Study: SNAP Doesn’t Even Cover a Cheap Meal

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Most Americans receiving food assistance benefits can’t afford the cost of an average low-income meal, a new national study reported on the heels of the federal government’s proposal to limit the program.

The study from the Urban Institute reported that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fell short of affording an average meal in 99 percent of U.S. continental counties and the District of Columbia. The Urban Institute is a liberal-leaning think tank and research organization based in Washington D.C. The study found that the average cost of a low-income meal is $2.36, or 27 percent higher than the SNAP maximum benefit per meal of $1.86, which took into account the maximum benefit available to households of varying sizes.

More than 44 million Americans received SNAP benefits every month in 2016, according to the most recently available government data.

The study, published February 22, comes on the heels of the federal government’s proposal to reduce SNAP funding by about $213 billion, or 30 percent, over 10 years. President Donald Trump also proposed replacing food stamps with a home delivery box the administration compared to a “Blue Apron-style” meal kit.

The study calculated the maximum SNAP benefit per meal and compared it to the average low-income meal cost per person based on census data.

The 20 counties with the largest gap included high-cost urban areas like New York and San Francisco and smaller rural counties in Oregon and Michigan. California had the most counties in the top 10 percent.

SNAP is intended to supplement a family’s food budget. But the study reported that for 37 percent of SNAP households with no income, benefits are the only way to buy food.

The study also said the current SNAP benefit per meal meets the meal costs of less than 1 percent of all counties in the country: 18 of those counties are in Texas; three are in Indiana; and one is in Ohio, the report said.

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