New data show SNAP gap in South Carolina is shrinking, but still not enough for everybody
Last fall, the maximum amount that could be allotted through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased by 31 cents – from $2.42 per meal to $2.73.
New data from Urban Institute tracks how that allotment compares to the cost of preparing an average meal in every U.S. county.
Nationally, the cost of the average meal, as calculated by Urban Institute, is $3.14.
In 11 South Carolina counties, the cost of an average meal is above $3. In two counties, the cost of an average meal exceeds the national average – Charleston ($3.47) and Beaufort ($3.37). Greenville County meets the national average exactly.
The good news is that in 17 South Carolina counties, this situation is reversed – the maximum allotment to SNAP recipients now exceeds the cost of the average meal. Meanwhile, in Colleton and Hampton counties, the maximum allotment matches the cost of an average meal exactly.
Urban Institute takes this much as a win for SNAP-reliant households. With the USDA’s cost-of-living adjustment increasing the maximum allotment as of October 2022, the percentage of counties where the max could not cover the cost of an average meal has since shrunk from 99 percent to 78.
In South Carolina, from January to September, 2022, every county’s average meal cost was more than the maximum allotment at the time. That percentage here has shrunk to 59.
The less-good news, of course, is that significantly more than half the country – and SNAP recipients in 41 percent of South Carolina counties – still can’t fully pay for meals with SNAP benefits.
According to SNAP numbers reported by the state Department of Social Services, June closed with 311,114 households in South Carolina claiming $115.8 million in SNAP benefits; the state’s monthly average of SNAP recipients through June was 304,517 households claiming $1.7 billion. That’s slightly down from June, 2022, totals and less than pandemic-era numbers, when additional federal assistance for families struggling with food insecurity went into effect.