The most recent consumer price index shows that certain foods are among the items with the highest increase in cost, after gasoline, oil and cars. This includes some meats and fruits, the prices of which have risen by double-digit percentages year over year. These food price surges have put pressure on American household budgets, undermining them enough that parts of the population in the middle and lower classes struggle to buy them.
According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a nonprofit think tank, a family of four can expect to pay an estimated $9,835 on food in 2022. This amount varies across the country. Depending on the state, food costs for a family of four range from less than $9,000 a year to well over $11,000. Most states with the highest food costs are in the Northeast, while the states with the lowest food cost estimates are concentrated in the Midwest. This variation in cost is partially a reflection of what residents can afford, as states with higher food costs also often have higher than average family incomes, and vice-versa.
Using data from the EPI’s Family Budget Calculator, 24/7 Wall St. identified the state where families pay the most for food. States were evaluated based on estimated food expenditure in 2022, assuming a nutritionally adequate diet for two adults and two children, where almost all food is bought at a grocery store and prepared at home.
It is important to note that food costs do not vary as much from state to state as income does. So, families in states with relatively high food prices are not necessarily more likely to receive government assistance to afford groceries in the form of SNAP benefits or food stamps. Additionally, families in states with high food costs are typically less likely to experience food insecurity (defined as not always being able to afford or otherwise access well-balanced meals), suggesting that higher incomes offset high food costs.
The state where families spend the most on food is Hawaii. Here are the details:
- Estimated annual food costs: $14,042
- Median family income: $97,813 (fifth highest)
- Food stamp recipiency rate: 11.8% (24th lowest)
- Food insecurity rate: 6.9% (20th highest)
In its Family Budget Calculator, the EPI estimates the annual food budget necessary for families to maintain a modest yet adequate diet. The budgets are created for 10 family types for U.S. counties and metro areas. A family of four is defined by the EPI as a married couple living with their two children, and the two children are assumed to be a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old. Food cost estimates assume that almost all food is purchased at a grocery store and prepared at home.
State-level food cost estimates are aggregated from the county level using five-year estimates of total households from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey (ACS).
States are evaluated based on the EPI’s annual food cost estimates. Data on the food insecurity rate (or the share of the population that lacks adequate access to food) is from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program’s 2021 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report.
Additional information on median family income and the share of households that receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) are from the 2020 ACS. Because the Census Bureau did not release one-year estimates for 2020 due to data collection issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, all ACS data are five-year estimates.
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