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Food Stamps Facts

There is a lot of disinformation about the food stamps program. Myths about the program reach more people than food stamps facts. This has created a stigma around this important program that provides access to nutrition for 36 million people.

This is frustrating for people on food stamps, who have to watch as a picture is painted of who they are and how they live that largely based on myths and not facts.

We decided it was necessary to set up a food stamps facts page to provide up to date, digestible facts about SNAP benefits and EBT.

Our plan is to continue to update this page with the most up-to-date facts we can find on food stamps and EBT to help set the record straight.

"Food Stamps Facts"

Food Stamps Facts

How many people use Food Stamps in the United States?

As of September 2019, 36 million persons were participating in the food stamps program.

What is the average food stamps benefit?

In 2019, the average food stamps beneficiary received a monthly benefit of $131.

What percent of the people who are eligible participate in the food stamps program?

The food stamps participation rate among all eligible persons was 85 percent in Fiscal Year 2016.

Participation rates for all eligible persons varied from state to state, ranging from a low of 56 percent to a high of 100 percent.

How much Does the Food Stamps Program Cost?

In 2018, the federal government spent $68 billion on food stamps program and other related food assistance programs. Here’s the breakdown of how the money was spent:

  • 92% of the spending went directly to benefits that households used to purchase food
  • 7% went to state administrative costs, including eligibility determinations, employment and training and nutrition education for SNAP households, and anti-fraud activities.
  • Less than 1 percent went to federal administrative costs.

Food Stamps Income Limit

In most cases, your household must meet both the gross and net income limits described below or you are not eligible for SNAP and cannot receive benefits.

Gross income means a household’s total, non-excluded income, before any deductions have been made.

Net income means gross income minus allowable deductions.

A household with an elderly or disabled person only has to meet the net income limit.

Household Size Gross monthly income
(130 percent of poverty)
Net monthly income
(100 percent of poverty)
1 $1,354 $1,041
2 $1,832 $1,410
3 $2,311 $1,778
4 $2,790 $2,146
5 $3,269 $2,515
6 $3,748 $2,883
7 $4,227 $3,251
8 $4,705 $3,620
Each additional member +$479 +$369

Food stamps income limits are higher in Alaska and Hawaii.

How Much Food Stamps Will I Recieve?

The dollar amount of benefits your household receives depends on the number of people in your household and your monthly net income.

It is based on a table determined by the USDA.

Below is the table showing how much food stamps you could receive if you are approved for benefits. The table is based on the number of people in a household.

Food Stamps Maximum Monthly Allotment Based on Household Size

People in Household Maximum Monthly Allotment
1 $194
2 $355
3 $509
4 $646
5 $768
6 $921
7 $1,018
8 $1,164
Each additional person +$146

Benefit amounts are different in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Food Stamps Recipients and Poverty

The food stamps program is heavily focused on the poor. About 92 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes at or below the poverty line.

In addition, 55 percent go to households at or below half of the poverty line (about $10,390 for a family of three in 2019).

Who Gets Food Stamps?

Nationally, most of the people who receive food stamps are white. According to 2013 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program:

  • 40.2 percent of SNAP recipients are white
  • 25.7 percent are black
  • 10.3 percent are Hispanic
  • 2.1 percent are Asian
  • 1.2 percent are Native American

Do people on Food Stamps Work?

According to 2013 data provided by the USDA, 31% of food stamps recipients had earned income. Here is the breakdown of countable income of food stamps recipients by type.

  • Earned Income – 31.2%
  • Social Security – 23.6%
  • SSI – 19.9%
  • Zero Gross Income – 21.5%
  • TANF – 6.5%
  • General Assistance – 3.1%

Composition of Food Stamps Households

Most food stamps households include Children, Elderly or Disabled People. Here is a 2013 breakdown:

  • Children – 44.8%
  • Disabled nonelderly individuals – 20.3%
  • Elderly Individuals – 17.4%

Out of the 36 million people receiving food stamps in 2019, only 2.9 million were able-bodied adults without depends (ABAWDs), that’s 8% of all food stamps recipients.

Food Stamps Facts Summary

We hope this post about Food Stamps facts was helpful to you. If you have questions about food stamps or EBT, please let us know in the comments section below.

Be sure to check out our food stamps questions and answers page, which answers the most frequently asked questions about food stamps and EBT. 

Kwame Kuadey

Kwame Kuadey writes about personal finance and the social safety net. His career started in banking but he caught the entrepreneurial bug and has spent the last decade building successful businesses, including an Inc. 500 Company. Kwame believes everyone has the power to improve their quality of life by seeking knowledge and taking action. In 2012, Kwame founded Empower Media to help low-income households improve their financial situation. His expertise is in topics relevant to low-income households, including government benefits and assistance, banking products, access to credit, plus tools & resources to help reduce income volatility and build wealth. Kwame has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc. Magazine, Washington Post, ABC, and NPR.



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