US & Canada

US ends food stamp benefits as Congress debates more cuts

Media captionJust what exactly are food stamps in the US and how do they work? The BBC breaks it all down.

US food aid benefits are being cut from Friday as an extension of the government programme expires, while legislators fight over further cuts.

Benefits to the supplemental nutrition assistance program (Snap) will be lowered by $36 (£22) a month for a family of four, officials say.

Some 47 million low income Americans will be affected by the cuts.

Food aid in the US has grown to $80bn a year due to higher unemployment and rising food costs.

About one in seven Americans relies on Snap, also known as food stamps.

The benefits were originally expanded during the recent economic recession to stimulate the economy and help the poorest Americans.

Republicans in Congress are seeking further reductions to the programme and say it should be better targeted at the most needy.

Retailers and grocers around the US are concerned about the possible negative impact the reduction will have on consumer spending.

Media captionMichael Rivers used to earn $27 an hour as a factory foreman, but now he lives on food stamps