The Biden administration has approved a significant increase in the levels of food stamp assistance available to needy families. This permanent increase will be the largest single increase in the program's history.

Beginning in October, the average benefits for food stamps (officially known as the SNAP program) will increase by more than 25 percent above pre-pandemic levels. The boost in assistance will help about 42 million SNAP beneficiaries indefinitely.

The bump in aid is being packaged as a major revision of the USDA's Thrifty Food Plan. The average per-person benefits will increase from $121 to $157.

The increase is part of a multi-pronged Biden administration effort to strengthen the country's social safety net. Poverty and food security activists maintain that long-running inadequacies in that safety net were made bare by the pandemic, opening up the opportunity to make generation improvements that go beyond the current public health crisis.

Activists also say that pre-pandemic SNAP assistance simply was not enough, forcing many households to choose cheaper, less nutritious options or simply go hungry once funds ran low toward the end of the month.

In 2019, the overall cost of the SNAP program had dropped to just over $60 billion per year. The program is designed to expand and contract with the economy and it has seen a significant increase during the pandemic. As of May, there were about 42 million people receiving aid at a cost close to $100 billion.

See How School Cafeteria Meals Have Changed Over the Past 100 Years

Using government and news reports, Stacker has traced the history of cafeteria meals from their inception to the present day, with data from news and government reports. Read on to see how various legal acts, food trends, and budget cuts have changed what kids are getting on their trays.