Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participation is associated with an increase in household food security in a national evaluation

J Nutr. 2015 Feb;145(2):344-51. doi: 10.3945/jn.114.198697. Epub 2014 Dec 10.


Background: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition assistance benefits to low-income families in an effort to reduce hunger and improve health and well-being. Because 1 in 7 Americans participate in the program each month, policymakers need to know whether the program is meeting these objectives effectively.

Objective: The objective of this study was to estimate the association between SNAP participation and household food security using recent data from the largest national survey of the food security of SNAP participants to date.

Methods: The analysis used a survey of nearly 6500 households and a quasi-experimental research design that consisted of 2 sets of comparisons. Using a cross-sectional sample, we compared information collected from SNAP households within days of program entry with information collected from a contemporaneous sample of SNAP households that had participated for ∼6 mo. Next, using a longitudinal sample, we compared baseline information collected from new-entrant SNAP households with information from those same households 6 mo later. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to estimate associations between SNAP and household food security.

Results: SNAP participation decreased the percentage of SNAP households that were food insecure in both samples by 6-17%. SNAP participation also decreased the percentage of households experiencing severe food insecurity--designated very low food security--by 12-19%. Findings were qualitatively robust to different empirical specifications.

Conclusion: SNAP serves a vital role in improving the health and well-being of households by increasing food security. Given recent legislation to reduce program size and limit program eligibility, this study underscores SNAP's continued importance in affecting households' well-being. Future research is needed to determine whether specific groups of households experience differential improvements in food security.

Keywords: SNAP; food stamps; household food security; nutrition assistance; program participation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Food Assistance / economics*
  • Food Supply / economics*
  • Humans
  • Hunger
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Nutritional Status
  • Poverty
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • United States
  • Young Adult