The number of individuals receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps, has exceeded 45 million for 53 straight months, according to data released by the Department of Agriculture.

There were 45,415,445 beneficiaries of the food stamp program in September 2015, the latest month for which data is available. The number declined by 48,988 from August to September.

The USDA has been tracking data on participation in the program since fiscal year 1969, at which time average participation stood at about 2,800,000. This means that since then, participation in the program has increased by roughly 16-fold.

Maura Corrigan, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, says that despite improvements in the economy, the program remains large and too few adults who benefit from the program are working.

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