The data on Food Stamp benefits were obtained from Housing Question 15 in the 2007 American Community Survey. The Food Stamp Act of 1977 defines this federally-funded program as one intended to "permit low-income households to obtain a more nutritious diet" (from Title XIII of Public Law 95-113, The Food Stamp Act of 1977, declaration of policy). Food purchasing power is increased by providing eligible households with coupons or cards that can be used to purchase food. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the Food Stamp Program through state and local welfare offices. The Food Stamp Program is the major national income support program to which all low-income and low-resource households, regardless of household characteristics, are eligible. The questions on participation in the Food Stamp Program were designed to identify households in which one or more of the current members received food stamps during the past 12 months.
Beginning in 2006, the population in group quarters (GQ) is included in the ACS. Many types of GQ populations have food stamp distributions that are very different from the household population. The inclusion of the GQ population could therefore have a noticeable impact on the food stamp distribution. This is particularly true for areas with a substantial GQ population.
The 1996-1998 American Community Survey asked for a 12-month amount for the value of the food stamps following the Yes response category. For the 1999-2002 ACS, the words "Food Stamps" were capitalized in the question following the Yes response category, and the instruction "Past 12 months' value - Dollars" was added. Since 2003, the words "received during the past 12 months" were added to the question following the Yes response category.