Study Finds SNAP Benefits Insufficient for Affordable Meals in Most Counties in 2023


A new report from the Urban Institute highlights that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits were inadequate for purchasing a “modestly priced meal” in 98% of counties in 2023.

The report’s key findings indicate that the average meal cost 19% more than the maximum average SNAP benefit of $2.84. In the five counties with the largest discrepancies, meal costs exceeded SNAP benefits by more than 70% throughout the year, with urban areas seeing an average of 28% higher meal costs compared to SNAP benefits.

This decline in the value of SNAP benefits has occurred alongside sustained high food inflation in the United States. Food prices rose 5.8% in 2023, down from 9.9% in 2022 but still more than double the average annual food inflation rate of 2.5%.

In 2024, the percentage of U.S. residents citing inflation as the top financial problem reached an all-time high.

The Urban Institute report emerges as the House of Representatives negotiates the farm bill, which could potentially revise the evaluation method for SNAP benefits.

The Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) is the formula used to determine SNAP benefits. The House GOP is advocating for making the TFP update process “cost-neutral” again, which would make inflation the primary factor for increasing SNAP benefits. Historically, SNAP benefits have been determined on a cost-neutral basis.

The Food Stamp Act, established in 1964, is a federal welfare program designed to ensure food security for low-income residents. It provides food stamps to over 41 million people monthly.

Emily Hallas
Emily Hallas
Breaking News Reporter. Previously, Emily was a member of U.S. Senator Tim Scott's communications team.

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