Nationally, food stamp participation is highest overall among households in rural areas (16%) and small towns (16%) compared to metro counties (13%).
In 23% of rural counties, at least 20% of households participate in the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, meaning they get monthly food stamps to help them purchase certain types of food.
The new report from the Food Research and Action Center is based on data from 2011 to 2015.
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“No community in America is immune to hunger, but rural and small town areas are especially hard hit,” Jim Weill, president of FRAC, said in a press release announcing the findings.
The majority of families reliant on SNAP also have at least one working member — and in some cases there are two or more people working in a family that still needs government assistance to get enough food on the table.
More than three-quarters of families on the assistance program had at least one working member in the past 12 months, FRAC said.
In every state, at least two out of three families receiving food stamps had one or more working members.
In 37 states, at least three out of four SNAP families had at least one working member.
More than two in five (43%) participating households across the country included children.
In five states, more than half of all SNAP households included children, FRAC’s report said.
The data was released with maps and interactive databases that paint a disturbing picture of American hunger.
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FRAC hopes it will help lawmakers and the media get a deeper understanding of how many American families are struggling — and also dispel long-standing myths and stereotypes about the food stamp program.
“SNAP serves as the first line of defense against hunger and is critical to keeping and lifting low-income households — including massive numbers in rural and small town areas — out of poverty and hunger,” Weill said.
“SNAP is one of the nation’s very best investments, and it is unacceptable that this proven and effective program is under attack,” he said.
SNAP’s budget would suffer severe cuts under the President’s fiscal year budget and the House Budget Committee’s resolution to trim the food stamp program.
In New York, 1.6 million households — that’s 2.9 million individuals — rely on food stamps.
That’s one in every seven households.
Seventy-four percent of New Yorkers on food stamps are part of a family with at least one working member.
Out of the 25 counties with the highest percentage of SNAP users, only one was a metro county: the Bronx. The remaining 22 are rural counties and two are small town counties.
Of the 53 rural counties nationally with SNAP participation of at least 30%, all but 12 are in the South, FRAC said.
On the state level, nine of the top 10 SNAP users were in the south. The 10th state is Arizona.
The same pattern was found in small towns. Seven of the top 10 highest SNAP users were in the south. The three other states with high small town participation are Arizona, Maine and Oregon.