The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Current and Proposed Restricted Food Expenditures.Am J Prev Med. 2018 09; 55(3):e70-e77.AJ
Between 2000 and 2017, a total of 23 states proposed legislation to further restrict Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) purchases. In the absence of a pilot program, the potential effect of such restrictions is unclear. The objective of this study is to provide insight on the proposed restrictions' effectiveness by characterizing SNAP households' expenditures on current and proposed restricted foods, and comparing them with their cash expenditures. Restrictions on sugar-sweetened beverages, snack foods, and foods ineligible under the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) are considered.
The National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (collected 2012-2013) provided weekly food expenditures for 1,234 SNAP households. Descriptive statistics and t-tests (completed in 2017) were used to characterize and compare households' cash and restricted food expenditures.
On average, SNAP households' allocated 7%, 6%, 17%, and 66% of their food expenditures to currently restricted foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, snack foods, and WIC-ineligible foods. Given a sugar-sweetened beverage or snack food restriction, the average SNAP household can cover their restricted expenditures with cash. However, the average household's expenditures on current restricted and WIC-ineligible foods exceed their cash expenditures by a mean of $40.84 (SE=$2.44). Note that results characterize the impact of proposed SNAP restrictions on the average SNAP household. Individually, it is likely that some SNAP households would be affected by a sugar-sweetened beverage or snack food restriction.
Legislation restricting specific foods will likely be less effective at altering SNAP households' food expenditures than legislation seeking to restrict all WIC-ineligible foods.