SNAP Provides a Lifeline for Millions Each Year

By Nune Phillips

In 2016, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) lifted 3.6 million people out of poverty, according to newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This is one of many measures of SNAPs effectiveness as an anti-poverty program. The program fed over 42 million people in FY 2017.

SNAP provides a monthly allotment, $124 per person on average, for households to purchase food for themselves and their families. While SNAP is one of our most efficient and effective tools for combating poverty and hunger in the U.S., there is room to grow and strengthen the program. Over 44 million people still lived in poverty in 2016, according to the “supplemental poverty measure,” which takes into account taxes, transfers, and work and medical expenses. Moreover, 15.6 million households were food insecure, meaning that they had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources.

In recent years, states have made progress streamlining administration of public programs, including SNAP, to remove barriers for eligible individuals and families. At the national level, we have many opportunities to strengthen and expand this critical part of the safety net.

The Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2017, introduced by Representative Alma Adams (D-NC), would strengthen SNAP in several ways. The bill would standardize and simplify the calculation of medical deductions and shelter expenses, provide exemptions from the 3-month time limit for workers who were not offered an opportunity to participate in the state’s Employment & Training program, and update the method used to calculate the amount of benefits to take into account the time pressures on low-income families.

SNAP is a lifeline for millions of individuals and families in America. Today’s Census data proves that SNAP effectively lifts people out of poverty. However, we still have work to do, as highlighted by the millions of households who struggle to put food on the table. By investing in SNAP and strengthening the program, we can lift many more out of poverty and ensure nobody goes hungry in the America.