimulating local economies. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, every $1 spent on SNAP benefits generates $1.50 in economic activity.
  • Disadvantages:
  • Some argue that SNAP perpetuates a cycle of poverty, as it provides financial assistance instead of addressing the root causes of poverty, such as lack of access to education and job opportunities.
  • The program has also been criticized for being too lenient in determining eligibility, and for allowing individuals to remain on the program for extended periods of time, without requiring them to seek employment or job training.
  • There have also been concerns about fraud and abuse within the program, with some individuals and businesses using SNAP benefits for non-food items or unlawfully selling items for cash.

SNAP Participation and Impact

Since its inception in the 1960s, the number of individuals enrolled in SNAP has fluctuated with changes in the economy and other factors. As of 2020, over 42 million individuals across the U.S. are enrolled in the program.

Studies have shown that SNAP benefits not only improve food security and nutrition for households, but also have long-term positive impacts on children’s health and academic achievement. Additionally, the economic benefits of the program have been demonstrated through increased spending and job creation in local communities.

YearNumber of Participants (millions)Benefit Amount (billion USD)

Overall, while there are certainly valid criticisms of SNAP, the program remains an important tool in the fight against hunger and poverty, providing much-needed assistance to millions of low-income households across the country.

Funding for SNAP Program

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is a federal program aimed at helping low-income individuals and families purchase food. The program is funded through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is designed to provide assistance to those who are struggling to put food on the table. It is the largest of the 15 domestic food and nutrition assistance programs administered by the USDA.

  • In fiscal year 2020, the SNAP program cost $68.1 billion, up from $67.7 billion in fiscal year 2019.
  • As of September 2020, there were 43.1 million people enrolled in SNAP.
  • The average benefit for the fiscal year 2020 was $129 per person, per month.

The funding for the SNAP program comes from both the federal government and the individual states. The federal government pays for the cost of benefits, while states are responsible for funding administrative costs. The federal government covers 100% of the benefits, which are distributed through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. States are required to cover 50% of the administrative costs, but the federal government matches up to 50% of those costs.

The amount of funding for the program can vary from year to year and is determined by the USDA. The program is subject to appropriations from Congress, and funding can be affected by changes to the budget. There have been attempts to cut funding to the program in recent years, which has led to concerns about the impact on individuals and families who rely on the benefits.

Fiscal YearExpendituresParticipation
2016$70.9 billion44.2 million
2017$71.2 billion42.3 million
2018$68.2 billion40.3 million
2019$67.7 billion36.0 million

The funding for the SNAP program is essential in addressing food insecurity in the United States. It provides critical assistance to those who are struggling to afford food and is an important safety net for many families. It is important to ensure that the program receives adequate funding so that it can continue to serve those who need it most.

Fraud and Abuse in SNAP system

SNAP, also known as food stamps, is a federal program that provides assistance to millions of low-income Americans to purchase food. However, like any government program, there are concerns about fraud and abuse.

The SNAP program is designed to help families and individuals in need put food on the table. Unfortunately, there are people who take advantage of the program by fraudulently obtaining benefits they are not entitled to.

Types of SNAP fraud and abuse:

  • Selling SNAP benefits for cash
  • Using someone else’s SNAP card
  • Not reporting income or assets
  • Providing false information on the SNAP application
  • Intentionally misrepresenting household size

The impact of SNAP fraud and abuse:

Snap fraud and abuse can have wide-ranging effects on the program, including:

  • Reducing the amount of benefits available to those in need
  • Increasing the cost of the program to the government and taxpayers
  • Undermining support for the program from the public and policymakers

Preventing SNAP fraud and abuse:

The USDA, which oversees the SNAP program, has implemented measures to prevent fraud and abuse. Some of these measures include:

  • Conducting periodic reviews of participant eligibility
  • Using technology to detect and prevent fraud, such as EBT card transaction monitoring
  • Working with law enforcement to investigate and prosecute fraud cases

Snap fraud and abuse statistics:

According to the USDA, the SNAP fraud rate for fiscal year 2020 was 1.7%, which is a decrease from previous years. Additionally, the USDA implemented changes to the program due to COVID-19, which increased the number of Americans receiving benefits. While the expanded program resulted in criticism that it was more prone to fraud, officials report that fraud rates remained steady and in some cases, dropped.

