The Food Access Environment and Food Purchase Behavior of SNAP Households

The Food Access Environment and Food Purchase Behavior of SNAP Households

Published: Mar 31, 2015
Publisher: Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, vol. 10, issue 1

Julie Worthington

This study describes the food access environment and food purchase behavior of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households using data from the SNAP Food Security Survey, the largest and most recent national survey of SNAP participants to date. To characterize households’ geographic access to food, street addresses of households and retailers were used to calculate the distances to stores and numbers of retailers in the area. Food purchase behavior was described by the type of store from which respondents purchased most of their groceries, the reasons why they preferred to shop there, typical mode of transportation, and typical travel time and distance to the store. The study found that at least half of SNAP participants have access to one or more supermarkets within close range of their household and do the majority of their food shopping at a supermarket (less than 1% purchase most of their groceries at a convenience store). SNAP households typically bypass nearby stores to use stores farther from home because they offer low prices or sales. With 1 in 7 Americans currently participating in SNAP, these findings can help policymakers understand the prevalence and extent of access limitations among SNAP households and how they acquire healthy food.

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