The number of individuals receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps, has exceeded 45 million for 56 straight months, according to data released by the Department of Agriculture.
There were 45,188,655 beneficiaries of the food stamp program in December 2015, the latest month for which data is available. The number declined by 265,216 from November to December.
The USDA has been tracking data on participation in the program since 1969, when average participation stood at 2,878,000. Since then, participation in the program has increased by more than 1,470 percent.
The number of food stamp recipients first exceeded 45 million in May 2011. Since then, the number has consistently exceeded 45 million, hitting a record high of nearly 47.8 million in December 2012.
Changes to food stamp policies made it easier for people to apply for benefits, made food stamps available to more people and the benefits became more generous, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Economic factors alone do not fully explain the growth in SNAP participation,” states the agency. “Changes in SNAP policies, some of them associated with the 2002 and 2008 Farm Acts, have made benefits easier to apply for, available to more people, and more generous.”
At a House Committee on Agriculture hearing last week, lawmakers convened to review various options for states when implementing the program, and many focused their remarks on implementing work requirements to receive benefits.