Special Report

The City Where the Most People Rely on Food Stamps in Every State

In June, California announced it would be sending $1,050 checks to approximately 23 million residents to combat the devastating effects inflation has had on state residents. Even if other U.S. states were to follow suit and issue their own so-called inflation relief checks, the checks likely would not be enough on their own for needy families. One long-standing program that millions of Americans rely on is the government’s food assistance benefits, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 

As of 2020, roughly 13.8 million U.S. households received SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps. To find the metro with the highest SNAP recipiency rate in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of the share of households that received SNAP benefits in the 12 months prior to the survey from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey.

As of 2020, 11.4% of U.S. households received SNAP benefits. In most states, there is at least one major metro area where a higher share of households receive nutrition assistance. Among the metro areas in each state with the highest SNAP recipiency rate, that figure ranges from 6.7% to 28.4%. 

In 13 states, the metropolitan area listed here has a SNAP recipiency rate below the U.S. rate. Many of these states have relatively few metro areas. This includes Alaska, Hawaii, South Dakota, and Wyoming, which have only two metropolitan areas each, and New Hampshire and Vermont, which have only one metro each, and the one listed here is by default only. 

 While factors such as assets and household composition impact whether a household qualifies for the benefit, SNAP recipiency is primarily determined by income. The majority of the metros with the highest SNAP recipiency rate in each state also have the highest poverty rate in their respective states. The McAllen, Texas, metropolitan area has a SNAP recipiency rate and a poverty rate of 28.4%, each the highest such figure of any metropolitan area in both Texas and the United States. These are the states where the most children live in Poverty. 

Because income is the primary determinant for SNAP recipiency, unemployment is strongly linked to how many people receive benefits, as those workers who are out of a job are likely to have little to no income. Just over half of the metropolitan areas with the highest SNAP recipiency rate in their state also have the highest five-year unemployment rate in their state. This includes the El Centro, California, metro area, which has an unemployment rate of 13.6% and a SNAP recipiency rate of 23.6%. These are the states with the worst spikes in unemployment since the pandemic began.  

Click here to see the city where the most people rely on food stamps in every state
Click here to see our detailed methodology

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