Definition of government cheese in US English:

government cheese

noun

  • 1Cheese imported by the British government for sale in Britain to help relieve food shortages caused by the First World War (now rare).

  • 2US informal cheese provided by the United States government processed from surplus stocks and distributed to people in receipt of certain welfare benefits; also in extended use, representing welfare benefits in general.

Origin

Early 20th century; earliest use found in The Scotsman.