ERS Charts of Note

Subscribe to get highlights from our current and past research, Monday through Friday, or see our privacy policy.
See also: Editors' Pick: Charts of Note 2020 gallery.

Reset

Pandemic response contributed to 32 percent increase in Federal food assistance spending in FY 2020

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Total spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs increased 32 percent from $92.5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2019 to $122.1 billion in FY 2020. The way spending was distributed reflects changes to the food assistance landscape in FY 2020 resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and subsequent economic downturn and Federal response. Spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased because of greater participation and additional benefit issuance, accounting for 65 percent of total spending. Combined spending on the four largest child nutrition programs fell in FY 2020, as did spending on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Together these programs accounted for 21 percent of total spending. As part of the Federal response to the pandemic, two new assistance programs were created: Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. In FY 2020, P-EBT benefits totaled $10.7 billion, and Food Box Program spending totaled $2.5 billion. Together, these two programs accounted for 11 percent of overall food and nutrition assistance spending. This chart is based on data available as of January 2021 that is subject to revision and on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report, released August 24, 2021.

Super stores retain the largest share of SNAP redemptions since 2006, while expanding participants’ purchasing power and maintaining store availability

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Since 2006, super stores received more USDA, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) redemptions than any other type of store, totaling half of all redemptions in 2016. SNAP participants can redeem benefits to buy food items at super stores, supermarkets, grocery stores, and other types of approved food retailers. Super stores are defined as large food and drug combination stores and mass merchandisers under a single roof as well as membership retail/wholesale hybrids offering a limited variety of products in warehouse-type environments. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers examined the effects of entrant super stores on the survival of existing SNAP-approved stores and their revenue from redeemed benefits. Researchers found that when one super store entered a market area from 1994 to 2015, about 0.25 supermarkets and 0.05 other smaller food retailers on average left over the first three years after entry. Overall store availability did not decline though, as the entry of one super store more than offset the loss of supermarkets and other smaller food retailers in the markets. The ERS researchers estimated that from 1994 to 2005, local supermarkets and other smaller food retailers annually lost $191,000 on average in SNAP redemptions for each super store entrant into their local market. That loss increased to $213,000 on average from 2005–15. At the same time, super stores gained much more in SNAP redemptions than was lost at local food retailers, leading the researchers to conclude that SNAP beneficiaries shifted purchases to super stores. Based on previous research showing that food is about 3 percent less costly at super stores, the researchers estimated that a shift of SNAP redemptions to super stores expanded the purchasing power of SNAP participants’ benefits by $108.6 million in 2015 (0.15 percent of total SNAP benefits and costs in 2015).This chart appears in the ERS’ Amber Waves article, “New Super Stores Slightly Expanded Purchasing Power for Participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),” June 2021.

SNAP and P-EBT accounted for more than one-ninth of total food-at-home spending from April to September 2020

Monday, June 7, 2021

Shutdowns, stay-at-home orders, and the need for social distancing led households to buy more food for consumption at home during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In response to the economic downturn and pandemic conditions, supplemental emergency allotments were issued to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households and Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits were distributed to households with children missing free and reduced-price school meals. This expansion of nutrition assistance led to a rapid increase in the dollar amount of these benefits issued to households and redeemed for food at home (FAH). In January and February 2020, SNAP benefit redemptions accounted for 6.8 percent of total FAH expenditures as estimated by the Food Expenditure Series. In March 2020, FAH spending spiked, causing SNAP’s share of FAH spending to fall. From March to June 2020, the introduction of P-EBT and increase in SNAP benefits led to rapid growth in these programs’ share of FAH spending. In June 2020, redemptions of these benefits peaked at $9.5 billion—making up 13.3 percent of FAH spending that month. This share fell the following three months. Overall, the share of total FAH spending attributable to SNAP and P-EBT from April through September 2020 was 11.7 percent—more than one in nine dollars and nearly 5 percentage points higher than SNAP’s share over the same months in 2019. This chart is based on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s COVID-19 Working Paper: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Redemptions during the Coronavirus Pandemic, released March 2021.

Federal spending on food assistance reached record high of $122.1 billion in 2020

Friday, April 23, 2021

Spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs jumped 30 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2020 to an inflation-adjusted record of $122.1 billion, abruptly reversing a six-year decline. This increase reflects the expanded need for food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent Federal response to meet that need. This response included USDA waivers allowing flexibility in the administration of the Department’s 15 existing food and nutrition assistance programs and the creation of two programs, Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program (Food Box Program). The rise in FY 2020 expenditures was driven by increased spending on these two new programs, as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) expenditures remained relatively unchanged while pandemic-induced disruptions in the operation of schools, childcare centers and daycare homes led to declines in child nutrition spending. This chart is based on data available on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) General Overview of Food Assistance and Nutrition Programs webpage, updated April 2021.

