FRAC Analysis of State-by-State SNAP Participation Rates

SNAP Over-the-Year Participation Dropped by More Than 1,000,000 People in December 2015

Research Shows SNAP’s Effectiveness But Underscores A Need for Increasing Benefits to Achieve Even Stronger Outcomes

SNAP participation averaged 45,188,655 persons in December 2015, a decrease of 265,216 persons compared with November 2015.  Most states experienced decreases in caseloads; nationally, there was a SNAP participation decrease of 1,063,419 persons compared with December 2014. SNAP still matters for many Americans across the country, particularly as they struggle against problems of underemployment, stagnant wages and natural disasters.

Research findings in a December 2015 White House report (pdf) confirm SNAP’s effectiveness in promoting good health, education and food security outcomes. The White House report findings, however, suggest that current SNAP benefit amounts are inadequate for households. The U.S. Conference of Mayors survey on hunger and homelessness (pdf) released in December 2015 also points to increasing SNAP benefits as one of the strategies to address hunger. FRAC’s Plan to End Hunger in America (pdf) includes recommendations to increase SNAP benefit levels and strengthen SNAP’s positive effects further.

State Trends

Of the 13 states with over-the-year SNAP participation increases in December 2015, one (South Carolina) had some flood victim households on temporary Disaster SNAP, and four (Wyoming, Nevada, California, and North Dakota) ranked the four worst states in reaching SNAP eligible people, according to the most recent year for which such data are available (2013). SNAP outreach and access initiatives in more recent years as well as economic and climate factors impacting need are contributing to those states’ increased participation levels.

Economic Factors

Despite some improvements in economic conditions, food hardship and need for food assistance remain relatively high. In December 2015, about one in seven people in the U.S. received SNAP and about one in ten were unemployed or underemployed, according to USDA data and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics U-6 measure. A FRAC analysis (pdf) using the Healthways Well-Being survey collected by Gallup showed that 17 percent of respondents did not have enough money to feed themselves or their family in the first six months of 2015.

SNAP Still Misses Eligible People Experiencing Food Hardship

Despite growth in SNAP caseloads since the Great Recession, about 15 percent of those eligible for SNAP are not served. SNAP is missing nearly four in ten eligible elderly persons. SNAP policies that improve program access and increase staff capacity to process applications as well as SNAP outreach can help communities, families and businesses maximize federal dollars.

The Positive Effect of SNAP Benefits on Participants and Communities

Economic Impacts

For struggling families and communities, SNAP is making a huge difference on their economic well-being and health. For example, SNAP is good for local economies – each one dollar in federally funded SNAP benefits generates $1.79 in economic activity.
Census Bureau data also show the crucial importance of federal nutrition programs and other supports for low-income families. If SNAP benefits are counted as income, 3.6 million people were lifted out of poverty in 2014, according to the Census Bureau. And, when looking at the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which serves as an additional indicator of economic well-being, SNAP lifted 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2014.

Health Impacts

Numerous studies demonstrate that SNAP participation and the amounts of monthly SNAP benefits received by households affect the health and well-being of families and children. For instance, a Children’s HealthWatch brief documents health improvements for young children who live in households that received increased SNAP benefits provided by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Following the increase, “children in families receiving SNAP were significantly more likely to be classified as ‘well’ than young children whose families were eligible but did not receive SNAP.”
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The ARRA SNAP boost also had a positive impact on Medicaid costs, according to newly published analysis of data from MA.  “Medicaid cost growth fell in Massachusetts after SNAP benefits increased, especially for people with chronic illnesses with high sensitivity to food insecurity.” Read More:

Food Security Impacts

There is strong evidence of SNAP’s effectiveness in alleviating food insecurity. Two studies included in the recent “Long-Term Benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” White House Report demonstrate this point. Mabli and Ohls (2015) compared households’ state of food security before and after receiving SNAP benefits and found that “SNAP participation reduced the overall fraction of households that were food insecure and the fraction that were very low food secure by around 17 percent and 19 percent, respectively. Mabli and Worthington (2014) find even larger impacts on children’s food security in low-income households with children, showing that food insecurity among children fell by roughly 33 percent after their families had been receiving benefits for about six months….”

Furthermore, the ARRA SNAP benefit boost was terminated effective November 2013 with negative impacts on families. In the wake of that cut, new research from Children’s HealthWatch finds that low monthly SNAP benefit levels and the November 2013 rollback in SNAP benefits have had “a measurable, negative effect on household and child food insecurity.”
For more information on SNAP’s impacts on poverty, food security, health, and well-being, see FRAC’s SNAP and Public Health: The Role of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in Improving the Health and Well-Being of Americans (pdf).