Oh, SNAP! Dispelling Myths on America’s Food Stamp Program

The recent passage of significant spending cuts for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (aka S.N.A.P, aka “food stamps”) by the House of Representatives shows a gap in knowledge between the perceived reality and actual state of this entitlement program. This gap seems as important as ever given that the number of people who qualify for S.N.A.P. has increased by six million over the past three years.

Firstly, some news outlets portray S.N.A.P. as an easy program to manipulate, and one that supports extravagant lifestyles of many able-bodied adults. The numbers suggest otherwise. Only 23.6% of food stamp recipients are able-bodied 18-49 year olds without dependents; the elderly (8%), disabled (19.8&), and children (48.7%) constitute the other recipients. Moreover, able-bodied adults must work 20 hours/week if they want to receive assistance for longer than three months.

Since Ronald Reagan’s 1976 campaign, entitlement programs have often been viewed as primarily beneficial to African Americans. White people, however, constitute almost 50% of all people receiving food stamps. A higher proportion of the black population do use S.N.A.P., but this outcome makes sense given that a higher proportion of black population are poor (27% of blacks, compared to 14% of whites, are in poverty.)

Lastly, S.N.A.P. uses up a small percentage of the national budget. Food stamp and cash assistance represents 2.2% of government spending. In comparison, defense spending represents 57% of the national budget. Most impressively, reports suggest almost all fraud has been eliminated from this small percentage of the national budget. Most importantly: as actual food stamps have moved to EBT cards, benefits are easily tracked and no cash back option exists, making future fraud less likely. All in all, only 1% of all dollars in S.N.A.P. end up traded for money or non-food goods.

A chart created by the Community Food & Justice Coalition that can be found here and below dispels these misconceptions as well as others. Check the video below for a portrayal of a more typical life of an American on food stamps:


“Who Receives ‘Food Stamps?’ And Why It Is Critical To Continue Their Support,” Beth Hoffman, Forbes.com

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