YearFraud Rate (%)

Despite the relatively low fraud rates, it is still important to take measures to prevent fraudulent activity in the SNAP program, so that the money available to help those in need is not lost through dishonest means.

Relationship between SNAP and Obesity

SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps, is a federal program that provides assistance to low-income individuals and families to purchase food. In recent years, there has been growing concern about the relationship between SNAP and obesity.

  • One study found that adults who participate in SNAP have a higher prevalence of obesity compared to low-income non-participants.
  • Another study found that children who participate in SNAP have a higher risk of obesity compared to children from higher-income households.
  • However, it’s important to note that SNAP participation does not necessarily cause obesity. Rather, it may be a reflection of the challenges and limitations that low-income households face in accessing healthy and affordable food options.

There are various factors that contribute to the relationship between SNAP and obesity. These factors include:

  • Limited access to healthy and affordable food options in low-income neighborhoods
  • Higher prevalence of food deserts in low-income neighborhoods
  • Higher cost of healthy foods compared to unhealthy and processed foods
  • Higher availability of unhealthy foods in convenience stores and fast food restaurants in low-income neighborhoods
  • Limited time and resources for meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking due to work and family responsibilities

Efforts are being made to address the relationship between SNAP and obesity. One example is the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) program, which provides incentives for SNAP participants to purchase fruits and vegetables. Another example is the expansion of farmers’ markets and mobile markets in low-income neighborhoods to increase access to healthy and affordable foods.

SNAP Participation and Obesity RatesObesity Rates
SNAP Participants36%

It’s important to continue addressing the relationship between SNAP and obesity to ensure that all individuals and families have access to healthy and affordable food options, regardless of income level.

Impact of SNAP on Farmers and Local Economies

SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is often mistakenly referred to as food stamps. However, it is important to note that while food stamps were the original form of government assistance for low-income individuals to purchase food, they were replaced by SNAP in 2008. This program provides individuals and families with a certain amount of money each month, loaded onto an EBT card, to purchase groceries. While the primary focus of SNAP is to help those in need, the program also has a significant impact on farmers and local economies.

  • Increased Demand for Local Produce – With SNAP benefits being used to purchase groceries, there is a greater demand for fresh produce. This provides an opportunity for local farmers to sell their products, which can bolster the local agriculture industry.
  • Stimulates Local Economies – SNAP benefits are often spent at local grocery stores and markets, which stimulates the local economy. This can create job opportunities, improve community infrastructure, and support small businesses.
  • Direct Sales to SNAP Recipients – Farmers markets and other vendors can be authorized to accept SNAP benefits directly. This not only provides access to fresh, healthy food for SNAP beneficiaries, but it also supports local farmers and businesses.

In addition to the benefits for local farmers and businesses, SNAP also has a positive impact on the overall economy. According to the USDA, every dollar spent on SNAP generates $1.79 in economic activity. This includes creating jobs, stimulating economic growth, and increasing tax revenue. Furthermore, research has shown that SNAP reduces food insecurity, improves health outcomes, and even has long-term positive effects on childhood development.

StateSNAP Participation RateSNAP BenefitsTotal Economic Impact
California11.5%$7.47 billion$13.38 billion
New York10.7%$3.92 billion$7.03 billion
Texas11.4%$4.96 billion$8.89 billion

The table above shows the impact of SNAP on three states. The SNAP participation rate, the amount of money in SNAP benefits, and the total economic impact are all listed. As you can see, the economic impact of SNAP is significant, benefiting not only individuals and families who rely on the program but also farmers, small businesses, and local economies as a whole.

