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You Spoke, We Listened: The Challenges of Purchasing Healthy Food with SNAP Benefits

Posted by Rich Lucas, Deputy Administrator for Office of Policy Support, Food and Nutrition Service in Equity Food and Nutrition
Aug 09, 2021

As directed by Congress in 2018, USDA is re-evaluating the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP)—the estimated cost of an affordable, nutritious diet. The TFP is used to calculate SNAP benefit levels. To complement the re-evaluation efforts and gather insights from those who will be impacted by the result, USDA recently hosted five listening sessions with SNAP participants, researchers, advocates, and others. Here’s some of what we heard:

Families are struggling to get enough food with current SNAP benefit levels: Dr. Valerie Smith, a Tyler, Texas pediatrician, said she sees “too many families and children of all ages who consistently don't have enough food to make it through the month [to] decrease food insecurity and set children up with healthy eating habits for the rest of their lives.”

Limited resources push families to make less healthful choices: “It is hard to choose between having enough to eat and trying to get healthier,” said one SNAP participant, describing the difficult choice to limit fresh food purchases in favor of packaged products that were sometimes less healthful but more affordable.

Additional SNAP benefits can promote nutrition security—and make better futures possible: A member of the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists explained that increasing SNAP benefits would not only help families afford nutritious food, but also with “advancing overall health outcomes, lowering healthcare costs, and improving the economy.”

USDA appreciates those who shared their time and their experiences with us, as we work to make SNAP as effective as possible.

Read more of the feedback received from the listening sessions:

Category/Topic: Equity Food and Nutrition