Online redemptions of SNAP and P-EBT benefits rapidly expanded throughout 2020

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Online Purchasing Pilot began in 2019 as mandated by the 2014 Farm Act and was quickly expanded in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pilot allows households in participating States to use their SNAP benefits to purchase groceries online from a limited number of authorized retailers. Households can similarly use Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits, which were issued in 2020 to households with children missing free and reduced-price school meals during the pandemic. Online transactions using benefits are subject to the same requirements as in-person transactions and cannot be spent on tips or fees. The number of States where SNAP and P-EBT benefits could be redeemed online grew from just one State at the beginning of 2020 to 46 States by the end of September 2020. As availability increased and the pandemic necessitated continued social distancing, the value of SNAP and P-EBT benefits redeemed online increased. In February 2020, households redeemed less than $3 million in benefits online, accounting for less than 0.1 percent of all benefits redeemed. By September, this amount grew to $196 million — 67 times its value in February. Overall, households redeemed $801 million in benefits online from February to September 2020. Despite this rapid growth, online redemptions accounted for only 2.4 percent of all benefits redeemed in September. This chart is based on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s COVID-19 Working Paper: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Redemptions during the Coronavirus Pandemic, released March 2021.

SNAP and P-EBT benefit redemptions surpassed prior 3-year average in 2020

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The U.S. Government expanded existing food assistance programs and introduced new ones in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic contraction in the United States in 2020. Some States began issuing monthly supplemental emergency allotments to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households in March 2020, with the rest beginning to do so in April 2020. All States issued Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits to households with children who missed free or reduced-price school meals during the 2019-20 school year; the earliest States began issuing P-EBT benefits in April 2020. This led to a rapid increase in the dollar amount of food assistance benefits issued to households and redeemed for groceries during the pandemic. The value of total monthly redemptions roughly doubled from $4.7 billion in March 2020 to $9.5 billion in June 2020. Most P-EBT benefits for the 2019-20 school year were issued in May and June 2020, leading total redemptions to peak in June and decline over the next three months. By September, redemptions amounted to $8.1 billion. Overall, an average of $8.4 billion per month in combined SNAP and P-EBT benefits were redeemed from April through September 2020—an increase of 74 percent compared with the average value of benefits redeemed during the same 6 months in 2017-19. This chart is based on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s COVID-19 Working Paper: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Redemptions during the Coronavirus Pandemic, released March 2021.

SNAP participation fell between 2013 and 2019 across United States

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Federal spending on USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in fiscal year 2019 totaled $60.4 billion and accounted for 65 percent of all USDA food and nutrition assistance spending. On average, 35.7 million people participated in the program each month in fiscal year 2019, or about 11 percent of the U.S. population. In 2013, when average monthly participation peaked at 47.6 million people in the aftermath of the 2007-09 recession, 15 percent of the population participated in SNAP. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works with State partners to administer SNAP. States face different economic conditions and are allowed by Federal law and FNS regulations to exercise state-specific policy options that can affect participation as well. The percent of State residents receiving SNAP benefits in fiscal year 2019 ranged from 19.8 percent in New Mexico to 4.2 percent in Wyoming, partly reflecting the higher rates of unemployment and poverty in New Mexico compared with Wyoming. Between 2013 and 2019, all 50 States and the District of Columbia saw a decrease in the share of residents receiving SNAP benefits as economic conditions improved in the United States and job opportunities expanded. The data in these maps pre-date the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on SNAP participation. Fiscal year 2020 data are expected to be released by summer 2021. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service’s Amber Waves article, “Taking a Closer Look at Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) Participation and Expenditures,” August 2020.

