Taxpayers spend $41.3 million in a year to advertise food stamps, a 6-fold increase over last decade

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Spending on advertising and outreach for food stamps has increased six-fold since 2000 — reaching $41.3 million in 2011, according to a new GOP report.

According to calculations released by Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions Budget Committee staff, using data from the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service, in the year 2000 spending on advertising for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — or food stamps — was approximately $6.5 million.

In the ensuing years, spending on advertising and outreach steadily increased reaching $41.3 million in 2011, according to the calculations, which were confirmed by the Congressional Research Service, according to Budget Committee staff.

The increase in spending on SNAP advertising came as the program’s cost rapidly increased — quadrupling since 2001 and more than doubling since 2008.

Participation in the program has also skyrocketed, increasing from approximately 17.3 million average annual participants to approximately 47.7 million average annual participants in 2013. In 2008, the average annual participation was approximately 28.2 million.

In recent years, Sessions — a vocal critic of SNAP — has pointed to the government’s aggressive advertising and outreach campaigns as partially responsible for the explosion in participation and cost of the programs.

In an analysis released in conjunction with the figures, the staffers point out some of the more aggressive outreach, including the USDA’s strategy of advertising the program as an economic stimulus and engaging in a partnership with the Mexican government to increase enrollment.

“The Department also instructs food stamp administrators and volunteers on ‘how to overcome the word ‘no’, and has given a ‘Gold’ award to a local recruitment office for overcoming the ‘mountain pride’ of individuals in North Carolina. USDA even provides bonuses — totaling about $50 million per year — to states that meet high enrollment targets.”

Monday, the Senate passed their version of the farm bill. The legislation cuts spending on the SNAP program by $400 million a year, or half a percent. The House is expected to take up their farm bill — which features a $2 billion reduction in SNAP spending annually, or three percent — later this month.

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