Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s largest anti-hunger program. SNAP benefits provide a significant boost to local economies. Federal stimulus legislation increased these benefits. The SNAP program is federally funded but administered at the state level.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s largest anti-hunger program.
- Approximately 33 million Americans received monthly food stamp benefits in 2009, up from about 26 million in 2007.1 All states experienced an increase in people on SNAP—the new federal name for the Food Stamp Program. Nevada had the highest increase of 64 percent and Arkansas had the smallest increase of 8 percent.
- More than 75 percent of all SNAP participants are in families with children.
- A recent study estimated that at some point in their childhood, nearly half (49.2 percent) of all American children will live in a household depending on food stamps.2
- Significant portions of states’ populations depend on food stamps to prevent hunger, from 17 percent in Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi and Washington, D.C., to just 5 percent in Wyoming.
SNAP benefits provide a significant boost to local economies. Federal stimulus legislation increased these benefits.
- Every $5 in SNAP benefits generates $9.20 in total economic activity, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.3
- Eighty percent of all benefits are redeemed within two weeks of receipt and, according to the USDA, 97 percent are spent within the month. Most of the spending is in local community stores.
- The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act increased monthly SNAP benefits by 13.6 percent beginning April 1, 2009, pumping an estimated $18 billion into state economies between 2009 and 2012. Total increased economic activity in the states will exceed $34 billion.
The SNAP program is federally funded but administered at the state level.
- All states now use electronic benefit transfer cards, similar to debit cards with the money preloaded on them. According to the USDA, these debit cards can be used in 162,000 approved retail stores.
- Federal rules set eligibility based on income and assets available to a household. Only legal immigrants are eligible and, in most cases, individuals must wait five years in legal status before qualifying for benefits. Able-bodied adults between 16 and 60 years old must register for work, participate in training programs and accept or continue employment in order to qualify for the benefits.
- In 21 states and some counties in four more states, applications can be completed and submitted online. And in 17 of those states, Spanish language applications are also available online. Online applications allow faster processing of benefits.4
Eligibility screening tools are available on a state Web site in 20 states.5 Community-based organizations can use these tools to help qualified individuals access the program. The USDA estimates only 67 percent of eligible individuals participate in SNAP.
Download the Excel Version of the Table: "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Data"
1 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service.
2 Rank M, Hirschl T “Estimating the risk of food stamp use and impoverishment during childhood” Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2009; 163: 994–99.
3 Secretary Vilsack News Release No. 0087.09.
4 Center on Budget and Policy Priorites “Food Stamps On-Line: A Review of State Government Food Stamp Websites” Updated December 18, 2009.