Special Report

Big US Cities Where the Most Families Need Food Stamps

Inflation has driven up the prices of nearly all goods and services, including necessary items such as groceries. The cost of a carton of eggs was 32% higher in May compared to a year ago. 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 U.S. households, about one in 10, received SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps. At the more local level, there are highly impoverished places where SNAP assistance is more common.

To find the 50 metropolitan areas 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. As of 2020, 11.4% of U.S. households received SNAP benefits. Among the 50 metro areas on this list, that share ranges from 16.5% to 28.4% of households.

While factors such as assets and household composition impact whether a household qualifies for the benefit, SNAP recipiency is primarily determined by income. So, as might be expected, metros with lower incomes and higher poverty rates tend to have more households receiving benefits.

In 2020, 13.1% of Americans lived below the poverty line. In 48 of the 50 metro areas on this list, the poverty rate is higher. In the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas, metropolitan area, which has the highest SNAP recipiency among metros, 28.4% of the population lives on poverty-level incomes. 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 workers who are out of a job are likely to have little to no income. All but five of the metros on this list have five-year average unemployment rates at least as high as the national five-year unemployment rate of 5.3%. The El Centro, California, metropolitan area, which has the fourth highest SNAP recipiency rate among metro areas, has a five-year unemployment rate of 13.6%, the highest such figure among U.S. metros. These are the states with the worst spikes in unemployment since the pandemic began.

Click here to see metros with the highest SNAP recipiency rates
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