One-third of U.S. counties in 2018 had one or more farmers markets that accepted SNAP benefits

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Farmers markets are great sources of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods. USDA has expressed a commitment to increasing access to these foods for low-income households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As with retail food stores, farmers markets must be authorized by USDA to accept SNAP benefits. Data from USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service show that 72 percent of U.S. counties reported having at least one farmers market in 2018. Of those counties, 45 percent—32 percent of all 3,143 U.S. counties—reported having one or more farmers markets that accepted SNAP benefits. The number of farmers markets in a county that report accepting SNAP benefits is one of the updated statistics in the Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Food Environment Atlas. The Atlas assembles statistics on more than 280 food environment indicators at the county or State level that can influence food choices and diet quality. According to the Atlas, 1,015 counties had one or more farmers markets that accepted SNAP benefits as a form of payment, and 49 counties had 10 or more farmers markets that accepted SNAP benefits. The data for this map can be found in ERS’s Food Environment Atlas, updated September 2020.

SNAP participation and spending respond to economic conditions

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) accounted for 65 percent of the $92.4 billion USDA spent on food and nutrition assistance in fiscal year (FY) 2019. From FYs 2000 to 2007, between 6 and 9 percent of Americans participated in SNAP in a typical month. As economic conditions during the 2007-09 recession increased the need for food assistance, the share of Americans participating in SNAP rose, eventually peaking in FY 2013 when 15 percent of the U.S. population participated in the program each month. Between FYs 2013 and 2019, the share of the population receiving SNAP benefits steadily fell each year as economic conditions improved. In FY 2019, 10.9 percent of the population participated in the program. Accompanying the decrease in participation, SNAP expenditures in FY 2019 were 30 percent less than the inflation-adjusted historical high of $86.3 billion (or $79.9 billion in 2013 dollars) set in FY 2013. Job losses that accompanied the COVID-19 related shutdown of schools, businesses, and many other activities in spring 2020 increased the need for food assistance. Preliminary USDA data show the number of Americans receiving SNAP benefits was 14.9 percent higher in April 2020 than in April 2019. The data for this chart are from the Economic Research Service report, The Food Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report, July 2020.

Federal spending on food assistance in fiscal year (FY) 2019 at lowest level since FY 2009

Friday, August 21, 2020

USDA administers 15 domestic food and nutrition assistance programs that together form a nutritional safety net for millions of children and low-income adults. Federal expenditures on these programs totaled $92.4 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2019, their lowest level since FY 2009 and 22 percent less than the inflation-adjusted historical high of $117.9 billion set in FY 2013. The decline in spending between 2013 and 2019 was likely largely due to continued improvement in the U.S. economy, as the unemployment rate declined from 7.4 to 3.7 percent over that time period. Spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which accounted for almost two-thirds (65.3 percent) of Federal food and nutrition assistance spending in FY 2019, totaled $60.4 billion, or 8 percent less than in FY 2018 and 30 percent less than the inflation-adjusted historical high of $86.3 billion set in FY 2013. Expenditures fell for both SNAP and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) between FYs 2018 and 2019, but increased between 2 and 3 percent for each of the three largest child nutrition programs—the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. A version of this chart appears in the Economic Research Service report, The Food Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report, July 2020.

Number of people receiving SNAP benefits is linked to the strength of the economy

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the Nation’s largest food and nutrition assistance program. SNAP is available to most needy households with limited incomes and assets, subject to certain work and immigration status requirements. As a means-tested program, the number of people eligible for SNAP is inherently linked to the health of the economy, making it one of the Nation’s primary countercyclical assistance programs—contracting during periods of economic growth and expanding during economic downturns. National statistics from 1980 to 2018 on employment, poverty, and SNAP participation provide historical context for current U.S. economic conditions. Historical statistics reveal that the number of SNAP participants generally tracks the number of unemployed people and the number of people in poverty in the United States. Improvement in economic conditions during the early stages of an economic recovery may take longer to be felt by the low-wage workers who are more likely to receive SNAP benefits, resulting in a lagged response of SNAP participation to a reduction in the unemployment rate. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service report, The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2018 Annual Report, April 2019.

Higher SNAP benefits expand spending on food, and on other goods and services

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

When participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) spend their benefits, the spending “multiplies” throughout the economy because businesses—and their employees—supplying food and other goods purchased by SNAP households receive additional funds to make purchases of their own. In a 2019 study, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers estimated how a hypothetical $1-billion increase in SNAP benefits in 2016 would have affected spending by SNAP and non-SNAP households. Most SNAP participants spend their own cash in addition to SNAP benefits to purchase adequate food. Thus, SNAP households would spend the full amount of the increased benefits at authorized food stores, but they also would redirect some of the cash that they had been spending on food at home to other goods or services. ERS researchers estimated that the additional SNAP benefits would have the largest effect on SNAP households’ spending on food at home and durable goods. Income is generated for those involved in producing, transporting, and marketing the food and other goods purchased by SNAP recipients, which has a cascading effect of more spending and income. The top categories toward which non-SNAP households would direct this new income were savings, health care, and other services. Because of their low incomes, most SNAP households are likely to spend the entire income increase rather than save a portion of it. These estimates do not take into account current economic conditions and the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on spending behaviors. The data in the chart are part of the analysis found in the ERS report, The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Economy: New Estimates of the SNAP Multiplier, and the Amber Waves article, “Quantifying the Impact of SNAP Benefits on the U.S. Economy and Jobs,” released July 18, 2019.

