Is the “Food Stamp” Program “thrifty food plan” workable for poor families?

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Examining the Evidence to Define Benefit Adequacy

Report from, Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT), Food and Nutrition Board (FNB), & Institute of Medicine (IOM)

Selected Conclusions

The SNAP allotment, which is based on the thrifty food plan (TFP), assumes the purchase of many basic, inexpensive, unprocessed foods and ingredients requiring substantial investment of participants’ time to produce nutritious meals. The evidence shows that the time requirements implicitly assumed by the TFP are inconsistent with the time available for most households at all income levels, particularly those with a single working head.

The food prices faced by SNAP participants vary substantially across geographic regions of the country and between rural and urban areas. However, SNAP benefits are adjusted only for Alaska and Hawaii. SNAP participants in locales with higher food prices are likely to find it more difficult than those in areas with lower prices to purchase the types and amounts of foods specified in the TFP as adequate to meet their needs for a nutritious diet.

There is evidence that low-income households face higher transaction costs in achieving food security and access to a healthy diet relative to higher-income households. For example, low-income and minority populations are more likely than other groups to experience limited access to supermarkets and other large retail out- lets, such as big-box stores, that offer a broad range of nutritious foods at reasonable cost.


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