Special Report

Towns Where the Most People Use Food Stamps

Inflation has driven up the prices of nearly all goods and services, including necessary items such as groceries. The cost of a gallon of milk is up 25% compared to pre-pandemic prices. According to a report by Moody’s Analytics, American families pay $311 more each month, on average, for essential goods compared to one year ago. To survive the price hikes, millions of Americans may have to rely on the government’s food assistance benefits, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

As of 2020, roughly 13.8 million American households, about one in 10, received SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps. At the more local level, SNAP recipiency rates can be much higher.

To rank the 50 towns with the highest SNAP recipiency rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of the share of households that received SNAP benefits in the past 12 months from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. We defined towns as census places having at least 1,000 people and less than 25,000 people. As of 2020, 11.4% of U.S. households received SNAP benefits.

Among the 50 places on this list, that share ranges from 47.8% to 73.2%. Texas has the most towns with the highest SNAP recipiency, with eight, followed by Louisiana with seven and Florida with six. Two-thirds of towns on the list are in the South, a region with some of the most impoverished places in America.

While factors such as assets and household composition impact whether a household qualifies, SNAP recipiency is primarily determined by income. So, as might be expected, towns with higher poverty rates also tend to have more households receiving benefits. In 2020, 12.8% of Americans lived below the poverty line. All but two of the 50 towns on this list have a poverty rate of at least 20%, and in the case of Indian Hills, Texas, which has the third highest snap recipiency among places with between 1,000 and 25,000 people, 63.7% live in poverty. These are the states where the most children live in Poverty.

Because income is the primary determinant for SNAP recipiency, unemployment is a major determinant in how many people receive benefits, as those Americans who are out of a job are likely to have little to no income.  Most of the towns on this list have five-year average unemployment rates of at least 10%, compared to the U.S. five-year average unemployment rate of 5.3%. The community of Lydia, Louisiana, which has the sixth highest SNAP recipiency among towns, has a five-year unemployment rate of 23.3%. These are the states with the worst spikes in unemployment since the pandemic began.

Click here to see the towns with the highest SNAP recipiency rates
Click here to read our detailed methodology

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