New FRAC Report Measures SNAP/Food Stamp Participation in 22 Large U.S. Cities

Cities Left $1.1 Billion in Federal Funds on Table

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jennifer Adach, 202.986.2200 x3018 Washington, D.C. – January 24, 2011 – The number of SNAP/Food Stamp participants in American cities increased an average of 18.6 percent from May 2009 to May 2010, according to a new survey of 22 large urban areas conducted by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). As the recession increased need, the SNAP/Food Stamp program was very responsive. In SNAP Access in Urban America: A City-by-City Snapshot, however, FRAC found considerable variation among surveyed cities, both on rates of caseload increases in 2010 and on the degree to which cities were serving needy residents prior to the deepening of the recession. In December 2008, 76 percent of eligible people in the surveyed cities participated in the program; participation ranged from below 50 percent in San Diego and Denver to more than 90 percent in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Louisville, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Miami. Other findings from the report include:

  • As of May 2010 in the 22 urban areas, approximately 7.8 million people were receiving SNAP/Food Stamps. This was an increase of 1.3 million individuals from the previous May, demonstrating the depth and breadth of the recession.
  • Compared to the previous FRAC Urban SNAP/Food Stamp report, participation rates among low-income people increased in nearly all the surveyed cities from 2007 to 2008, showing early progress made by states, cities and nonprofit partners to improve outreach efforts and application processes. The jumps in caseloads in 2009 and 2010 in these cities reflect continued efforts and improvements, as well as the deepening of the recession.

“This report gives us a snapshot of SNAP/Food Stamps in America’s big cities right at the start of the recession. We can see that cities are making progress and reaching more eligible people, and we anticipate that we’ll continue to see even more progress as cities and states amplified their efforts throughout the recession to reach newly eligible people,” said Jim Weill, FRAC president. “All the cities saw dramatic increases in the number of participants over the past five years.” As cities struggle with economic challenges, increasing the amount of federal SNAP/Food Stamp dollars flowing into those areas is one effective strategy for rebuilding the local economy. All of America’s big cities stand to gain millions of federal dollars each year through efforts – often comparatively modest – to increase participation in SNAP/Food Stamps. According to the report, more than $1.1 billion in federally-funded benefits was left unclaimed by the 22 cities in 2008. Los Angeles left $353 million in unclaimed benefits; Harris County (Houston, Tex.) missed out on $142 million; and New York City missed out on $124 million. About the report: FRAC looked at SNAP/Food Stamp participation rates and benefits foregone, in 22 of America’s largest cities. Cities were selected based on size and geographical representation. A full explanation of the methodology used is included in the report. The full report, SNAP Access in Urban America: A City-by-City Snapshot, is available at The 22 cities are: Atlanta, Ga.; Boston, Mass.; Chicago, Ill.; Columbus, Ohio; Denver, Colo.; Detroit, Mich.; Houston, Tex.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Louisville, Ky.; Miami, Fla.; Milwaukee, Wisc.; New York, N.Y.; Oakland, Calif.; Phoenix, Ariz.; San Antonio, Tex.; San Diego, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; Washington, D.C.; and Wichita, Kan.