One of the major beneficiaries of the nation's food-stamp program is actually a hugely profitable company: Walmart.

Americans spend about 18 percent of all food stamp dollars at Walmart, according to company estimates told to the Wall Street Journal and confirmed by The Huffington Post. That's about $14 billion of the $80 billion Congress set aside for food stamps last year. The company's total profits for 2013 were $17 billion.

The news comes just as food-stamp benefits are about to be cut for 47 million Americans. On Friday, a key provision boosting the program is set to expire.

After that, 47 million Americans will struggle even more than usual to afford the basics. Walmart isn't too concerned: When shoppers become more concerned about price, they’re more likely to turn to Walmart, Bill Simon, the retailer’s U.S. CEO, said at an analyst meeting earlier this month.

"I would say we're cautious but modestly optimistic," Simon said. "When the [food-stamp] benefits expanded, our market share actually went down."

Still, as the nation's largest low-cost retailer, the company has close ties to the food-stamp economy. Walmart has historically lobbied around food stamps, according to a report from Eat Drink Politics, an advocacy group. In addition, the company also worked with First Lady Michelle Obama in 2011 on the Great American Family Dinner Challenge, a push to get families to eat healthy on a food-stamp budget.

“A significant percentage of all SNAP dollars are spent in our stores, and they are used to buy items like bananas, whole milk, Ramen noodles, and hot dogs,” then-Walmart executive Leslie Dach said at a conference in 2011, where he discussed the retailer's plans to help shoppers buy healthier meals on food stamps.

That so many people associate Walmart with food stamps was clear earlier this month, when Louisiana food-stamp users realized a computer glitch caused them to temporarily have unlimited food-stamp money to spend. What did they do? They raced to local Walmart stores and stripped the shelves bare.

In the past, companies like Pepsi, Coke and the midwestern grocery chain Kroger, have lobbied around food stamps, indicating how much they rely on the money. Last year, Tony Vernon, then the incoming CEO of Kraft, admitted the mac n’ cheese maker opposed food stamp cuts because food stamp users were “a big part of our audience.”

Also on HuffPost:

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  • PepsiCo

    PepsiCo lobbied the House of Representatives in 2011 on <a href="http://www.eatdrinkpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/FoodStampsFollowtheMoneySimon.pdf" target="_hplink">restrictions on SNAP</a>, according to a June 2012 report, called "Food Stamps: Follow the Money." The company spent $750,000 lobbying Congress overall during the third quarter of 2011. At the same time, Pepsi donated money to anti-hunger groups working to fight health restrictions on SNAP.

  • Kraft

    Food stamp users "are a big part of our audience," Kraft's incoming CEO <a href="http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/7ed1db42-f932-11e1-945b-00144feabdc0.html#axzz261zpCuUt" target="_hplink">recently told the <em>Financial Times</em>.</a> He said he opposes cuts to funding for the food stamp program.

  • Walmart

    Walmart stores in Oklahoma brought in more than <a href="http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20110424_11_A1_Retail460109&r=6977" target="_hplink">$500 million in food stamp money</a> between June 2009 and March 2011, the <em>Tulsa World</em> reports. During that period retailers in the state took home $1.2 billion in food stamp purchases overall.

  • Coca-Cola

    Coca-Cola <a href="http://www.eatdrinkpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/FoodStampsFollowtheMoneySimon.pdf" target="_hplink">lobbied Congress on SNAP in 2011</a>, according to a June 2012 report, "Food Stamps: Follow the Money." The soda-maker also lobbied against an early 2012 bill in Florida that would have enhanced the list of items food stamp users could buy with their benefits.

  • Yum Brands

    Yum Brands tried to convince lawmakers last year to <a href="http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/7ed1db42-f932-11e1-945b-00144feabdc0.html#axzz261zpCuUt" target="_hplink">allow the company to accept food stamps</a> in its restaurants, which include Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, according to the <em>Financial Times</em>.

  • JPMorgan Chase

    <a href="http://www.eatdrinkpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/FoodStampsFollowtheMoneySimon.pdf" target="_hplink">JPMorgan Chase holds the contracts</a> for Electronic Benefits Transfer or EBT -- which distributes food stamps electronically -- in half of states, according to the June 2012 report, "Food Stamps: Follow the Money." In Florida, JPMorgan's contract is worth $83 million over five years, and in New York, it's worth more than $112 million over 7 years. The bank also lobbied the USDA on EBT issues in 2011, according to the report.

  • Big Lots

    Big Lots is testing accepting food stamps in large part because so many of the company's target customers use the program. CEO Steve Fishman told analysts in an August conference call, "There is no debating that a growing percentage of our consumer base is economically stressed and becoming more dependant on government assistance," <a href="http://www.bizjournals.com/columbus/blog/2012/08/big-lots-initiatives-include-food.html?page=2" target="_hplink">according to Columbus Business First</a>.

  • Cargill

    The food and agriculture producer <a href="http://www.eatdrinkpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/FoodStampsFollowtheMoneySimon.pdf" target="_hplink">lobbied Congress and the USDA</a> in 2011 over SNAP, according to a June 2012 report called "Food Stamps: Follow the Money." The company also donated money to anti-hunger groups that oppose health-oriented changes to SNAP.

  • Kroger

    The grocery store chain <a href="http://www.eatdrinkpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/FoodStampsFollowtheMoneySimon.pdf" target="_hplink">lobbied Congress on SNAP and WIC funding</a> in 2011, according to a June 2012 report, called "Food Stamps: Follow the Money." Kroger is one of the many leading food retailers that benefits from food stamp expansions, according to the report.