ICYMI... SNAP participation continued to contract in 2018

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the cornerstone of USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs, accounting for 68 percent of all Federal food and nutrition assistance spending in fiscal 2018. An average of 40.3 million people per month participated in the program in fiscal 2018, 4 percent fewer than in fiscal 2017. As the fifth consecutive year of declining participation, fiscal 2018’s caseload was 15 percent less than the historical high average of 47.6 million participants per month in fiscal 2013. The decrease in SNAP participation in 2018 was likely associated with the country’s continued economic improvement in recent years. Federal spending for SNAP fell by 5 percent in fiscal 2018 to $65.0 billion—19 percent less than the historical high of $79.9 billion set in fiscal 2013. This chart appears in the ERS report, The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2018 Annual Report, released on April 18, 2019. This Chart of Note was originally published May 7, 2019.

Most States that distribute SNAP benefits over more than 15 days per month are in the South and Midwest

Friday, November 8, 2019

Households participating in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) receive their benefits in a lump-sum on a single day each month. The majority of benefits are redeemed within a week after households receive them. When benefits are distributed on a single day or over a few days each month, this can produce a surge in demand, followed by a large drop in demand—making it difficult for food retailers to adequately stock and staff stores throughout the month. States have the option to stagger benefit deliveries over the month, with a portion of SNAP recipients receiving benefits each distribution day. These distribution days can be consecutive or not. Benefit distribution schedules differ by State, and many have changed over time. A new ERS database documents monthly distribution schedules for each State, the District of Columbia, and New York City for 1998–2018. The number of States that distribute SNAP over 16 days or more each month has increased from 2 States in 1998 to 16 States in 2018. Most of the States with the longest span in their SNAP distribution schedule are in the South and Midwest. This map appears in the August 2019 Amber Waves article, “ERS’s SNAP Distribution Schedule Database Allows for New Research on Program Impacts.”

ICYMI... Percent of residents participating in SNAP decreased in 46 States from 2013 to 2018

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides benefits for purchasing food in authorized food stores to needy households with limited incomes and assets. In fiscal 2018, an average of 40.3 million low-income individuals per month received SNAP benefits in the United States. The percent of Americans participating in the program declined from 15.0 percent in 2013 to 12.3 percent in 2018, marking the fifth consecutive year of a decline in the percent of the population receiving SNAP. In seven States—Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming—8 percent or fewer of residents received SNAP benefits in 2018. Between 2013 and 2018, 46 States and the District of Columbia saw a decrease in the share of residents receiving SNAP benefits, while 4 States experienced increases. Idaho showed the largest decline in percent of residents participating in SNAP—a 36-percent decline from 14.1 to 9.0 percent of residents. Eighteen States and the District of Columbia had declines in participation shares of at least 25 percent between 2013 and 2018. Nevada had the largest increase in participation share, growing from 12.9 to 14.5 percent of residents. The fiscal 2018 map appears in the "Food Security and Nutrition Assistance" section of the ERS data product, “Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials,” updated in June 2019. This Chart of Note was originally published July 18, 2019.

Impact of additional SNAP benefits varies by major industry group

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

As participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) spend their benefits, income is generated for those involved in producing, transporting, and marketing the food and other goods purchased by SNAP recipients. ERS researchers recently compiled a new social accounting matrix to quantify the effect of additional SNAP benefits on employment and gross domestic income (GDI) for various sectors of the U.S. economy. They found that a hypothetical new $1 billion in SNAP benefits would have a relatively large effect on manufacturing industries and the trade and transportation industries. The new SNAP benefits would generate $218 million in GDI and 1,540 full-time equivalent jobs for manufacturing industries, including food and beverage processors. For the trade and transportation industries, new income totaling $406 million and 4,450 jobs would be generated. These industries include grocery stores, food and other wholesalers, plus the trucking and rail freight industries, among others. The hypothetical new $1 billion in SNAP benefits would generate an additional $32 million in GDI going to agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting and 480 jobs in these industries. This chart appears in the ERS report, The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Economy: New Estimates of the SNAP Multiplier, and the Amber Waves article, “Quantifying the Impact of SNAP Benefits on the U.S. Economy and Jobs,” released in July 2019.

