Food Stamp Beneficiaries Decline, Exceed 45 Million for 54 Straight Months

Program costs increased by $10 million in one month

food stamps
A man walks out of a gas station convenience story carrying a case of beer where a large EBT accepted here sign is posted / AP

The number of individuals receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps, has exceeded 45 million for 54 straight months, according to data released by the Department of Agriculture.

There were 45,368,348 beneficiaries of the food stamp program in October 2015, the latest month for which data is available. The number declined by 47,097 from September to October.

Spending for the program increased despite the decline. Households on food stamps received an average benefit of $256.11 in October 2015, and total benefits for the month cost taxpayers $5.73 billion—an increase of $10,012,749 for the month.

The House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing on Tuesday on access for the elderly and veterans within SNAP, which was the latest in a series devoted to the program.

"The committee is still in the process of conducting its top-to-bottom review of SNAP to determine how to more efficiently serve recipients and taxpayers," said a spokesperson from the committee. "The Chairman [Rep. Mike Conaway (R., Texas)] believes SNAP should be strengthened so it can serve as a tool to help individuals move up the economic ladder."

The USDA has been tracking data on participation in the program since fiscal year 1969, at which time average participation stood at about 2,800,000. This means that since then, participation in the program has increased by roughly 16-fold.