What Is Food Stamps Called Now? Exploring the Current Terminology

If you’ve ever found yourself in a tough financial spot, chances are you’ve probably looked into government assistance programs for help. One such program that has recently undergone a name change is what used to be called food stamps. That’s right, the term we grew up hearing has been replaced by a new moniker: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

While it may seem like a small change, the new name more accurately reflects what the program actually provides – assistance with buying food for individuals and families who need it. In fact, over 38 million Americans rely on SNAP benefits to help put food on the table each month. But with the name change comes a larger conversation around the stereotypes and stigmas often associated with government assistance programs, and the people who use them.

Despite the negative judgments that might come to mind when you hear the words “food stamps” or “welfare”, the reality is that unexpected changes in employment or life circumstances can happen to anyone. And when they do, having a support system in place is crucial. So next time you hear the phrase “SNAP benefits”, you can feel good knowing that you’re supporting a program that helps your fellow citizens get the nourishment they need to thrive.

The History of Food Stamps in the United States

Food stamps, also known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), have been an essential part of the American government’s efforts to combat hunger and poverty for over eighty years. The program has undergone several changes since its inception, responding to various economic and social conditions in the country.

  • 1939: The first food stamp program was launched in Rochester, New York, as a pilot project aimed at helping people with limited income buy food. Participants paid for their food with orange-colored stamps that were worth different amounts based on the cost of food.
  • 1961: President John F. Kennedy signed a law that expanded the food stamp program to all states, with the aim of serving all eligible low-income households. The stamps were no longer traded for money, but were instead given out for free to eligible households, and were used like currency to buy food at authorized retailers.
  • 1977: The Food Stamp Act was passed, which established specific eligibility requirements and set minimum benefit levels. The act also required states to use electronic benefit transfer (EBT) systems to issue benefits, replacing the paper coupons that had been used previously.

Today, SNAP provides assistance to over 40 million Americans, with an average benefit of $126 per month per person. While it has been the target of criticism and debates over the years, the program remains a vital safety net for millions of Americans struggling to afford basic nutrition.

Eligibility Requirements for SNAP Benefits

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as ‘Food Stamps,’ is a government program that provides assistance to low-income individuals and families to buy food. The program has eligibility requirements that applicants must meet to qualify for the benefits. The eligibility requirements for SNAP benefits are divided into several subcategories, including:

  • Residency
  • Income Limitations
  • Resources
  • Work Requirements
  • Categorical Eligibility

Each of these categories has specific requirements that must be met to qualify for SNAP benefits.

The Residency requirement mandates that applicants must be a resident of the state in which they apply for SNAP benefits. Additionally, they must be either a U.S citizen, a legal foreign national, a refugee, or a recipient of asylum. Applicants must also provide proof of their identity and residency.

The Income Limitations requirement is the most significant determining factor for eligibility. The gross monthly income of the household must be at or below 130% of the federal poverty level. The net income of the household must also be at or below the poverty level.

Resources refer to the value of assets and savings an applicant or household may have. An applicant must have a ‘resource’ limit of $2,250 or less to qualify for SNAP benefits.

Work Requirements mandate that healthy, able-bodied adults with no dependents must work or participate in an approved work program for a minimum of 20 hours per week to qualify for more than three months of SNAP benefits in a three-year period.

Categorical Eligibility is based on other benefits or programs one is already receiving, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Medicaid.

Household SizeMax Gross Monthly IncomeMax Net Monthly Income

To participate in the program, individuals must also provide certain documents, such as proof of residency, identification documents, proof of income, and expenses. While SNAP benefits may not be available to everyone, the program’s criteria are intended to provide help to those who are in the greatest financial need.

How to Apply for SNAP Benefits

SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is the modern-day version of food stamps. It is a federal program designed to aid low-income households in purchasing nutritious food. If you think you are eligible for SNAP benefits, you can apply by following these steps:

  • Step 1: Check Eligibility
  • Before applying, it’s important to know if you meet the eligibility requirements. These include income, citizenship, and residency requirements. You can check your eligibility on the SNAP website or by visiting your local SNAP office.

  • Step 2: Gather Required Documents
  • Once you’ve determined your eligibility, you will need to gather the necessary documents to apply. These typically include proof of income, identification, and residency.

  • Step 3: Submit Your Application
  • You can submit your application online or at your local SNAP office. You will be required to provide all necessary documentation and complete an interview with a caseworker. After your application is processed, you will receive a decision within 30 days.

