By providing monthly benefits to eligible low-income people to purchase food, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) plays a critical role in reducing hunger, malnutrition, and poverty, and improving family security, child and adult health, employment, and other outcomes.

Quick Facts:

  • SNAP Over-the-Year Participation Down Nearly Two Million People in April 2017, the Lowest Level in Over Six Years.
  • SNAP helped lift 4.6 million Americans out of poverty in 2015.
  • The federal government pays 100 percent of SNAP benefits. Federal and state governments share administrative costs (with the federal government contributing nearly 50 percent).
  • SNAP is the largest nutrition assistance program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. SNAP was previously named the Food Stamp Program until Oct. 1, 2008.
  • Every five years, SNAP is reauthorized by Congress as part of the Farm Bill. The reauthorization establishes who is eligible for SNAP and addresses program access, benefit levels, and other matters.

Explore These Topics

  • SNAP’s Strengths
    SNAP is the largest nutrition assistance program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It serves as the first line of defense against hunger. In fact, without SNAP, hunger in this country would be far, far worse. Here are 10 reasons why we need to urge policymakers to protect and strengthen this effective program:

    1. SNAP reduces hunger and food insecurity by providing very low-income people desperately needed, targeted assistance to purchase food at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and other regular commercial food outlets, through an effective and efficient Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system.
    2. Because SNAP benefits are so urgently needed by families, they are spent quickly — 97 percent of benefits are redeemed by the end of the month of issuance — thereby bolstering local economies.
    3. Estimates issued by Moody’s Analytics and others of the economic growth impact of SNAP during a recession range from $1.73 to $1.79 per $1 of SNAP benefits. SNAP is targeted to go to the lowest-income people in our country. This includes millions of working poor families.
    4. SNAP reaches key vulnerable populations — 75 percent of SNAP households include a child, an elderly person, or a person with disabilities; 82 percent of all SNAP benefits go to such households. While losing a job is the most common event causing a household to seek SNAP, 55 percent of SNAP households with children in 2015 worked and had earnings; only 15 percent of SNAP households with children received cash welfare benefits.
    5. Research has found that receipt of SNAP in early childhood improved high school graduation rates, adult earnings, and adult health.
    6. When the national, regional, state, or local area economy is in trouble, SNAP is among the most effective government responses. SNAP reacts quickly and robustly to economic problems. This has been seen most clearly and dramatically at the start of the recession in 2008, when millions of people became newly unemployed or underemployed. The program responded quickly to provide desperately needed help in the downturn. Accordingly, SNAP caseload and spending is declining as the economy slowly improves.
    7. SNAP lifted 4.6 million Americans out of poverty in 2015, according to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure.
    8. SNAP is nearly as effective as the Earned Income Tax Credit in lifting families above the poverty line, and far more effective than any other program in lifting families out of deep poverty.
    9. SNAP relieves pressure on overwhelmed food banks, pantries, religious congregations, and other emergency food providers across the country. They recognize the comprehensive approach needed to end hunger and see SNAP as the cornerstone of national, state, and local anti-hunger efforts, and are the first to note their inability to meet added demand that would come from weakening SNAP.
    10. Program integrity is at record levels and a model for other government and private sector programs. Fewer than one percent of benefits go to households that should have been found ineligible.

  • Monthly SNAP Participation Data
    SNAP participation decreased to its lowest monthly level since July 2010, totaling 41,616,233 persons in April 2017, a drop of 361,917 persons compared with March 2017, and a drop of 1,954,144 persons compared with April 2016. Read more about SNAP trends.
  • Take FRAC's SNAP Challenge
    The SNAP Challenge is a way to gain a personal understanding and raise awareness of what it means to struggle against hunger. Participants spend a week living on the average daily SNAP benefit (about $4 per day) and share their experiences about the difficult choices they have to make. Check out our SNAP Challenge Toolkit.
  • SNAP and the Farm Bill
    The Farm Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation that guides and authorizes funding for most federal farm and food policies, including the SNAP. Read our Farm Bill Primer to learn more.

How SNAP Changed My Life

Aubrey, Pennsylvania

Before I received SNAP, there were times when I didn’t know if I had enough food to feed my child. There were times when I had to consider whether buying necessities like gas and electricity were more beneficial than buying a loaf of bread and butter for dinner that night. SNAP has been an incredible help for my family.

SNAP and similar programs are needed. They help families that are struggling to make ends meet. We need to have nutritional food for our children, and we also need nutritional food for ourselves so we are able to provide for and properly raise our children.

Federal Nutrition Programs
Community Voices - Why Nutrition Assistance Matters