One in Five Louisianans Receive Food Stamps

Posted by: Steve Spires

An article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week highlighted the importance of SNAP (which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) to Louisiana families. The article noted that, in August, nearly 20 percent of the state’s population—more than 900,000 people—received food stamps benefits under SNAP. Nationwide, the number was 15 percent of the population.

Food stamps are an important support for families with children, providing benefits that ensure kids receive nutritious meals at home. Sixty percent of households receiving food stamps have children under 18,[i] and studies have consistently found that kids who are well-fed perform better in school than hungry children. Besides children, SNAP benefits many low-income elderly Louisianans and people with disabilities.

The structure of SNAP also encourages work. The vast majority of SNAP households are working families. Three out of every four SNAP households had at least one wage earner during the preceding 12 months, but median income for a family receiving food stamps is much lower than the statewide median.1 Food stamps, while modest, help these families get by.

Additionally, SNAP provides assistance to families who have fallen on hard times due to unemployment. The number of families receiving SNAP has increased because of the nationwide recession. Over the last three years, as Louisiana’s unemployment rate nearly doubled, the number of SNAP recipients increased by more than 200,000.[ii]

As an added virtue, at the same time that it supports Louisiana’s children and families, SNAP costs the state of Louisiana very little. While SNAP is administered by the state, the cost of benefits is fully funded by the federal government, making the program a significant source of federal aid for Louisiana.

While some in Congress remain fixated on slashing the federal budget, Louisiana’s representatives should keep these numbers in mind. Cuts to SNAP benefits would have real, adverse consequences for thousands of working families in Louisiana for whom food stamps are a valuable support.

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