Government assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program--commonly known as food stamps--are spurring debates and capturing headlines this year, as politicians weigh in on whether they're good for the nation.

But for Tucson resident Samantha Banchy, SNAP is essential.

Banchy is one of about 46 million people nationwide who qualify for the program and is receiving benefits.

"SNAP is always a help," Banchy says. "Anything that come into your household, you have to utilize."

Banchy is a University of Arizona graduate who speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese.

She has a job where she makes more than the minimum wage of $7.65 per hour but she still qualifies for the additional money to help her buy food.

She is single, and has no children.

"I'm thankful that I don't have other mouths to feed because it's especially hard for me to live as it is now," Banchy says.

Bill Carnegie, executive director of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, says a sizable portion of the people being helped by his agency are also on SNAP.

The food bank is holding a challenge that asks local residents to live on $4 of food a day so they can experience what it's like to live on the typical amount recipients receive from SNAP.

Another goal is to raise awareness about the continuing need for such assistance in Southern Arizona, especially in the aftermath of the economic downturn.

"About five years ago, we were assisting about 80,000 people a month," Carnegie says. "Today it's 230,000."