Resident receives food stamps after handed in a pistol during the "Guns Exchange Program" in Monterrey
A resident (top) receives food stamps after handed in a pistol during the "Guns Exchange Program" at a working class neighbourhood in Monterrey February 9, 2011. The State Government kicked off a program to swap weapons for food stamps to promote voluntary disarmament in the state of Nuevo Leon. More than 100 people, including 20 policemen, have been killed in drug violence in the city and its environs since New Year's Day. REUTERS

Nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population relied on food stamps in May, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

That percentage is a drastic increase.

The number of Americans taking advantage of the government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- more popularly known as food stamps -- shot to an all-time high of 45.8 million in May, the USDA reported. That is up 12 percent from a year ago, and 34 percent higher than two years ago, CNN Money reported.

The program is designed to provide benefits to low-income individuals and families, which can be used at stores that accept the food stamps.

Certain qualifications must be met in order to receive food stamps. An individual's income can't exceed $1,174 a month of $13,088 a year -- an amount that is 130 percent of the national poverty line. On average, the food stamp benefit was $133.80 per person and $283.65 per household in May.

The bulk of those benefits are going to four states: New York, California, Florida and Texas, where more than 3 million residents in each state received food stamps.

But it is quite possible that a sudden spike in food stamp beneficiaries in Alabama may be the catalyst for pushing the total usage percentage higher in May.

According to the USDA, after a series of devastating storms, many residents received disaster assistance under the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Food stamp use in the state surged from 868,813 in April to 1,762,481 in May.

"USDA does not anticipate that trend of increase to continue, given that it appears to represent a response to a single disaster," the USDA said.