SNAP is a Key Element of the U.S. Safety Net

The U.S. House Committee on Agriculture recently released a report summarizing findings from a two-year series of hearings on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This essential nutrition program reaches over 44 million people in almost 22 million households each month. As highlighted by the committee, SNAP’s reach is wide and serves a range of family and household types—75 percent of SNAP households include a child, senior, or disabled individual. The report accurately describes the critical mission of SNAP to feed those who need it. SNAP also provides employment services to help recipients increase their earnings and reduce their need for assistance.  

SNAP is an effective and efficient program that raises families out of poverty and addresses food insecurity (defined as lacking consistent access to nutritious food due to a lack of money or other resources). The most recent U.S. Census Bureau’s poverty data found that SNAP raised 4.6 million individuals out of poverty in 2015, and a 2013 Food and Nutrition Service study found that participating in SNAP for 6 months resulted in a 5 to 10 percentage point decrease in food insecurity. Research has shown that higher SNAP benefits are associated with healthier eating by giving families and individuals the opportunity to purchase healthy food that they would not otherwise be able to afford. Improving food insecurity through SNAP would have significant positive effects on the health of all individuals, especially children. Research also shows the clear links between a lack of adequate food and low birth weights, anemia, mental health problems, and poor educational outcomes.

This culminating report summarizes a strong message about the importance of SNAP for millions of families, children, and individuals drawn from multiple witnesses over the series of hearings. We know that SNAP works. Policymakers and administrators have opportunities to strengthen this critical nutrition program over the coming years to ensure that we serve our seniors, children, veterans, adults with disabilities, and the working poor. As Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) stated in the opening hearing, “we can all agree that no one ought to go hungry in America, and SNAP is essential in protecting the most vulnerable citizens during tough times. For many it is a vital lifeline to keeping food on the table.”