December 23, 2020
During the holidays and all year long, millions of individuals and families who struggle against hunger are able to access healthy food with support from the federal nutrition programs. To celebrate the nation’s nutrition safety net, FRAC is releasing a seven-part “Remember This December” series that will highlight the impact of seven important federal nutrition programs. This year, the federal nutrition programs have played a critical role in ensuring people can continue to put food on the table during the twin COVID-19 public health and economic crises.
This is the seventh installment of the series, which focuses on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Read the previous installment on school breakfast.
SNAP is often referred to as the nation’s first line of defense against hunger, which is an apt description. The program provides participants with monthly benefits, which increase their ability to buy needed food.
During the COVID-19 crisis, SNAP responded quickly as more people qualified for the program. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), states, community groups and other stakeholders adapted SNAP operations and outreach to accommodate social distancing. SNAP EBT online grocery purchasing became available in more states. The Families First law enacted in March has allowed many SNAP households to get higher monthly allotments during COVID-19.
However, much more is needed to limit the depth and duration of food hardship and economic dislocation caused by COVID-19. Since the onset of COVID-19 in March, food insecurity has spiked, particularly among households headed by adults who are black or Latinx.
Separate data sets posted this December by Northwestern University economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and the Urban Institute corroborate that food insecurity rates have persisted at alarmingly high levels.
Economic indicators also are worrisome. The number of people unemployed in November was 10.7 million higher than in February. Moreover, more than one in three (36%) of those who were unemployed were out of work for 27 weeks or longer.
It is crucial
- for the President to sign into law the COVID-19 relief package that Congress passed this week that would increase SNAP benefits by 15%;
- for the next Congress and Administration to build upon that further; and
- for the federal government to make a permanent change to base SNAP benefits on the more adequate Low Cost Food Plan instead of the meager Thrifty Food Plan.
Below are a few key facts about SNAP:
- SNAP lifts individuals out of poverty: While millions of Americans continue to struggle against poverty, SNAP has proven to be an effective anti-hunger and anti-poverty program. In fact, SNAP lifted 2.5 million people out of poverty in 2019, according to the Census Bureau.
- SNAP has multiple strengths: In addition to helping reduce poverty and food insecurity, SNAP improves health and general well-being with long-lasting effects and generates economic stability. Each $1 in SNAP benefits during a downturn generates between $1.50 and $1.80 in economic activity.
- SNAP matters everywhere: Hunger does not discriminate when it comes to geography. Regardless of whether you live in a metro, small town, or rural area, SNAP is used to put food on tables in your community.
- SNAP matters to everyone: SNAP reaches key vulnerable populations — 81% of SNAP households include a child, an elderly person, or a person with disabilities; 86% of all SNAP benefits go to such households.
- SNAP is critical in times of trouble: When a natural disaster strikes, SNAP serves as an effective, responsive tool for delivering nutrition assistance to recovering communities. Also, as noted above, the program reacts quickly and robustly to periods of national or local economic distress.
Click to tweet: #RememberThisDecember that hunger is solvable with the federal nutrition programs, including SNAP! Learn more about the critical support SNAP provides w/ @fractweets latest blog: http://bit.ly/37ITms2 #SNAPMatters
Watch our video on the importance of the federal nutrition programs.