Binders, Big Bird -- and food stamps?

People eat dinner at the Cathedral Kitchen soup kitchen in Camden, New Jersey, which serves 300 to 600 meals a day, six days a week, to the needy and hungry. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Camden, New Jersey is now the most impoverished city in the United States with nearly 32,000 of Camden's residents living below the poverty line.

As the 2012 presidential election enters its final days, we're examining one of the stars of the campaign. Not Big Bird, binders, or bayonets. This one begins with the letter 'F' -- food stamps.

More Americans are relying on them, and throughout the election season, conservatives have pointed to food stamps to make the case that Americans are too dependent on the government. But if millions more Americans are relying on food stamps, does that mean the program is working or failing?

Marketplace's Wealth and Poverty desk examines the politics behind food stamps. To hear the first in our series of stories, play or download the audio above, and hear the second story in our series Tuesday on the Marketplace Morning Report.

TAKE THE QUIZ: We ran the numbers on poverty in the U.S. -- from the number of Americans on food stamps to the unemployment rate for African-Americans -- and the data we collected about income, class, race might surprise you. Or not. Test your knowledge and take our quiz.

About the author

Shereen Marisol Meraji is a reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.

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