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States With the Highest Rates of SNAP Recipients

Millions of Americans began receiving smaller stipends to pay for food this month as the COVID-era boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program comes to an end.

SNAP, originally known as the Food Stamp Program, is designed to provide expanded access to food for low-income working Americans, as well as the disabled and the elderly. In 2020, the program was widely expanded as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. But those federal expansions expired at the end of February, meaning households in 32 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the US Virgin Islands will now be receiveding at least $95 less per month, sparking fears recipients will face increased food insecurity or hunger as the average benefit per day drops to $6.10 per person.

according to the US Department of Agriculturewhich administers the program, a preliminary tally of over 42 million Americans – around 12.6% of the nation – were participating in the program as of November 2022. In some states, that figure approaches 1 in every 5 residents.

The state with the highest rate of participation in SNAP was New Mexico, where 24.3% of the state’s residents were enrolled as of November 2022, nearly 5 percentage points higher than any other state. After New Mexico, Louisiana (19.5%), West Virginia (18.2%), oklahoma (17.2%) Oregon (17.0%) were among the states with the highest rates of participation.

Meanwhile, states in the Midwest and Mountain West tend to have lower rates of recipients, with Utah‘s 4.6% being the lowest in the country.

Part of this disparity is due to differences in eligibility requirements, and part is a matter of what percent of eligible residents enroll. Not everyone is eligible to enroll in the SNAP program. Able-bodied people without dependents can only receive three months of SNAP benefits over three years, and many recipients must meet certain work requirementswhich some lawmakers hope to make strictly when Congress takes up the issue this year.

Nationwide, the USDA estimates that around 82% of eligible SNAP recipients participate in the program, including some 98% of eligible New Mexicans and only 56% in Wyoming.

SNAP users received an average of around $233 of assistance per month in 2022, nearly 80% higher than the 2019 figure of $130, according to nonpartisan data center USAFacts, The increase can be attributed to the expansion of benefits as part of pandemic aid and changes made to SNAP benefits as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, which governs the program. Those changes, which went into place in 2021, increased the average benefits per person with the intent of allowing recipients more access to healthier food.

The end of the boost to SNAP benefits comes during a period of high inflation and soaring food costs. While general inflation has come down from last summer’s post-pandemic peakthe consumer price index for food remains well above the general mark.

The states with the highest SNAP participation rates as of November 2022 are:

  1. New Mexico (24.3%)
  2. Louisiana (19.5%)
  3. West Virginia (18.2%)
  4. Oklahoma (17.2%)
  5. Oregon (17.0%)
  6. Illinois (16.2%)
  7. Alabama (15.4%)
  8. Massachusetts (15.2%)
  9. Nevada (15.0%)
  10. North Carolina (15.0%)


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