The Truth About Food Stamps (Hint: They Work and Help Millions)

SNAP has halved the number of children living in extreme poverty.

Editor’s Note: Conservatives love to beat up on food stamps. It happened again last week, when Paul Ryan called overhauling the program and converting it into a “block grant.” How does the program actually work? Does it actually need reform? What would happen if conservatives got their way? As part of the QEDecide series, we put those questions to a pair of the nation’s most trusted researchers on the subject: Kathryn Edin from Johns Hopkins University and Luke Shaefer from the University of Michigan. Here’s what they said:

What is the food stamp program and why is it actually called SNAP?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or “SNAP,” the new name for the Food Stamp Program, is America’s largest and most important nutrition assistance program. It provides low-income people with money they must use to purchase food. The modern program was established as part of the War on Poverty in the 1960s, but it has undergone a ton of changes since then. For example, the government now gives recipients electronic debit cards, rather than stamps, for buying food. Those changes are one reason Congress decided in 2008 to rename the program—to signal a fresh start.