Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger relief organization commends the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) for their new report examining the adequacy of the SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) benefit. Meager SNAP benefit levels are insufficient to allow families to access an adequate, nutritious diet, and the report draws needed attention to the need to protect and strengthen SNAP benefits.
The report released today,"Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Examining the Evidence to Define Benefit Adequacy," assessed the feasibility of establishing an objective, evidence-based definition of the adequacy of SNAP allotments in meeting the program's goals of improving food security and access to a healthy diet among low income Americans.
The report identifies some limitations in the way the SNAP allotment is currently determined, and suggests areas for further study to enable the program to more adequately meet the nutritional needs of many SNAP recipients.
In examining current structural elements of the program, the report finds that the SNAP benefit formula should be adjusted to more accurately reflect household expenses, such as housing and medical costs. The research also suggests that the benefit allotment should take into consideration environmental factors, like time constraints, geographic food price variation, and access to affordable, nutritious food.
Many low-income families juggle multiple jobs, may not be able to afford child care, may rely on public transportation, and may have additional burdens on their time that make it more difficult to cook food from scratch, which is what the USDA's Thrifty Food Plan assumes in setting the allotment levels for SNAP.
"Feeding America knows that millions of Americans struggle to feed themselves and their families on current SNAP benefits. The average family of three receives about $290 a month in SNAP benefits, which averages less than $1.50 per person per meal," said Bob Aiken, president and CEO of Feeding America."Most SNAP benefits are redeemed by day 21 of any given month, leaving families scrambling to find enough food – and increasing the burdens on food pantries run by our nation's charities."
Feeding America's annual"Map the Meal Gap" research reinforces key findings of the IOM report, including stark variation in food prices across the country.
According to"Map the Meal Gap" 2012, a meal costs $2.52 on average but the analysis reveals average meal costs ranging from as little as $1.80 in Zavala, Texas to as much as $5.51 in Union, South Dakota. Among the counties with the top 10% highest food insecurity rates in the nation, food prices reach as high as 143% of the national average (or $3.60 per meal in Colusa, California). For a food insecure household struggling to afford housing, utilities and other necessities, the additional burden of expensive food can have a significant impact on a household's budget.
The report recommends that more research is needed to make modifications to the SNAP Program."Feeding America urges our nation's leaders to keep the SNAP program fully funded. With millions of Americas out of work, employed in part time or low wage jobs, and still suffering economic woes in this tough economy, this report underscores that our leaders should be talking about ways to strengthen SNAP, not cut its funding. We continue to urge Congress to not attempt to balance the budget on the backs of the nation's poorest and most vulnerable citizens and to protect and strengthen SNAP," said Aiken.
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