Food Stamps


There are roughly one in seven Americans on food stamps, but that number is going down. However, that 14% average isn’t the same in every state, with some states going well into the 20s and others falling below the national average. Let’s take a look at how the numbers break down across the nation.


Here are five states where food stamps is far above the national average, each topping 20%. It’s a troubling sign for sure, and points to an imbalance where not enough people have access to the resources that can help them live independently and contribute to the economy.


  • 1. Oregon: Just over one in five Oregonians is on food stamps (21.1%), for a total of 814,318 people. The state briefly dipped in food stamps usage around 1999, but has been steadily climbing ever since. Its most dramatic increase was from 2010 to 2012, with the line taking more of a spike than a gentle upwards slope.
  • 2. New Mexico: Between 20.5% to 21% of the state’s citizens are on food stamps, or a grand total of 443,784. This state’s reliance on food stamps has been generally increasing, although the line looks more like a kid’s rollercoaster than one straight line up. After an up-down-up curve from 1990 to 1997, there was a small, sharp decrease in 1998. But since then, New Mexico’s been gradually climbing up, sharing a similar 2008 to 2011 spike as Oregon.
  • 3. Louisiana: Almost one million Louisianans (917,053) are on food stamps, or 20% of the state’s population. Their upward growth resembles a bad EKG scree, showing small spikes on a regular basis with two huge ones in 2006 and 2009.
  • 4. Mississippi: There seemed to be good news in this southern state from 1990 to 2005, as food stamps usage went primarily down, with the exception of a gentle rise from 2000 to 2005 (although 2005 was still lower than 1990). But once Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Mississippi took a gigantic spike upwards that year and has been climbing ever since. It now sits at 22%, or 667,267.
  • 5. Tennessee: The lowest food stamps usage has been was in 2000, when around 8% of the state’s population were recipients. While it’s avoided any big, one-time increases and drops in numbers, usage has been going up since 2000 except for a gentle lull in 2008. Right now, 21% of Tennesseans are on food stamps, or 1,350,184 people.



Something’s going really well in each of these four states, with the total food stamps usage in the single figures. Some of the reasons have to do with the local economy, some have to do with their being relatively more self-sustainable than other states, and some have to do with low populations.


  • 1. Utah: There are only 244,726 people on food stamps here, or 9% of the state’s population. It hasn’t strayed over the double-digit line at all, and has only climbed to its high of 9% because of the recession in 2008.
  • 2. Wyoming: This really low-density state — and also low-populated — has only 37,965 people on food stamps for a total of 7%. Wyoming is one of the rare states that’s rich in resources and can manage fairly well on its own with too much help from the federal government, which is a big reason for staying in the single digits when it comes to food stamps.
  • 3. North Dakota: This border state has a meager 8% of its population on food stamps, which comes out to a scant 55,721. They also weathered the recession really well, rising to a high of about 9% and being one of the few states to actually lower its numbers in the last few years.
  • 4. New Hampshire: New England boasts fairly low numbers when it comes to food stamps usage, but none can beat this tiny coastal state where only 9% of its population (116,098) are on food stamps. From 1998 to 2004, they just about eradicated food stamps entirely, but have crept up steadily since then with the biggest increase coming between 2008 to 2010.


Dishonourable Mentions

The following five states have seen their food stamps usage double since 2008:


  • Nevada
  • Utah
  • Idaho
  • Florida
  • Rhode Island



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