The United States Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) historically and commonly known as the Food Stamp Program, is a federal-assistance program that provides assistance to low- and no-income people and families living in the U.S. Though the program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, benefits are distributed by the individual U.S. states.
Today, all food-stamp benefits are distributed using cards but for most of its history the program had actually used paper denominational stamps or coupons worth US$1 (brown colored), US$5 (blue colored), and US$10 (green colored). These stamps could be used to purchase any prepackaged edible foods regardless of nutritional value (for example soft drinks and confectionery could be purchased on food stamps). In the late 1990s, the food-stamp program was revamped and actual stamps were phased out in favor of a specialized debit-card system known as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) provided by private contractors. Many states merged the use of the EBT card for public-assistance welfare programs as well. The successful replacement over time of all paper food stamps by EBT cards enabled the U.S. Congress to rename the Food Stamp Program to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as of October 2008, and to update all references in federal law from "stamp" or "coupon" to "card" or "EBT". This was effectuated on June 18, 2008, by U.S. House Resolution 6124, The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, enacted as Public Law over U.S. President George W. Bush's veto.
The number of Americans receiving food stamps reached 39.68 million in February 2010, the highest number since the program began in 1962. as of June 2009, the average monthly benefit was $133.12 per person. As of late November 2009, one in eight Americans and one in four children are using food stamps and the program rate is growing at 20,000 people a day. Recipients must have at least near-poverty incomes to qualify for benefits.