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Latest USDA Study Shows State Participation Rates for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Vary Widely


WASHINGTON, USDA today issued a study which shows how successful each State is in reaching families eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and that state-by-state participation rates in SNAP varied widely. According to Reaching Those in Need: State Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation Rates in 2007, the latest annually released report, 66 percent of eligible persons received SNAP benefits. Among states, SNAP participation rates varied widely from an estimated low of 47 percent to a high of 100 percent.

“These figures underscore the importance of continuing USDA’s efforts, in partnership with the States that operate the program directly, to ensure that potential clients are aware of the benefits of SNAP and can access those benefits easily,” said Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon. “We will continue to work across the country to encourage the most effective outreach and customer service strategies so that eligible families in every State can make use of the program to improve their diets and promote good health.”

Concannon emphasized the importance of ensuring that eligible low-income families understand that SNAP offers an option to supplement their food budgets, and that the program operates in every State to serve them effectively. Nationally, SNAP served 36.5 million in August 2009, up from 29.4 million the previous year.

“Programs like SNAP are essential to good nutrition and well-being, especially in tough economic times, and participation not only helps these households with food at home, but also provides their children, through direct certification, with access to nutritious meals at school,” said Concannon.

USDA recently released a report that shows schools have increased their use of direct certification. In SY 2008-2009, 78 percent of all local educational agencies (LEAs) directly certified some SNAP participants. These LEAs enroll 96 percent of all students in schools that participate in the NSLP. This is an increase from SY 2004-2005, when 56 percent of LEAs, enrolling 79 percent of all students in NSLP schools, directly certified SNAP-participant students.

SNAP participation rates for all eligible people and the working poor suggest that some States have fairly consistently been in the top of the distribution of rates in recent years. In all 3 years from 2005 to 2007, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Oregon, Tennessee, and West Virginia had significantly higher participation rates for all eligible people than two-thirds of the States.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly the Food Stamp Program—is a central component of American policy to alleviate hunger and poverty. The program’s main purpose is “to permit low-income households to obtain a more nutritious increasing their purchasing power” (Food and Nutrition Act of 2008). SNAP is the largest of the domestic food and nutrition assistance programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service serving 36.5 million Americans in August 2009, half of whom are children. For more information on SNAP, please visit


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