What Are Food Stamps?

Food stamps are a means for low-income citizens to purchase food. Formed in 1939, this federal program was created by former Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace. The actual name of the Food Stamp Program is now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and it is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Administration. The benefits are distributed through each state’s Division of Social Services or Children and Family Services.

For years, actual colored paper stamps or coupons were used. However, they are now available in two forms: vouchers or as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. Both types can be used at most supermarkets to purchase various products, including juices, nutritional supplements, baby formula or even seeds to start a garden. But it’s important to note that they cannot be used to purchase household products.

Serving more than 40 million low-income Americans annually, food stamps are most commonly used in households that include children. Additionally, data shows that only 9 percent of food stamps are for people over the age of 60. Overall, they are considered a critical aid for millions of Americans who would otherwise not be able to afford many basic food and nutritional necessities without government assistance.