Most of the 40 million and over Americans who receive SNAP benefits see their food assistance increase this month.
While most of these people live in cities, new research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests SNAP spending has a bigger impact on rural America.
The recent boost to SNAP increased the average recipient’s benefit by 27% from pre-pandemic levels – the largest increase since the program’s inception. When low-income people receive SNAP benefits, it can change the way they spend their money.
“Definitely have a little more money for housing. Child care is a huge problem, ”said Cami Wells of the Nebraska SNAP-Ed program. She works in the center of the state, helping people register for help.
“You know, I can think of an example of a family we work with… having this SNAP just allowed them to really improve their rural diets for themselves and their children, and freed up money for others. things, “Wells said. .
Things like a more reliable car, which she says really opened doors for this family, “because the transportation is so huge. We do not have public transport.
In rural Nebraska, SNAP helps more than people who receive benefits, Wells added. The program can help keep a small town grocery store afloat and free up families’ budgets to spend more on other local businesses.
“In relative terms, SNAP has a greater impact on the rural economy than on the urban economy,” said USDA economist Katherine Ralston, who is co-author of new research on the impact of benefits of SNAP in the six years following the Great Recession.
She said this is because the food and agriculture sectors play a bigger role in rural economies.
“This is where food comes from, rural areas, so when urban households use their SNAP benefits, it supports jobs and outputs in agriculture and food processing sectors in the rural economy. “said Ralston.
Jonathan Hladik, of the Nonpartisan Center for Rural Affairs, said he hoped this new research would help build support for social safety net programs, like SNAP, in rural parts of the country.
“You know, there’s still such a stigma associated with spending on food, even if it’s not from lawmakers, it’s definitely from voters. So when people realize the effect it has on their community, I think it’s really valuable, ”he said.