Effectiveness of SNAP Questioned in New Report

A National Academy of Sciences report questions if the food stamp program – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – adequately provides for healthy diets for the millions who rely on it. According to the report – the program doesn’t account for the barriers to finding affordable, nutritious food by inner-city shoppers. The panel of independent scientists also said the benefits lag behind the increasing cost of food. In fact – the report says there is a 16-month lag between the assessment of food costs and the adjustment of benefit amounts to accommodate fluctuations. According to the report – the lag can significantly reduce the purchasing power of SNAP allotments because of the impact of inflation and other factors on food prices. The report also suggests the program penalizes beneficiaries with jobs – questioning the formulas used to determine how much each family receives. USDA assumes families spend 30-percent of their incomes on food – but the report says most can only afford to spend 13-percent given rising costs for housing and healthcare. As a result – when incomes rise – the report found the government reduces benefits too sharply.

USDA sought the National Academy of Sciences report. According to a statement – the department will thoroughly review the analysis and recommendations in the report and use them to help set the agenda for future program research.

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