Food stamps are supposed to help you buy food. Not to completely give you free food for the month. I guess in Newark that stunt was to guilt Democrats into giving food stamp receivers a complete free ride. Food stamps as well as disability social security has exploded under Obama.
I suspect you are right in that food stamps are meant to be supplement to other resources, such as food banks and government commodities which offer great values on food staples for those who qualify. Depending on someone's total income though, food stamps may be the only means of purchasing food items at the store.
My sister is a single woman. Recently, for reasons I'm not getting into here at this time, her monthly income was reduced to $800. As a result she qualifies for and received $120 in food stamps for the month of November. When she ran out of groceries three days early, I took her grocery shopping. I paid for about two bags of grocery staples which came to $83. Trust me, there were no extravagant purchases involved. I did buy her a bottle of dish soap and some toilet paper in that purchase. Food stamps cannot be used for non-food items such as these.
Just so you know, we are working on fixing the problem that resulted in the income reduction, which will increase her monthly income by almost $700 per month. When that happens (which I pray is sooner rather than later) she will no longer qualify for food stamps. The food stamp situation for her is just a stop-gap and a way of life.
The reason food stamps and other public assistance has "exploded" as you put it, is because a lot of folks have been either unemployed or underemployed since the economy crashed. The requirements for SSD have not changed since President Obama has been in office. Generally speaking, SSD benefits are initially denied to anyone who applies at least twice. Most people like my sister, wait at least two years for a court date where they/their attorney can argue their case in hopes of being granted SSD. Getting on SSD is not as easy as you apparently think it is.