Alternatives to SNAP Program

For those who are not eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or want to explore alternative options, there are several alternatives available. Here are eight alternatives to SNAP Program:

  • Food Banks: Food banks are a great option for individuals and families who need assistance with obtaining food. Many food banks operate on a local level and distribute food to those in need free of charge. To find a food bank near you, visit Feeding America or contact your local government offices.
  • WIC Program: The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program provides assistance to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children up to the age of five who are at nutritional risk. The program provides monthly food packages, nutrition education, and referrals to health care providers. To learn more about the WIC program, visit their website.
  • School Lunch Program: The National School Lunch Program provides low-cost or free lunches to students at participating schools. The program is open to students who come from households with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level. To learn more about the program, contact your child’s school or visit the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website.
  • SNAP-Ed: SNAP-Ed is a nutrition education program that helps people make healthy food choices on a limited budget. The program is available to individuals and families who are not eligible for SNAP. To learn more about SNAP-Ed, visit their website.
  • Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP): SFMNP provides low-income seniors with coupons to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture programs. To learn more about SFMNP, contact your local government offices or visit the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website.
  • Meals on Wheels: Meals on Wheels provides home-delivered meals to seniors who are unable to leave their homes and have a limited income. To learn more about Meals on Wheels, visit their website or contact your local provider.
  • Local Community Programs: Many local communities have programs that provide free or low-cost food to those in need. These programs vary from location to location, but can include food pantries, community gardens, and meal programs. To find programs in your area, contact your local government offices or visit Feeding America.
  • Private Charities: Many private charities provide food assistance to those in need. These charities can include religious organizations, non-profit organizations, and foundations. To find charities in your area, contact your local government offices or visit Charity Navigator.

Government Assistance Programs for Food Insecurity

In addition to SNAP, there are several other government assistance programs available to individuals and families experiencing food insecurity. These programs include:

Program NameDescription
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)TANF provides financial assistance to families with dependent children who are living below the poverty line. The program provides cash assistance to meet basic needs, including food.
Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)CACFP provides funding to child and adult care facilities that serve meals and snacks to eligible individuals. The program is open to child care centers, adult care centers, and family child care homes.
Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)TEFAP provides funding to states to purchase food for distribution to food banks, soup kitchens, and other emergency feeding organizations. The program is open to low-income households and individuals who are experiencing food insecurity.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)CSFP provides monthly food packages to low-income seniors who are 60 years of age or older. The program also provides nutrition education and referrals to health care providers.

For those experiencing food insecurity, there are several options available to help meet their nutritional needs. By exploring these alternatives, individuals and families can access the food they need to stay healthy and thrive.

Personal Stories of those who used Food Stamps

For many individuals and families who are struggling to put food on the table, food stamps, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provides much-needed assistance. Here are some personal stories from individuals who have utilized food stamps:

  • Marie – Marie is a single mother of two who lost her job due to the pandemic. She applied for food stamps to help her provide for her children while she searched for a new job. “I never thought I would be in a position where I needed help feeding my family, but I am so grateful for the assistance,” Marie said. “It’s not easy to ask for help, but it’s even harder not to have enough food for your children.”
  • James – James is a veteran who was struggling to make ends meet on his fixed income. He discovered that he was eligible for food stamps and decided to apply. “It was a relief to know that I could afford to buy groceries and not have to choose between food and other necessities,” James shared. “I served my country, and it was nice to know that there is a safety net for those who need it.”
  • Olivia – Olivia is a college student who works part-time to support herself. She was having trouble affording healthy food on her tight budget and decided to see if she qualified for food stamps. “It was tough to admit that I needed help, but it made a big difference in my life,” Olivia said. “I was able to buy fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods that I couldn’t afford before. It helped me stay healthy while I worked towards my degree.”

These stories are just a few examples of how food stamps have helped people in need. According to the USDA, in 2019, over 35 million people received SNAP benefits, with the average monthly benefit per person being $127.40.

If you or someone you know is struggling to put food on the table, it’s important to know that there are resources available. Applying for food stamps may seem overwhelming, but it can make a big difference in a family’s quality of life.

