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Food Stamps Cut Number Of Extremely Poor Children In Half Last Year: Study

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Three-week-old Christy Kalbaugh's mother received food assistance. (Jan. 18, 2012)
Three-week-old Christy Kalbaugh's mother received food assistance. (Jan. 18, 2012)

Food stamps are saving many of the nation's poorest children.

The food stamp program -- now officially called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP -- reduced the number of extremely poor children by nearly 50 percent in 2011, according to a recently released study by the National Poverty Center.

When counting the program’s benefits as income, the number of children in households living on less than $2 per day before government aid -- the World Bank's threshold for being extremely poor -- dropped to 1.4 million from 2.8 million, according to the NPC study. And the number of extremely poor households also saw a huge drop thanks to food stamps, falling to about 800,000 from 1.46 million, the study found.

The findings come as a growing number of Americans are scrimping. In 2011, more Americans said they struggled to afford food than in any other year since the financial crisis, according to a February report from the Food Research and Action Center. In addition, about one in every five people told Gallup in February that they couldn't always afford to feed their entire family.

Though many Americans are struggling to pay for food, the food stamp program is coming under increased attack, including fraud allegations. A Congressional hearing earlier this week alleged that some retailers who are dealing the benefits illegally have been allowed to stay in the program, according to NPR.

The election year has also made SNAP a target of heightened criticism from Republicans. Last week Republican Minnesota State Rep. Mary Franson equated food stamp recipients to wild animals. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich created the most uproar with his remarks that African-Americans should “not be satisfied with food stamps" and repeated references to President Obama as the "food stamp president"-- attacking the President for the program's high enrollment under his term.

Since President Obama took office in 2008, 14 million more Americans have enlisted in the program, due in large part the economic crisis, according to Reuters.

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