|Urban Institute map; click on the image to enlarge, or see the interactive map here.|
An Urban Institute study released this week found that, in 99 percent of U.S. counties, food stamp benefits are not enough to cover the full cost of an inexpensive meal, even for those who have no net income. In President Trump's proposed 2019 budget, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would lose $213 billion in funding over the next decade.
"The average cost of a low-income meal, which is defined as part of the study, was $2.36. That cost is 27 percent higher than the maximum SNAP benefit per meal of $1.86," Bill Lucia reports for Route Fifty. "Over the course of a month, benefits were shy of average meal costs by $46.50 per person."
SNAP benefits aren't meant to cover the full cost of a household's meals except for those that have zero net income, usually because of a lifelong disability. But for those households, which totaled about 37 percent of SNAP recipients in fiscal year 2016, SNAP is the only way to pay for meals.
The study found that the biggest gap between SNAP benefits and food prices were in expensive urban areas like San Francisco and smaller rural counties, some with tourist attractions. The report concludes that SNAP will be more effective if the government can better match up benefits to the local cost of food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees SNAP, told Lucia that the agency will review the study and consider its recommendations.