The federal food stamp program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service, was created by Congress in 1961 to safeguard the nation's health by "raising levels of nutrition among low-income households." Here are some facts about the program, which has an annual budget of about $14 billion.

About 20 million Americans receive food stamps.

Over 90 percent of participants are children under 18, adults 60 or older, women and disabled people.

A family's benefit is determined by size and income level. The average award is 58 cents per person per meal.

Forty-seven percent of households receiving food stamps are white, 36 percent are black and 12 percent are hispanic.

The average monthly net income is $239 per household. Seven out of 10 households have net monthly incomes under $300.

Only 7 percent of families that receive food stamps have more than five members; 32 percent are one-person households. Certain people are ineligible for food stamps. They include: workers on strike -- who were not eligible before the strike -- illegal aliens, most college students, people who have quit their job "without good reason" or have not complied with work requirements.

Food stamps cannot be used to buy alcohol, pet food, hot food that has been prepared to be eaten or any non-food items such as soap, toothpaste, toilet paper and tobacco.

Source: Food Research and Action Center, 1990