If you are approved for SNAP benefits, you will receive an EBT card which functions similarly to a debit card and can be used to purchase eligible food items. Keep in mind that SNAP benefits do not cover non-food items like toilet paper or cleaning supplies.

Additional Resources

If you need further assistance with the SNAP application process, there are resources available to help you. You can contact your local SNAP office or visit the SNAP website for more information.


Applying for SNAP benefits may seem daunting, but it’s an important program that can provide much-needed assistance with purchasing nutritious food. By following these steps and utilizing available resources, you can successfully apply for SNAP benefits and take a step towards improving your overall health and well-being.

Remember, SNAP benefits are meant to supplement your food budget and are not intended to cover all of your food expenses. It’s important to continue budgeting and shopping wisely to make the most of your SNAP benefits.

Understanding EBT Cards and How they Work

Food stamps are now referred to as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides low-income individuals and families with the means to purchase food, with the benefit provided on an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card. The EBT card works like a debit card, with the cardholder using it to pay for their food purchases at participating retailers.

How to Qualify for SNAP Benefits

  • SNAP benefits are based on income and expenses. To qualify, the applicant must have a certain level of income that is at or below the federal poverty line.
  • The applicant’s expenses, such as rent and utilities, are also taken into consideration, and the level of SNAP benefits is adjusted accordingly.
  • The SNAP program also has work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs). These individuals must work or participate in a work program for a certain number of hours per week to continue receiving benefits.

How to Apply for SNAP Benefits and Obtain an EBT Card

To apply for SNAP benefits, individuals can contact their local Department of Social Services or apply online. Once approved, the applicant will receive an EBT card that is loaded with their monthly benefit amount. The card is then used like a debit card at participating retailers to purchase eligible food items.

The EBT card is equipped with a PIN number for security, and the cardholder is responsible for keeping the card safe and secure. If the card is lost or stolen, it should be reported immediately to prevent unauthorized use.

Understanding Eligible Food Items

EBT cards can only be used to purchase eligible food items, which includes most food products but excludes items such as hot prepared foods, alcohol, and tobacco. Non-food items such as soap and paper products are also not eligible.

Eligible Food ItemsIneligible Items
Meat, poultry, and fishPrepared foods
Dairy products and eggsAlcohol and tobacco
Cereal and grainsNon-food items
Fruits and vegetables

It’s important for EBT cardholders to know which items are eligible and ineligible to avoid any issues when making purchases.

Differences between SNAP and WIC programs

SNAP and WIC are two different assistance programs that are designed to help individuals and families with low-income in the United States to access food. However, there are several differences between these two programs that are worth noting.

  • Eligibility requirements: SNAP has more lenient eligibility requirements than WIC. SNAP is available to individuals and families with gross incomes that are at or below 130% of the federal poverty level. WIC, on the other hand, is available to pregnant women, new mothers, and young children from low-income families who are at or below 185% of the federal poverty level.
  • Program benefits: SNAP provides monthly benefits that can be used to purchase food items at grocery stores, farmers markets, and other approved retailers. The benefit amount is based on the household size, income, and expenses. In contrast, WIC provides specific food items (such as milk, cheese, eggs, fruits, and vegetables) to eligible participants at no cost. WIC also provides nutrition education and support services, as well as referrals to healthcare providers.
  • Program scope: SNAP is a federal program that is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories. WIC is also a federal program that is administered by the USDA, but is only available in certain states, depending on the state’s interest in participating in the program.

Despite the differences between SNAP and WIC, both programs are important sources of support for individuals and families with low-income who may struggle to afford nutritious food. Understanding the eligibility requirements, program benefits, and program scope of both programs can help individuals make informed decisions about which program to apply for and how to access the food assistance they need.

Impact of SNAP on Food Insecurity in the U.S.

Food insecurity remains a significant issue in the United States. According to a report published by the USDA in 2020, over 35 million Americans struggled with food insecurity before the COVID-19 pandemic, and this number is expected to have risen significantly since then. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, is one of the government’s primary tools for addressing this problem.

  • SNAP provides assistance to an average of 40 million Americans each month, including approximately 19 million children.
  • In 2019, SNAP lifted 3.1 million people out of poverty, including 1.5 million children.
  • SNAP benefits also stimulate local economies, as recipients spend them at grocery stores, farmers markets, and other food retailers.

