How Far Do SNAP Benefits Fall Short of Covering the Cost of a Meal?

Research Report

How Far Do SNAP Benefits Fall Short of Covering the Cost of a Meal?

Abstract

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 the District of Columbia.

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

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