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States where food stamps are used the most

  • #40. New Jersey

    - Percent of households receiving food stamps: 10.6%
    - Total households receiving food stamps: 344,237
    - Average benefit per household: $226.84 (#33 highest among all states)
    - Poverty rate: 9.5% (#46 highest among all states)

    New Jersey is densely populated, despite being one of the country's smallest states. New Jersey also has one of the highest costs of living in the nation—median gross rent in New Jersey is $1,295. These factors can contribute to the number of households receiving food stamps.

  • #39. Virginia

    - Percent of households receiving food stamps: 10.7%
    - Total households receiving food stamps: 341,208
    - Average benefit per household: $241.35 (#22 highest among all states)
    - Poverty rate: 10.7% (#39 highest among all states)

    Virginia's median household income is well above the national average, but the gap between rich and poor in the state keeps growing. The U.S. Census Bureau uses the Gini index to measure inequality in income, and Virginia's Gini index rose from 2017 to 2018. Last year, Virginia received a $3.8 million penalty for mistakes in processing food stamp applications.

  • #38. South Dakota

    - Percent of households receiving food stamps: 10.8%
    - Total households receiving food stamps: 37,323
    - Average benefit per household: $264.93 (#6 highest among all states)
    - Poverty rate: 13.1% (#20 highest among all states)

    Poverty rates in South Dakota are slowly decreasing and remain below the national average. However, recent census data shows American Indian residents have a high poverty rate, almost double the next highest race/ethnic group. Proposed federal food stamp changes may particularly affect residents living on reservations.

  • #37. Iowa

    - Percent of households receiving food stamps: 11.8%
    - Total households receiving food stamps: 149,444
    - Average benefit per household: $230.93 (#30 highest among all states)
    - Poverty rate: 11.2% (#33 highest among all states)

    The Iowa caucuses put a spotlight on issues like poverty in the Hawkeye State. For example, Latinx residents have a poverty rate that's almost double the state average. However, some Iowa constituents are at odds with how the state should disperse aid to lessen such gaps—the state Farmers Union supports federal suggestions for new food stamp rules.

  • #36. Montana

    - Percent of households receiving food stamps: 12.2%
    - Total households receiving food stamps: 52,460
    - Average benefit per household: $230.60 (#31 highest among all states)
    - Poverty rate: 13% (#22 highest among all states)

    Some Montana residents advocate for BackPack meals, volunteer assistance that provides schoolchildren with lunches—the argument being that food stamps do not cover enough nutrition for the month. With Montana food stamps costing the federal government about $12 million a month, residents are divided on whether new guidelines to the program would help or hurt the state.

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  • #35. Missouri

    - Percent of households receiving food stamps: 13.1%
    - Total households receiving food stamps: 318,316
    - Average benefit per household: $260.13 (#8 highest among all states)
    - Poverty rate: 13.2% (#19 highest among all states)

    Missouri's poverty rate continually stays above the national average. The group Missourians to End Poverty identifies nutrition and health as two of five key factors affecting poverty in the state. Missouri already restricts temporary food stamps.

  • #34. Kentucky

    - Percent of households receiving food stamps: 13.1%
    - Total households receiving food stamps: 227,556
    - Average benefit per household: $253.26 (#13 highest among all states)
    - Poverty rate: 16.9% (#6 highest among all states)

    Kentucky has recently been one of the poorest states in the U.S. Only seven states have a higher food insecurity rate than Kentucky's (14.7%). To combat these issues, Kentucky created a special task force to examine food stamps in the state.

  • #33. Wisconsin

    - Percent of households receiving food stamps: 13.1%
    - Total households receiving food stamps: 311,625
    - Average benefit per household: $205.75 (#44 highest among all states)
    - Poverty rate: 11% (#35 highest among all states)

    Wisconsin's poverty rate is falling, particularly among children. However, Wisconsin's poverty rate for seniors is rising. Also of concern, the University of Wisconsin's Institute for Research on Poverty claims the effect food stamps have in lowering poverty rates are declining.

  • #32. Arkansas

    - Percent of households receiving food stamps: 13.7%
    - Total households receiving food stamps: 158,103
    - Average benefit per household: $242.48 (#21 highest among all states)
    - Poverty rate: 17.2% (#5 highest among all states)

    Reports find that Arkansas is one of the worst states for food insecurity, with problems concentrated in the central and southern sectors of the state. Residents facing hunger needed an average of $43 more per month to buy enough food to meet their needs, even with the Arkansas Foodbank giving out about 26.5 million pounds of food annually, according to 2017 figures.

  • #31. South Carolina

    - Percent of households receiving food stamps: 14.1%
    - Total households receiving food stamps: 272,457
    - Average benefit per household: $256.46 (#11 highest among all states)
    - Poverty rate: 15.3% (#10 highest among all states)

    South Carolina ranks in the middle of the pack nationally for food insecurity (11.7%). There has been some criticism that poverty in South Carolina is particularly hard on millennials. The median household income is $51,015.

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