The largest nutrition assistance program – the “first line defense” against hunger - is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP aims to diminish food insecurity among low-income families, reducing the extent of hunger in the United States. As an entitlement program, any household with a gross income at or below 130% of the poverty level is eligible for SNAP benefits. After applying participants receive monthly benefits with which to purchase food- about $1.50 per meal. A record number of people – 46.2 million Americans – enrolled in SNAP in August 2012. With more and more families needing food assistance, now is the time to evaluate SNAP’s response to food insecurity.
In many ways, SNAP is very effective in assisting food-insecure families. Of the existing nutrition assistance programs, SNAP has been the most effective during periods of economic downturn and increased need. SNAP also effectively aids those with the greatest need, with over 90% of benefits going directly to people with incomes below the poverty line. Additionally, the USDA has found that SNAP is an effective form of stimulus during downturns – every five dollars of federal SNAP spending generates twice the economic activity.
NETWORK commends the work SNAP does to help those in greatest need and lessen the severity of poverty. However, about 1 in 4 of those eligible for SNAP is not receiving benefits. Continued support of SNAP is essential in order to protect the millions of food insecure Americans.