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Are SNAP benefits adequate? A geographical and food expenditure decomposition

George C. Davis, Wen You and Yanliang Yang

Food Policy, 2020, vol. 95, issue C

Abstract: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides resources to supplement household food expenditures in order to achieve a nutritious diet. Determining the amount of support required - or extent of food expenditure poverty -- entails comparing available resources for food to a nutrition-determined threshold. Clearly the value of the threshold will affect the degree of food expenditure poverty. If the threshold value is inaccurate, the calculated degree of poverty will be inaccurate. USDA uses a threshold for setting SNAP benefits that does not vary geographically or temporally, so consequently (food expenditure) poverty may be understated or overstated in different regions and time periods. This article compares food expenditure poverty estimates for SNAP participants when geographical differences in the threshold are ignored versus not ignored. In addition, the article decomposes household food expenditures into Food-Away-From-Home (FAFH), Food-at-Home (FAH), personal funded FAH, and SNAP funded FAH in order to assess the degree to which each of these contribute to reducing food expenditure poverty. The general findings are that all food expenditure poverty measures are worse when geographical differences are taken into account. In addition, the analysis shows that FAH expenditures, and in particular SNAP FAH expenditures, contribute the most to reducing food expenditure poverty in SNAP households. The policy implications are that food expenditure poverty is currently underestimated in the US by ignoring geographical differences in thresholds, but the food expenditure poverty would be even worse without SNAP benefits. Geographical adjustments to the national threshold could help reduce food expenditure poverty across regions.

Keywords: FoodAPS; Food Expenditure Poverty; SNAP Benefits (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.foodpol.2020.101917

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