The Washington Post

Half the households in this N.Y. congressional district rely on food stamps

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.)

There are 239,061 households in the 15 square miles that make up Rep. Jose Serrano’s (D-N.Y.) congressional district. Nearly half, 119,298, participated in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program last year. Forty-one percent of Serrano’s constituents live below the poverty line, according to estimates compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Serrano’s is one of 63 congressional districts around the country in which more than one in five households received food stamps over the last year. The vast majority of those districts are in densely-populated urban areas; 54 of the 63 districts where SNAP participation is above 20 percent of households are represented by Democrats in Congress.

Districts in which more than 20 percent of households participated in SNAP:

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Thirty-eight percent of Puerto Rico residents participated in SNAP over the last 12 months. Almost 36 percent of Rep. John Conyers’s (D-Mich.) constituents received food stamps last year, as did almost 35 percent of Rep. Charlie Rangel’s (D-N.Y.) Harlem-based district.

Ten Texas districts, mostly centered around Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, make the list. More than one-fifth of all households in seven districts in Florida and six districts in New York City also made the list.

Despite high rates of poverty back home, party loyalty drove much of the vote on a measure the House of Representatives passed last week that would cut $4 billion a year from the federal SNAP program. Among the nine Republicans who represent high-use  SNAP districts, only one — Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) — voted against the cuts.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, voted for the bill; 29 percent of households in Rogers’ district received SNAP benefits at some point during the last year. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, two Republicans who hold seats in South Florida, represent districts in which more than a quarter of households received food stamps; both voted for the bill. So did Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. About 21 percent of households in his rural Oregon district participated in the SNAP program last year.

The new Census Bureau numbers show more than a quarter of the households in 22 Congressional districts live below the poverty level. Not all of them are in densely-populated urban cores: 28 percent of residents in Rogers’ rural Kentucky district are below the poverty line, and Reps. Terri Sewall (D-Ala.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) represent rural districts with urban cores where more than 27 percent of residents live below the poverty line.

The three districts with the smallest number of SNAP recipients were all in wealthy California districts. Just 1.7 percent of households in Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D) Hollywood-based district participated in the program, while only 2.1 percent of Rep. Scott Peters’ (D) constituents and 2.3 percent of Rep. John Campbell’s constituents took SNAP benefits. Peters represents downtown San Diego north into wealthy La Jolla, while Campbell’s district includes Orange County.

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.



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