The impact of SNAP on food insecurity in the U.S. is substantial. A study published by the Urban Institute in 2019 found that SNAP participation reduces the likelihood of food insecurity by approximately 30%. Another study by the USDA in 2020 found that SNAP participants had lower rates of very low food security, the most severe form of food insecurity. And a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in 2020 found that SNAP helped to mitigate the increase in food insecurity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite its benefits, SNAP faces constant threats from budget cuts and other policy changes. It is important to recognize the significance of the program and advocate for its continued funding and support.

YearNumber of People Receiving SNAP Benefits
201040.3 million
201144.7 million
201246.6 million
201347.6 million
201446.5 million

As shown in the table, the number of people receiving SNAP benefits has fluctuated over the years. However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of SNAP recipients has increased significantly, highlighting the continued importance of the program in addressing food insecurity in the U.S.

Controversies Surrounding SNAP and its Funding

As one of the largest government assistance programs in the United States, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, has been subject to much controversy over the years. Much of this controversy stems from concerns over the program’s funding and its effectiveness in addressing food insecurity and poverty.

  • Eligibility Requirements: One of the main controversies surrounding SNAP is the eligibility requirements for the program. Many critics argue that the program is too easy to abuse and that it is being taken advantage of by individuals who could work but choose not to. Others argue that the program’s eligibility requirements are too restrictive, which leaves many families who are struggling to make ends meet without assistance.
  • Funding: Another major controversy surrounding SNAP is its funding. Funding for the program is based on federal appropriations, which means that it is subject to the whims of Congress. In recent years, there have been many attempts to cut funding for SNAP, which has led to concerns that the program will not be able to meet the needs of those who rely on it.
  • Effectiveness: There is also ongoing debate about the effectiveness of SNAP in addressing food insecurity and poverty. While some studies have shown that the program has been effective in reducing food insecurity, others argue that it does not go far enough in addressing the root causes of poverty.

Despite the controversy surrounding SNAP, there is no denying that the program has been a lifesaver for millions of Americans who would otherwise go hungry. Whether or not the program can continue to meet the needs of those who rely on it remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: the debate over SNAP’s funding and effectiveness is likely to continue for years to come.

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The Effect of COVID-19 on SNAP Enrollment and Benefits

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on the food stamp program, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as it is now officially called. The pandemic-driven economic recession caused by the coronavirus outbreak led to a massive increase in the number of people enrolling in SNAP, placing a significant strain on the program. Here are a few ways COVID-19 impacted SNAP enrollment and benefits:

  • More People Eligible: As the pandemic and resulting job losses made it difficult for many households to make ends meet, more people became eligible for SNAP benefits. In addition, loosened restrictions on program eligibility criteria and other qualifying factors made it easier for more people to enroll. In total, SNAP enrollment jumped by 17 percent between February and August 2020, reaching its highest level since 2013.
  • Higher Benefit Amounts: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed in March 2020, authorized a temporary 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits. This was done to help struggling households purchase enough food to meet their needs during the pandemic. The increase has since been extended but is set to expire in September 2021.
  • Online Grocery Purchases: One major impact of the pandemic was the shift to online shopping and grocery delivery. SNAP beneficiaries were previously not allowed to use their benefits to make online purchases, but this restriction was lifted during the pandemic to help people buy food safely from their homes. This change has since been made permanent.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the SNAP program has continued to be a lifeline for millions of Americans struggling to put food on the table. As the country slowly recovers from the economic effects of the pandemic, it remains to be seen how the program will be impacted moving forward.

Here’s a table showing the monthly SNAP enrollment data:


Source: USDA Food and Nutrition Services

Fraud Prevention Measures for SNAP Benefits

As with any government program, there have been concerns about fraud and misuse of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. In response, the USDA has implemented several measures to prevent and detect fraudulent activity and protect the integrity of the program.

  • Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards: SNAP benefits are now distributed through EBT cards, which function like debit cards and are more secure than paper vouchers. The cards can only be used for approved food items and cannot be used to withdraw cash or purchase non-food items.
  • Data Analytics: The USDA uses data analytics to detect and investigate suspicious activity, such as frequent card replacements or purchases made outside of the cardholder’s home state.
  • Program Integrity Investigators: The USDA employs investigators who work to prevent and investigate fraudulent activity in the SNAP program. They also educate retailers and SNAP participants about program rules and regulations.

In addition to these measures, the USDA has also implemented a system that allows SNAP participants to report suspected fraud or abuse. The USDA takes all reports seriously and investigates each one to ensure the program is being used as intended.

