Nearly 45 million Americans in 21.1 million households — 83% of them below the poverty line — received food stamps in any given month, according to a November 2012 report by the Agriculture Department. The average monthly benefit per household was $284. This map, created by Calvin Metcalf, Kyle Box and Laura Evans from American Community Survey data, shades each county by the percentage of its population that relies on food stamps. (Check out nearly two dozen more of their ACS-based maps here.)

As Bruce Stokes, director of global economic attitudes at Pew Research’s Global Attitudes Project, noted recently, the United States stands out among advanced economies in how many people report having trouble feeding their families.

In the project’s most recent 39-country survey, nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) said they had trouble putting food on the table in the past 12 months. That was up from 16% in 2007, and a level of deprivation closer to that experienced by Indonesians or Brazilians than citizens of most other advanced nations.

As the Senate and House wrangle over a new farm bill, the food stamp program is likely to be cut — the only question is by how much. The recently passed Senate version of the massive bill would cut $4.1 billion from food stamps (formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) over 10 years, while a version pending in the House would cut the program by $20 billion over the same period.


Drew DeSilver  is a senior writer at Pew Research Center.