Political Debates and Controversies over the SNAP Program

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as the Food Stamp Program, has been a subject of political debates and controversies since its inception in 1939. Here are some of the most notable debates and controversies that have arisen over the years:

  • Eligibility requirements: One of the most contentious issues surrounding SNAP is its eligibility requirements. Some argue that the program should be more restrictive to prevent abuse, while others argue that the eligibility requirements should be expanded to include more low-income households.
  • Fraud and abuse: There have been numerous claims of fraud and abuse within the SNAP program, leading to calls for increased oversight and more stringent enforcement measures.
  • Benefit amounts: Many critics argue that the current benefit amounts are too low, leaving many families struggling to make ends meet. Proponents of the program argue that increasing the benefit amounts will help combat food insecurity among low-income households.
  • Budget cuts: In recent years, there have been several attempts to cut funding for SNAP, with some advocates arguing that the program is too costly and needs to be restructured.
  • Work requirements: Some lawmakers have proposed requiring able-bodied adults without children to work a certain number of hours per week in order to receive SNAP benefits. Supporters of the idea argue that it will help encourage self-sufficiency, while opponents argue that it will unfairly penalize those who are unable to find work.
  • Immigration status: There have been debates over whether undocumented immigrants should be eligible for SNAP benefits. Some argue that allowing undocumented immigrants to participate in the program is an undue burden on taxpayers, while others argue that denying benefits to these individuals is inhumane.
  • Food options: Some critics argue that SNAP benefits should be limited to healthy food options, such as fresh produce and lean meat, in order to combat obesity and other health problems. Others argue that such restrictions are impractical and could limit the food choices of low-income households.
  • Stigma: There is a certain stigma attached to receiving SNAP benefits, with some individuals feeling ashamed or embarrassed to use them. This stigma can discourage some people from applying for the program or using their benefits, even if they are eligible.
  • Charitable giving: Some have argued that charitable giving is a better way to address food insecurity than government programs like SNAP. Others argue that charitable giving alone is not enough to solve the problem and that government programs are necessary to provide a safety net for vulnerable populations.
  • Impact on the economy: There have been debates about the economic impact of SNAP, with some arguing that it stimulates local economies by increasing demand for food and other goods. Others argue that the program is a drain on the economy and that its costs outweigh its benefits.


The political debates and controversies surrounding the SNAP program are complex and multifaceted, with passionate arguments on both sides. Despite its flaws, many experts agree that SNAP is a vital tool in fighting hunger and poverty in the United States and that efforts to restrict or eliminate the program could have devastating consequences for millions of Americans.

Is it Food Stamps or SNAP?

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What is the difference between Food Stamps and SNAP?
– Food Stamps is the old name for the program which was replaced by SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in 2008. It is still used interchangeably by some people.
2. Who can apply for SNAP benefits?
– Anyone who meets the income and asset requirements can apply for SNAP benefits. This includes low-income individuals, families, and elderly or disabled individuals.
3. How do I apply for SNAP benefits?
– You can apply online through your state’s SNAP website, by mail or in person at your local SNAP office.
4. How is eligibility for SNAP determined?
– Eligibility is determined based on income, expenses, household size, and other factors. You may be required to provide documentation such as pay stubs, bank statements, and proof of expenses.
5. What can I use my SNAP benefits for?
– SNAP benefits can be used to purchase eligible food items such as bread, cereal, fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products. They cannot be used to purchase non-food items such as soap or pet food.
6. How often do I receive SNAP benefits?
– SNAP benefits are distributed monthly and the amount you receive depends on your income, expenses, and household size.
7. Can I still use my EBT card from the Food Stamp Program?
– Yes, if you have a EBT card from the Food Stamp Program, it can still be used to access your SNAP benefits.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to learn about SNAP and Food Stamps. Remember, these programs exist to help people access healthy food options when they need them most. If you or someone you know may be eligible for SNAP benefits, don’t hesitate to apply. Visit your state’s SNAP website for more information and resources. Come back soon for more informative articles!