SNAP and the Restaurant Meals Program - Food assistance for the elderly, disabled and homeless.

About the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)


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Fact Sheet

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, provides food assistance to more than 42 million low-income individuals and families annually. The U.S. Department of Agriculture funds SNAP. State and county agencies administer the program locally by enrolling recipients and verifying benefit levels.

The Need

  • One in four children and one in eight adults in the United States receives SNAP benefits.
  • Nearly all--86 percent--of SNAP households are below the poverty level.
  • SNAP provided $56 billion in assistance nationwide in 2009. In coming years, the program is projected to rise to more than $70 billion.

Low Participation Rates

  • Only one in three elderly people eligible for SNAP participate.
  • Hispanics also have low utilization rates.
  • Lack of knowledge of eligibility, poor mobility, stigma and paperwork are among the common barriers to enrollment.

Economic Impact

  • Every dollar provided by SNAP generates $1.73 in employment and other economic activity.
  • Increased enrollment of eligible recipients also provides federal matching funds to states. Because of low enrollments, some states miss billions of dollars in federal matching funds.

How SNAP Works

  • Benefits are distributed via an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card that looks like a debit card.
  • EBT card use is limited to authorized retailers, such as groceries and convenience stores.
  • SNAP benefits may only be used to buy food and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Purchase of hot foods and prepared meals is excluded, except as allowed under the Restaurant Meals Program for elderly, disabled and homeless recipients.

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