Below is a table that outlines the penalties for committing SNAP fraud:

Intentional Program Violation (IPV)First offense – permanent disqualification from program; second offense – disqualification from program for at least 2 years; third offense – disqualification from program for at least 5 years.
TraffickingFirst offense – disqualification from program for at least 1 year; second offense – disqualification from program for at least 3 years; third offense – permanent disqualification from program.
Falsely Obtaining Benefits or Providing False InformationDisqualification from program for at least 1 year for first offense; disqualification from program for at least 2 years for second offense; permanent disqualification from program for third offense.

It is important to note that the vast majority of SNAP participants use the benefits as intended and do not commit fraud. The program provides vital assistance to millions of Americans who struggle to put food on the table, and measures are in place to ensure that the program is both effective and efficient.

Academic Research on the Effectiveness of SNAP in Alleviating Poverty

In recent years, policymakers and scholars have debated the effectiveness of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, in reducing poverty and food insecurity. Research studies have shed light on the program’s strengths and limitations in achieving its objectives. Here are ten key findings from academic research on the effectiveness of SNAP.

  • SNAP significantly reduces poverty and food insecurity among low-income households. A 2019 study found that without SNAP, the poverty rate would have been 4.4 percentage points higher, and the food insecurity rate would have been 3.6 percentage points higher in 2018.
  • SNAP serves a broad range of eligible households, including working families, children, seniors, and people with disabilities. In 2019, nearly 36 million people, or one in nine Americans, received SNAP benefits.
  • SNAP benefits are linked to improved health outcomes. A 2018 study found that SNAP participation was associated with lower hospitalization rates and healthcare costs among low-income adults.
  • SNAP reduces the risk of child maltreatment. A 2019 study found that households receiving SNAP benefits had a lower risk of child maltreatment than those who were eligible but not enrolled in the program.
  • SNAP benefits have a multiplier effect on the economy. Every dollar spent on SNAP generates about $1.50 of economic activity, according to a 2017 study.
  • SNAP reduces hardship among households facing emergencies or sudden income losses. A 2018 study found that SNAP participation mitigated the negative effects of hurricanes Harvey and Irma on low-income families in Texas and Florida.
  • SNAP may not fully meet the nutritional needs of some participants, especially those with specific dietary requirements or in food deserts. A 2019 survey found that SNAP participants reported lower fruit and vegetable consumption and higher intake of sugary drinks compared to non-participants.
  • SNAP benefits may discourage work or induce welfare dependency, according to critics. However, most research studies have found no evidence of a significant disincentive effect on employment or earnings.
  • SNAP administration and eligibility rules vary by state and may create administrative burdens and barriers for some households. A 2018 study found that policy changes aimed at reducing fraud and error may have unintended consequences, such as longer processing times and decreased access to benefits.
  • SNAP faces ongoing threats of funding cuts and policy changes. The program’s budget has been targeted by some lawmakers who argue that it is too costly or inefficient, despite its proven benefits for millions of Americans.


While no social program is perfect, academic research overwhelmingly supports the effectiveness of SNAP in alleviating poverty, reducing food insecurity, improving health outcomes, and boosting the economy. As policymakers consider the future of the program, it is essential to weigh the evidence-based benefits against the challenges and trade-offs of implementing changes.

What is Food Stamps Called Now?

  1. What is the new name for food stamps?
  2. The new name for food stamps is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

  3. When did the name change from food stamps to SNAP?
  4. The name change from food stamps to SNAP happened in 2008.

  5. What are some benefits of SNAP?
  6. SNAP provides assistance to low-income families and individuals to help them purchase food. This helps to reduce hunger and improve the overall health of recipients.

  7. Who is eligible for SNAP?
  8. Individuals and families with low income, assets, and resources may be eligible for SNAP benefits.

  9. Can I apply for SNAP online?
  10. Yes, you can apply for SNAP online at your state’s Department of Human Services website.

  11. How much money can I receive through SNAP?
  12. The amount of money you can receive through SNAP depends on your income, family size, and other factors. The average monthly benefit per person in 2021 was $131.

  13. Can I use SNAP to buy any food items I want?
  14. SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy any non-food items, including alcohol and tobacco. Additionally, hot foods and prepared meals cannot be purchased with SNAP benefits.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to learn about what food stamps are called now. SNAP provides vital assistance to millions of low-income families and individuals across the United States. If you or someone you know may be eligible for SNAP benefits, be sure to visit your state’s Department of Human Services website to learn about the application process. See you again soon.