The government spent $34.6 billion on food stamps in 2008. In 2012, that number was $75 billion - almost double.
But that's not enough. Now the federal government is running paid ads and public service announcements informing people that they too, are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - better known as food stamps.
More than one in seven Americans are on food stamps, but the federal government wants even more people to sign up for the safety net program.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been running radio ads for the past four months encouraging those eligible to enroll. The campaign is targeted at the elderly, working poor, the unemployed and Hispanics.
The department is spending between $2.5 million and $3 million on paid spots, and free public service announcements are also airing. The campaign can be heard in California, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, and the New York metro area.
"Research has shown that many people -- particularly underserved seniors, working poor, and legal immigrants -- do not understand the requirements of the program," said Kevin Concannon, a USDA under secretary.
The radio ads, which run through June 30, come amid a bitter partisan fight over the safety net program. Republican lawmakers want to reduce funding for the benefit or turn it into a block grant program, which would also minimize the cost. Democrats, however, are not willing to make major cuts.
The issue has become so heated that Newt Gingrich called President Obama the "food stamp president" to show how he's increased government spending.
Food stamp enrollment certainly shot up during the Great Recession, though it had been rising for more than a decade.
President Bush launched a recruitment campaign, which pushed average participation up by 63% during his eight years in office. The USDA began airing paid radio spots in 2004.
What the government can't figure out is why anyone in their right mind would possess the self reliance and independent spirit to forego government goodies - even if they're eligible for them. It doesn't compute in the bureaucratic mind that "I'm from the government and I'm here to help" just doesn't work with some people.
Food stamps are necessary. Food pantries across the country aren't near filling the need to feed people who are unemployed, or where a family has one or both parents out of a job. Block grants to states would be a far more efficient way to disburse money for food, but the Dems in congress refuse to go along with that idea.
They would rather beat the bushes for more voters who are eligible for food stamps than actually try to make the program work better.