Special Report

Cities With the Most People on Food Stamps

Detailed Findings

Nationwide, the share of households receiving SNAP benefits tends to go up during times of high unemployment. Similarly, unemployment rates are high in most cities on this list. In 20 of the 25 cities with the highest SNAP recipiency rates, the May 2018 jobless rates exceeded the 3.8% U.S. unemployment rate.

Generally, Americans with a gross monthly income within 130% of the poverty line are eligible for SNAP benefits. In every city on this list, the poverty rate exceeds the 14.0% national poverty rate.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, nearly 70% of SNAP recipients are families with children. Indeed, the cities on this list are home to relatively large shares of families struggling financially. Medford, Oregon, is the only metro area on this list home to a smaller share of families living in poverty than the 15.9% national rate. Similarly, all but two cities on this list have a higher poverty rate among single-mother households than the 37% national rate.

The CBPP also estimates that about a third of all SNAP recipients are households with seniors or people with disabilities. Seniors often live on a fixed income, and the average annual retirement income is lower than the national average of $25,829 in 21 of the 25 cities on this list.

Disabled Americans also often are unable to work and have to rely on social assistance. The share of disabled residents is higher than it is nationwide in 21 of the 25 cities with the highest SNAP recipiency rates.

For those Americans who are healthy enough and able to work, the likelihood of landing a well-paying job depends heavily on education — and those without a high school degree are at a serious disadvantage. In 19 of the cities on this list, a smaller share of adults have a high school diploma than the 87.5% national share. In the McAllen, Texas, metro area, fewer than two out of three adults have completed high school, likely contributing to greater overall dependence on government assistance.


To identify the cities with the most people receiving SNAP benefits, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the SNAP recipiency rate in all 382 U.S. metro areas. SNAP recipiency rates, as well as poverty, educational attainment, retirement income, and disability rates are one year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey. Unemployment rates are seasonally adjusted for May 2018 and are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.