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, the SNAP recipiency rate can be much higher.
To find the 50 counties 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 counties or county equivalents on this list, that share ranges from 30.4% to 55.0% of households.
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, counties with higher poverty rates also tend to have more households receiving benefits. In 2020, 12.8% of Americans lived below the poverty line. All 50 counties on this list have a poverty rate of at least 20%, and in the case of Todd County, South Dakota, 58.9% of the population live below the poverty line, the highest share out of the roughly 3,000 American counties. 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 counties 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%. Ziebach County, South Dakota, which has the 14th highest SNAP recipiency rate, has a five-year unemployment rate of 30.4%, the highest of any county or county equivalent. These are the states with the worst spikes in unemployment since the pandemic began.
Click here to see the counties where the most people need food stamps
Click here to read our detailed methodology
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