Texans received $6 billion in food stamp benefits last year, 4 million on program

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More than 4 million Texans - the greatest number of any state in the country - spent $6 billion last year through the federal food stamp program.

In an average month in 2012, 46.6 million Americans used food stamps at a cost for the year of $74.6 billion, according to new data released Thursday on the statehealthfacts.org website.

The website is run by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a Menlo Park, Calif., nonprofit specializing in national and international health care policy.

Texas ranked second among the states in the amount spent on food stamp purchases, the abuse of which Texas Watchdog has helped uncover. California spent the most, $7.1 billion.

You can find the entire ranking of food stamp spending here.

California ranked just behind Texas in the number of people - 3.96 million people on average, who took advantage of the program last year. Florida served 3.4 million people; New York, 3.1 million; Georgia, 1.9 million; Illinois, 1.87 million; Michigan, 1.83 million; Ohio, 1.81 million; Pennsylvania, 1.8 million and North Carolina, 1.7 million.

You can find all the states’ monthly food stamp participation figures here.

And while Texas ranked first in the number of people enrolled, its average of one in six people enrolled in food stamps was comparable to all but California among the 10 biggest food stamp states.

California, with one in nine people enrolled, had a lower participation rate than all but two of the states with the lowest total enrollments. Vermont, Alaska, North Dakota and Wyoming had fewer than 100,000 food stamp recipients. At an average of 34,347 people, Wyoming had one person using food stamps for every 16 residents in the state. (Explore the map below in a larger view.)

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Texas was also among the top 10 states in the percentage of its population, 23 percent, below the federally set poverty level in 2011, according to new statehealthfacts.org data here.

The national average is 20 percent below an annual income of $11,170 for an individual and $23,050 for a household of four people. New Mexico and Louisiana had the highest levels of poverty, 27 percent; Mississippi and the District of Columbia, 25 percent; California, Hawaii and South Carolina at 24 percent; and Arizona, Georgia and Texas at 23 percent.

New Hampshire had the lowest rate of poverty in the country at 10 percent, followed by Minnesota at 13 percent and Connecticut, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming at 14 percent.

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Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog. Graphics by Lee Ann O'Neal.

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Image of a Lone Star Card via the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.