SNAP Food Security

Prepared for
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), provides nutrition assistance benefits to low-income individuals and families in an effort to reduce hunger and improve the health and well-being of low-income people nationwide. SNAP targets benefits to the neediest households; poorer households receive greater SNAP benefits than households with more income.To counter rising food prices and provide SNAP participants with enough resources to purchase food, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), enacted in February 2009, raised the maximum SNAP benefit by 13.6 percent, effective April 2009.

SNAP has long been one of the largest and most important nutrition assistance programs for low-income households. After the Great Recession, its significance has grown even larger with SNAP participation reaching record-high levels.

Policymakers, advocates, and those administering SNAP have long hypothesized that SNAP reduces food insecurity, which is a measure of whether a household experiences food access limitations due to lack of money or other resources.

Estimating the effect of SNAP on food insecurity using household survey data has been challenging, however, because households that participate in SNAP can differ in systematic ways from households that do not.    

Mathematica conducted the SNAP Food Security (SNAPFS) survey for FNS between October 2011 and September 2012, to assess the effect of SNAP participation on food security and food spending in the post-ARRA environment of higher SNAP allotments.

Read the case study.

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