Food Stamps: Analysis Shows SNAP Benefits Didn’t Cover a ‘modestly Priced Meal’ in 98% of Counties by 2023

A new report from the Urban Institute shows that by 2023, the benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program were not great enough for 98% of counties to afford a “modestly priced meal.”

The report includes key findings that the average meal costs 19% more than the average maximum SNAP benefit of $2.84. In the five counties with the largest gaps between SNAP benefits and meal costs, the gap was more than 70% all year; meal costs average 28% higher than SNAP benefits in urban areas.

The decline in the value of SNAP benefits coincides with persistently high food inflation in the United States. Food prices rose by 5.8% in 2023. This is down from 9.9% in 2022, but more than double the average annual food inflation of 2.5%.

In 2024, the percentage of U.S. residents who cited inflation as their biggest financial problem reached an all-time high.

The Urban Institute’s report comes as the House of Representatives negotiates the farm bill, which could change the way SNAP benefits are evaluated.


The Thrifty Food Plan is the formula that determines SNAP benefits. The House Republican Party is pushing to make the TFP update process “cost neutral” again, making inflation the main factor driving the increase in SNAP benefits. SNAP benefits have historically been determined on a cost-neutral basis.

The Food Stamp Act is a federal welfare program created in 1964 to provide food security to low-income residents. It provides food stamps to more than 41 million people every month.