Protecting and Strengthening SNAP is an Essential Response

Statement attributed to Jim Weill, president, Food Research & Action Center

WASHINGTON, September 12, 2018 — Nearly 40 million people in the United States live in poverty, according to today’s annual release of income, poverty, and health insurance data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The data reveal a small and not statistically significant decline in the poverty rate, from 12.7 percent in 2016 to 12.3 percent in 2017.

Another key indicator of poverty is the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which extends the official poverty measure in a number of respects, including taking into account many of the federal programs designed to assist low-income families and individuals, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the first line of defense against hunger in this country. The SPM rate was 13.9 percent in 2017, statistically the same as the 2016 rate of 14 percent.

The SPM data show that in 2017, SNAP lifted 3.4 million people out of poverty, school lunches lifted 1.2 million out of poverty, and WIC lifted 279,000 people out of poverty. These numbers likely understate the positive impacts of the program. Researchers have found that some respondents are reluctant to tell surveyors that they are receiving SNAP or other program benefits. Adjusting the data to reflect the estimated actual receipt of SNAP, in particular, substantially increases its anti-poverty effects. If not for these programs, poverty rates would be far worse.

Federal and state governments need to be doing more to reduce poverty and hunger, not taking steps to undercut effective programs. One important step that Congress can take now is to pass a Farm Bill that protects and strengthens SNAP. This means rejecting the proposed cuts to SNAP in the House bill that would increase poverty and hunger for children, seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, working families, and others across the country.


The Food Research & Action Center is the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. Read FRAC’s A Plan of Action to End Hunger in America.