Research Report How Far Do SNAP Benefits Fall Short of Covering the Cost of a Meal?
Elaine Waxman, Craig Gundersen, Megan Thompson
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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) aims to reduce hunger and food insecurity by supplementing the purchasing power of low-income families. This analysis explores the adequacy of SNAP benefits by comparing the maximum SNAP benefit per meal with the average cost of a low-cost meal in the US, adjusting for geographic variations in food prices across counties in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, DC. We find that average cost of a low-income meal is $2.36, 27 percent higher than the SNAP maximum benefit per meal of $1.86, which takes into account the maximum benefit available to households of varying sizes. The SNAP per meal benefit does not cover the cost of a low-income meal in 99 percent of US continental counties and Washington, DC.

Click here to see an interactive map showing these data at the county level.

Research Areas Health and health care Social safety net
Tags Poverty Welfare and safety net programs Hunger and food assistance
Policy Centers Income and Benefits Policy Center