41.5 Million People Received Food Stamps in 2021

Posted March 28, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Update snap 2022

After steadi­ly declin­ing from 2013 to 2019, the num­ber of indi­vid­u­als in the Unit­ed States par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Sup­ple­men­tal Nutri­tion Assis­tance Pro­gram — for­mer­ly known as Food Stamps — sharply increased in 2020, when the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic hit, from 35.7 mil­lion in 2019 to near­ly 40 mil­lion. The num­ber con­tin­ued to rise in 2021, reach­ing about 41.5 mil­lion, accord­ing to new­ly updat­ed fig­ures in the KIDS COUNT® Data Center.

What Is the Sup­ple­men­tal Nutri­tion Assis­tance Pro­gram (SNAP)?

SNAP is a vital fed­er­al anti-hunger pro­gram for low-income fam­i­lies, seniors and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. Over two-thirds of par­tic­i­pants are in fam­i­lies with kids, although not all eli­gi­ble peo­ple receive SNAP ben­e­fits, and many who receive the ben­e­fits still have dif­fi­cul­ty pay­ing for ade­quate food in addi­tion to hous­ing and oth­er basic liv­ing expens­es. Rec­og­niz­ing the eco­nom­ic real­i­ties fac­ing Amer­i­can fam­i­lies, in 2021, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment enact­ed tem­po­rary, pan­dem­ic-response increas­es in SNAP ben­e­fits as well as long-term increas­es in ben­e­fits to bet­ter reflect the cur­rent costs of nutri­tious food.

How Does Fam­i­ly Par­tic­i­pa­tion in SNAP Vary by State?

To shed light on state-lev­el SNAP par­tic­i­pa­tion rates, the Cen­ter on Bud­get and Pol­i­cy Pri­or­i­ties (CBPP) recent­ly released an analy­sis of SNAP data from 2019, reveal­ing wide vari­a­tion in fam­i­ly par­tic­i­pa­tion across the coun­try. For exam­ple, accord­ing to CBPP, in Ore­gon and Mass­a­chu­setts, just over half (52% and 53%) of SNAP par­tic­i­pants were in house­holds with chil­dren, com­pared to more than three-fourths in Utah (77%) and Texas (79%). This fig­ure was at least 60% for the vast major­i­ty of states and more than 66% for the U.S. as a whole. Get a 2021 SNAP Fact Sheet for your state.

How Does SNAP Ben­e­fit Children?

SNAP reduces fam­i­ly pover­ty and food inse­cu­ri­ty, which is a crit­i­cal ben­e­fit for chil­dren as food inse­cu­ri­ty among kids is linked to adverse long-term cog­ni­tive, health, men­tal health and edu­ca­tion­al out­comes. Pover­ty and food inse­cu­ri­ty also dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affect fam­i­lies of col­or, mak­ing SNAP an impor­tant pro­gram for address­ing racial and eth­nic inequities.

Access All Data on Fam­i­ly Eco­nom­ics in the KIDS COUNT Data Center

See more data on pub­lic assis­tance, income and oth­er fam­i­ly eco­nom­ic issues in the KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter, includ­ing the per­cent­age of all eli­gi­ble peo­ple who par­tic­i­pat­ed in SNAP by state from 2015 to 2017, based on an analy­sis by the Math­e­mat­i­ca Pol­i­cy Research Insti­tute. This indi­ca­tor will be updat­ed when new analy­sis is available.

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