The SNAP Gap: Where Food Stamps Aren't Enough

SNAP, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, helps to feed approximately 42 million Americans. But according to a report issued by the Urban Institute, this still falls far short of what Americans actually need.

The study found that while SNAP aims to reduce hunger and food insecurity, the the average cost of a low-income meal is $2.36 -- 27% higher than the SNAP maximum benefit per meal of $1.86. The SNAP per-meal benefit does not cover the cost of a low-income meal in 99% of U.S. continental counties and the District of Columbia.

The authors surveyed the degree to which SNAP meets the food needs of Americans on a county-by-county basis nationwide, comparing the benefits paid out by this program against how much it costs to buy a low-cost meal. Currently, SNAP gives a family less per meal than the cost of a cup of doughnut-shop coffee.

Read the full story on the study and its findings.

Here are the 20 U.S. counties with the biggest gap between maximum SNAP per-meal benefit and the cost of an average low-income meal.

Grocery shopping in Manhattan

Photo: 1000 Words/Shutterstock

1. Crook County, Ore.
1. Crook County, Ore.

1. Crook County, Ore.: Rural

Total SNAP participants: 5,160

Cost of low-income meal: $4.39

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $2.53

Photo: Finetooth/Wikipedia

2. New York County, N.Y.
2. New York County, N.Y.

2. New York County, N.Y.: Urban

Total SNAP participants: 227,220

Cost of low-income meal: $3.96

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $2.10

Above, a vendor in Manhattan's Chinatown district.

Photo: Oliver Foerstner / Shutterstock.com

3. Leelanau County, Mich.
3. Leelanau County, Mich.

3. Leelanau County, Mich.: Rural

Total SNAP participants: 1,580

Cost of low-income meal: $3.87

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $2.01

Above, the historic fishing village of Leland in Leelanau County.

Photo: Shutterstock

4. Nevada County, Calif.
4. Nevada County, Calif.

4. Nevada County, Calif.: Rural

Total SNAP participants: 6,480

Cost of low-income meal: $3.56

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.70

Photo: Frank Schulenburg/Wikipedia

5. Klickitat County, Wash.
5. Klickitat County, Wash.

5. Klickitat County, Wash.: Rural

Total SNAP participants: 2,570

Cost of low-income meal: $3.54

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.68

Photo: Shutterstock

6. Calaveras County, Calif.
6. Calaveras County, Calif.

6. Calaveras County, Calif.: Rural

Total SNAP participants: 3,760

Cost of low-income meal: $3.37

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.51

Above, the Lumberjack day parade in West Point, Calif. in Calaveras County.

Photo:Jeffrey B. Banke / Shutterstock

7. Blaine County, Idaho
7. Blaine County, Idaho

7. Blaine County, Idaho: Rural

Total SNAP participants: 1,090

Cost of low-income meal: $3.35

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.49

Photo: Shutterstock

8. El Dorado County, Calif.
8. El Dorado County, Calif.

8. El Dorado County, Calif.: Urban

Total SNAP participants: 10,940

Cost of low-income meal: $3.29

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.43

Above, the historic town of Placerville in El Dorado County.

Photo: Laurens Hoddenbagh/Shutterstock

9. San Francisco County, Calif.
9. San Francisco County, Calif.

9. San Francisco County, Calif.: Urban

Total SNAP participants: 43,390

Cost of low-income meal: $3.28

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.42

Photo: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

10. Bristol County, R.I.
10. Bristol County, R.I.

10. Bristol County, R.I.: Urban

Total SNAP participants: 4,140

Cost of low-income meal: $3.25

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.39

Photo: Wikipedia

11. Teton County, Wy.
11. Teton County, Wy.

11. Teton County, Wy.: Rural

Total SNAP participants: 350

Cost of low-income meal: $3.25

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.39

Photo: WitGorski /Shutterstock

12. Tuolumne County, Calif.
12. Tuolumne County, Calif.

12. Tuolumne County, Calif.: Rural

Total SNAP participants: 5,190

Cost of low-income meal: $3.22

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.36

Photo: Shutterstock

13. San Benito County, Calif.
13. San Benito County, Calif.

13. San Benito County, Calif.: Urban

Total SNAP participants: 6,080

Cost of low-income meal: $3.20

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.34

Above, the historic Roza's House in San Juan Bautista, Calif., in San Benito County.

Photo: Eugene Zelenko/Wikipedia

14. Pacific County, Wash.
14. Pacific County, Wash.

14. Pacific County, Wash.: Rural

Total SNAP participants: 4,670

Cost of low-income meal: $3.20

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.34

Photo: Frank Smith/Wikipedia

15. Routt County, Colo.
15. Routt County, Colo.

15. Routt County, Colo.: Rural

Total SNAP participants: 680

Cost of low-income meal: $3.16

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.30

Shown, Steamboat Springs in Routt County.

Photo: Shutterstock

16. Jefferson County, Wash.
16. Jefferson County, Wash.

16. Jefferson County, Wash.: Rural

Total SNAP participants: 3,730

Cost of low-income meal: $3.16

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.30

Photo: BlueCanoe/Wikipedia

17. Marin County, Calif.
17. Marin County, Calif.

17. Marin County, Calif.: Urban

Total SNAP participants: 8,870

Cost of low-income meal: $3.14

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.28

Above, a houseboat in Sausalito, in Marin County.

Photo: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

18. Mendocino County, Calif.
18. Mendocino County, Calif.

18. Mendocino County, Calif.: Rural

Total SNAP participants: 10,310

Cost of low-income meal: $3.13

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.27

Photo: David Eppstein/Wikipedia

19. Summit County, Colo.
19. Summit County, Colo.

19. Summit County, Colo.: Rural

Total SNAP participants: 760

Cost of low-income meal: $3.13

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.27

Photo: Shutterstock

20. Alexandria City, Va.
20. Alexandria City, Va.

20. Alexandria City, Va.: Urban

Total SNAP participants: 6,900

Cost of low-income meal: $3.13

Cost of meal minus SNAP benefit: $1.27

Photo: Shutterstock

Source: Urban Institute-How Far Do SNAP Benefits Fall Short of Covering the Cost of a Meal?

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This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.

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