Special Report

The County Where the Most People Use 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 county 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 every state with the exception of Wyoming, there is one county or county equivalent where a higher share of households received nutrition assistance. Among the county or county equivalents in each state with the highest SNAP recipiency rate, that figure ranges from 9.2% to 55.0%. 

While factors such as assets and household composition impact whether a household qualifies for the benefit, SNAP recipiency is primarily determined by income. Roughly two-thirds of the counties with the highest SNAP recipiency rate in each state also have poverty rates that rank among the three highest in their respective states. Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota, has a SNAP recipiency rate of 55.0% and a poverty rate of 44.8%, the highest and third highest shares, respectively, in the country. 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 counties with the highest SNAP recipiency rate in their state also have the highest or second highest five-year unemployment rate in their state. These are the states with the worst spikes in unemployment since the pandemic began.

Click here to see the county with the highest SNAP recipiency rate in every state
Click here to read our detailed methodology

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