SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, helps low-income households stretch their food budget. The program was created in 1964 and has been modified many times since then. SNAP has nationwide standards for eligibility and benefit levels (except for higher levels in Alaska and Hawaii) and is available to nearly everyone with low income and few resources. The average household benefit in April 2012 was $276 a month.
Nearly 45 million people—roughly 1 in 7 Americans—received SNAP benefits in fiscal year 2011. Most had incomes below the poverty level, and almost half (41 percent) lived in households where someone worked. Households receive benefits through an electronic benefit transfer card used to purchase food in an approved grocery store. Benefits cannot be used to buy alcohol, tobacco, or hot foods intended for immediate consumption.