A recent administrative action has permanently increased benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by 25 percent. Unfortunately, this historic boost fails to address the structural problems that plague this nearly 60-year-old program.
The official Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) webpage proudly proclaims that, “SNAP provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families so they can purchase healthy food…”
To that admirable end, the program formerly known as food stamps distributed $79 billion to 40 million people last year. Yet this desire to provide wholesome food to needy families conflicts with clear evidence that wholesome food is not what they think they need. Whether they play by the rules or not, people receiving SNAP benefits currently spend between 70-100 percent of that benefit on things other than healthy food.
The expansion of several government programs last year likely prevented hunger from rising despite the sudden economic downturn caused by the pandemic, a study showed.
The percentage of U.S. households that reported food insecurity was virtually unchanged in 2020 compared to the year prior despite the recession, according to a report from the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service released Wednesday. More than 20.5 million Americans lost their jobs in April 2020 as state and local officials implemented strict restrictions on business activity to curb the spread of coronavirus, Labor Department data showed.
“This is huge news — it shows you how much of a buffer we had from an expanded safety net,” Urban Institute researcher Elaine Waxman told The New York Times. “There was no scenario in March of 2020 where I thought food insecurity would stay flat for the year. The fact that it did is extraordinary.”