Older adults make up more of the SNAP caseload than a decade ago

Friday, September 13, 2019

In an average month in fiscal 2018, USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provided 40.3 million low-income Americans with benefits to purchase food at authorized food stores. In fiscal 2017 (the latest year for which demographic data are available), adults aged 18–59 accounted for 43.4 percent of participants, children younger than age 5 accounted for 13.4 percent of participants, school-age children accounted for 30.0 percent of participants, and adults aged 60 and older accounted for 13.1 percent of participants. The composition of SNAP participants can be affected by changing economic conditions, modifications to program requirements, and demographic trends. Over the last decade, children’s share of the SNAP caseload has fallen from 49.1 percent in fiscal 2007 to 43.4 percent in fiscal 2017. The share of SNAP participants who are age 60 or older has risen from 8.7 to 13.1 percent over this period. The second chart appears in the Food Security and Nutrition Assistance section of the ERS data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials.

Expanded SNAP benefits would raise Gross Domestic Product

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Low-income participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) generally spend their benefits soon after receiving them. This spending by SNAP households “multiplies” throughout the U.S. economy as the businesses supplying the food and other goods purchased—and their employees—receive additional funds to make purchases of their own. A recent ERS study examined the multiplier effect of a hypothetical $1 billion increase in SNAP benefits. Most SNAP participants spend their own cash in addition to SNAP benefits to purchase adequate food. Thus, SNAP households would spend the full amount of the increased benefits, but would redirect some of the cash that they were spending on food at grocery stores to other goods or services. The study predicted that the $1 billion in additional SNAP benefits would raise SNAP households’ food spending by $300 million and their non-food spending by $700 million. This increased spending, combined with the subsequent multiplier-induced spending of both non-SNAP households and SNAP households ($538 million), would raise Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $1.54 billion. This chart appears in the ERS report, The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Economy: New Estimates of the SNAP Multiplier, and the Amber Waves article, “Quantifying the Impact of SNAP Benefits on the U.S. Economy and Jobs,” released July 18, 2019.

Percent of residents participating in SNAP decreased in 46 States from 2013 to 2018

Thursday, July 18, 2019

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides benefits for purchasing food in authorized food stores to needy households with limited incomes and assets. In fiscal 2018, an average of 40.3 million low-income individuals per month received SNAP benefits in the United States. The percent of Americans participating in the program declined from 15.0 percent in 2013 to 12.3 percent in 2018, marking the fifth consecutive year of a decline in the percent of the population receiving SNAP. In seven States—Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming—8 percent or fewer of residents received SNAP benefits in 2018. Between 2013 and 2018, 46 States and the District of Columbia saw a decrease in the share of residents receiving SNAP benefits, while 4 States experienced increases. Idaho showed the largest decline in percent of residents participating in SNAP—a 36-percent decline from 14.1 to 9.0 percent of residents. Eighteen States and the District of Columbia had declines in participation shares of at least 25 percent between 2013 and 2018. Nevada had the largest increase in participation share, growing from 12.9 to 14.5 percent of residents. The fiscal 2018 map appears in the Food Security and Nutrition Assistance section of the ERS data product “Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials,” updated in June 2019.

Slightly over 12 percent of U.S. residents participated in SNAP in 2018

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the Nation’s largest food assistance program. In an average month in fiscal 2018, 40.3 million people—about 12 percent of the Nation’s population—participated in the program, receiving benefits averaging $125.25 per person per month. The share of the Nation’s population participating in SNAP grew from 6 percent in 2000 to approximately 9 percent in 2007, and then increased more sharply to just under 11 percent in 2009 as economic conditions deteriorated during the Great Recession, which officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009. The share of the population receiving SNAP benefits continued to rise as labor market conditions in low-wage occupations remained weak and poverty rates remained high after the Great Recession’s official end. Policies to increase program access and temporarily increase benefit levels also likely encouraged eligible people to enroll in SNAP. By 2013, 15 percent of the U.S. population participated in the program each month. From 2014 to 2018, the share of the population enrolled in SNAP fell each year as economic conditions improved. This chart appears in the ERS report, The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2018 Annual Report, April 2019.

Charts of Note header image for left nav