In fiscal year 2011, federal expenditures for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps)—$78 billion—and participation in the program were the highest they have ever been. In an average month that year, about one in seven U.S. residents received SNAP benefits.
In a report issued today, CBO describes the program, its beneficiaries, recent trends in participation and spending, and some possible approaches to changing how it operates. To provide a handy summary of some of the most pertinent information about SNAP, CBO also published an infographic on SNAP.
What Are Some Characteristics of SNAP Beneficiaries?
In 2010, about three out of four SNAP households included a child, a person age 60 or older, or a disabled person. Most people who received SNAP benefits lived in households with very low income, about $8,800 per year on average in that year. The average monthly SNAP benefit per household was $287, or $4.30 per person per day. On average, SNAP benefits boosted gross monthly income by 39 percent for all participating households and by 45 percent for households with children.
How Did SNAP Participation and Spending Change Over the Past Several Years?
On average, 45 million people received SNAP benefits each month in fiscal year 2011, which represents a 70 percent increase over the roughly 26 million people (or one of every 11) who received benefits in 2007. Outlays for SNAP benefits (not including administrative costs) more than doubled during that period, from about $30 billion to $72 billion.