Special Report

Cities With the Most People on Food Stamps

The United States is home to an estimated 35.2 million people who regularly struggle to put food on the table — a problem highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to an August 2021 survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, some 11 million American households — or more than one in every 10 respondents — could not afford enough to eat at least once in the last week.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or SNAP — exists to help alleviate hunger and food insecurity among financially struggling families. SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, began as a temporary relief program during the Great Depression and became a permanent social assistance program in 1964 under President Lyndon Johnson. In its first year, the Food Stamp Program, as it was then known, had a budget of $75 million. As of 2020, the federal government spent $83.8 billion on SNAP, in addition to modest administrative costs shouldered by the states.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, 24/7 Wall St. identified the cities with the most people on food stamps. We ranked all metropolitan statistical areas by the share of households receiving SNAP benefits. Every metro area on this list has a SNAP recipiency rate over 16%. For context, 10.7% of U.S. households receive SNAP benefits. 

SNAP eligibility is determined largely by income level. As a result, places with high SNAP recipiency rates tend to have lower than average incomes and relatively large populations facing poverty. Every metro area on this list has a median household income below the national median of $65,716, and all but two have a higher poverty rate than the 12.3% national rate. Here is a look at the poorest city in every state

Many of these areas also appear to be struggling to bring back jobs lost because of the pandemic. As of June 2021, only 10 of the 50 metro areas on this list had an unemployment rate below the 5.9% national jobless rate that month. Here is a look at the American cities that added jobs during the pandemic

Click here to see the cities with the most people on food stamps.
Click here to see our detailed methodology.