The U.S. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, was established in 1969. California residents received $4.8 billion in food stamp benefits in 2009.

WHO QUALIFIES:

* The program is available to U.S. citizens and many legal residents.

* Net household income after certain deductions must be at or below the poverty line -- $903 a month for a single adult or $1,838 for a family of four.

* Most applicants must show that their total household income does not exceed 130% of the federal poverty level -- $1,174 a month for a single adult or $2,389 for a family of four.

* The total income limit rises to 165% of the poverty level for households that include an elderly or disabled person -- $1,490 a month for a single adult or $3,033 for a family of four.

* Households with no children must have less than $2,000 in assets such as cash, bank accounts and stock. The limit increases to $3,000 if the household includes an elderly or disabled person.

THE BENEFITS:

* The maximum benefit is $200 a month for a single adult and $668 for a family of four. The minimum benefit is $16.

* Unemployed adults with no children are generally limited to three months of food stamps every three years. This restriction has been suspended until Sept. 30, 2011, because of the economy.

* Benefit levels are based on household income and expenses.

* Households are expected to spend about 30% of their own resources on food.

More information is available at www.dss.cahwnet.gov/foodstamps.

Sources: California Department of Social Services and USDA Food and Nutrition Service.