Altogether, there are now almost 46 million people in the U.S. on food stamps, roughly 15% of the population. That's an increase of 74% since 2007, just before the financial crisis and a deep recession led to mass job losses.

At the same time, the cost doubled to reach $68 billion in 2010 -- more than a third of the amount the U.S. government received in corporate income tax last year -- which means the program has started to attract the attention of some Republican lawmakers looking for ways to cut the nation's budget deficit.

While there are clearly some cases of abuse by people who claim food stamps but don't really need them, for many Americans, there is little current alternative if they are to put food on the table while paying rent and utility bills.

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