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Rise in food stamps far below Giuliani's claim

The statement

"Food stamps have gone up 2½ times under Barack Obama."

Rudy Giuliani, Sept. 4 on CNN's State of the Union

The ruling

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a surrogate for Donald Trump, recently criticized President Barack Obama's stewardship of the economy as he touted Trump's efforts to court African-American voters.

"So, now you compare New York to Detroit and Baltimore, and you look at the number of crimes in both of those cities and you look at New York, you look at the unemployment rates, you look at the economic opportunities, and you see that I think Donald Trump is the first Republican since Jack Kemp, and me, to go into minority, poor communities and say, the Democrats have failed you for 50 years, and you are reflexively giving them your vote, and they are going from bad to worse," Giuliani said. "Food stamps have gone up 2½ times under Barack Obama. He should be ashamed of himself. Jobs should have gone up 2½ times."

Is the use of food stamps — formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — really 2½ times higher than it was when Obama took office?

The short answer is that it's higher — but not by nearly that much. And in recent years, it's been falling.

SNAP is the federal government's largest food program, eclipsing other big farm-bill food spending for school lunches and breakfasts and for the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program. It helps low-income people buy groceries, usually with benefit cards that work like debit cards.

Two factors undergird the rise in food stamp use during Obama's presidency.

The first is that the number of food stamp beneficiaries ticked upward under President George W. Bush due to policies that broadened eligibility for the program and more aggressive efforts to get eligible Americans to apply for benefits. These policies remained in place under Obama.

The second is the 2007-2009 recession, which drove the number of SNAP recipients to record highs. In an average month in 2011, one in seven U.S. residents got help.

So what does the trend line for food stamp usage under Obama look like? The number of beneficiaries did rise — but not nearly by 2½ times, or 150 percent. At the outset of Obama's presidency, nearly 32 million people were receiving SNAP benefits. By May 2016, that number had risen to 43.5 million, an increase of 36 percent.

That's a significant increase, and it's one of the weakest economic metrics on Obama's watch. But it's not 2½ times as high as when he came into office, as Giuliani said.

It's also worth noting that while the number of recipients is higher now than it was when Obama took office, it has fallen, slowly but consistently, over the past three years.

What about the cost of the program? During the Obama presidency, the cost of SNAP increased at a somewhat faster rate than the number of beneficiaries did — by just under 50 percent. But even that increase was nowhere near the 2½ times or 150 percent that Giuliani cited.

We rate the claim False.

Edited for print. Read the full version at