Does SNAP Cover the Cost of a Meal in Your County? by Urban Institute

Though the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps families purchase the food they need, the maximum benefit rarely covers the cost of a modestly priced meal. This map from the Urban Institute allows users to explore the gap between the maximum SNAP benefit and the cost of a modestly priced meal in their county. Because of unprecedented food inflation in 2022, the share of counties where SNAP benefits fell short was calculated to be 99 percent.The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) modifies SNAP benefits at the start of every fiscal year through a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in response to inflation’s impacts on food prices. But was the COLA for fiscal year 2023 enough to keep pace with the increasing cost of a meal in 2022? To answer this question, we use county-level food price data from NielsenIQ to compare the cost of a modestly priced meal with the maximum SNAP benefit (excluding emergency allotments offered during the
pandemic) before and after the USDA’s fiscal year 2023 COLA took effect in October 2022. We find that the implementation of the 2023 COLA (which will remain in place until September 30, 2023) had some small positive effects, most notably that the share of counties with a gap between SNAP benefits and meal costs decreased from 99 to 78 percent. This map tool, built in Svelte and D3, will continue to grow as food prices and SNAP benefits fluctuate in the coming years.