food stamps: an overview
The Federal Food Stamp Act of 1964 (PDF) is the most significant food plan in the United States. It provides food stamps for needy individuals that can be exchanged like money at authorized stores. The federal government pays for the amount of the benefit received, while states pay the costs of determining eligibility and distributing the stamps. In addition, state public assistance agencies run the program.
Individuals who work for low wages, are unemployed or work part-time, receive public assistance, are elderly or disabled and have a small income, or are homeless may be eligible for food stamps. Furthermore, food stamps can only be used for food items and for plants and seeds used to grow food. Food stamps cannot be used to purchase nonfood items such as pet food, vitamins, and medicine. For the majority of households food stamps make up only a part of their food budgets.
The Food Stamp program is not the only government aided food program, but it is the most significant. Other programs, include the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) that provides federal grants of money and food to nonprofit elementary and secondary schools and to child-care institutions so that they can serve milk, well-balanced meals, and snacks to children. Its aim is to provide good nutrition to the country's young populace. In addition, the Special Supplemental Food Program For Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides food for pregnant and nursing women, as well as infants and children under five years old.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) codified in scattered sections of 8 and 42 U.S.C., substantially reduced the size of the Food Stamp Program. For example, the Act made adjustments in the Thrifty Food Plan (revised 2006), a low-cost food budget used to calculate food stamp awards, eliminated the benefits previously available to most legal immigrants (8 U.S.C. §§ 1601 et seq.) and created time-limits for benefits to able-bodied adults without dependents. Subsequently, however, Congress has restored some benefits to selected groups.