The data on Food Stamp benefits were obtained from Housing Question 12 in the 2012 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.
On October 1, 2008, the Federal Food Stamp program was renamed SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
Respondents were asked if one or more of the current members received food stamps or a food stamp benefit card during the past 12 months. Respondents were also asked to include benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in order to incorporate the program name change.
Question/Concept History -
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. Beginning in 2008, the value of food stamps received was no longer collected; the wording of the question was changed from "At anytime during the past 12 months" to "In the past 12 months," and the term '"food stamp benefit card
' was added.
Adding the text "food stamps benefit card" to the question text and removing the dollar amount portion of the question resulted in a statistically significant increase in the recipiency rate for food stamps because of a decrease in item nonresponse rate.
Limitation of the Data -
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 Census Bureau tested the changes introduced to the 2008 version of the Food Stamp benefits question in the 2006 ACS Content Test. The results of this testing show that the changes may introduce an inconsistency in the data produced for this question as observed from the years 2007 to 2008, see "2006 ACS Content Test Evaluation Report Covering Receipt Food Stamps" on the ACS website (http://www.census.gov/acs
The Food Stamp/SNAP question is not asked in Census 2000. Because of the wording change on the 2008 ACS questionnaire, you cannot compare data before and after 2008.