According to the latest monthly figures (from March 2021), on average more than 42.4 million Americans — or approximately 1 in 8 Americans — participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This increased participation reflects the public health and economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. By comparison, in the pre-pandemic month of February 2020, SNAP participants numbered just under 36.9 million. 

Now a new report from the National Grocers Association (NGA) underscores the important economic impact that SNAP has made during COVID-19 at national, state, and congressional district levels.

According to NGA, in 2020, SNAP

  • was responsible for nearly 200,000 U.S. grocery industry jobs, with wages totaling more than $6.7 billion; 
  • led to nearly 45,000 more jobs in agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, municipal services, and other industries; and
  • generated more than $1 billion in federal tax receipts and $975 million in state and local tax receipts. 

As NGA President Greg Ferrara explained, “This study is further proof that independent community grocers are crucial to feeding the nation’s pocketbooks as well as its bellies.”

The public-private partnership that underpins SNAP promotes efficient and dignified food access. Using the regular rails of commerce — food retail outlets and Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) processing — SNAP customers use their SNAP benefits to purchase food in ways similar to those of other grocery customers. SNAP EBT customers are empowered to make the food choices that best meet their family’s circumstances. 

If there is a shortcoming in SNAP, it’s that SNAP benefit amounts fall far short of what families need for nutrition. The temporary SNAP boosts that the federal government has put in place during COVID-19 have been crucial in mitigating food hardship as well as in generating the economic activity that the NGA report identifies. Unfortunately, those temporary benefit boosts are due to sunset well before sufficient economic recovery has taken hold. FRAC urges policymakers to avert looming “hunger cliffs” by continuing SNAP benefits boosts for the duration of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 and beyond.