The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest public food assistance program for low-income individuals and families in the United States. SNAP benefits, which average $126 per person per month, can be redeemed at any SNAP-authorized food vendor nationwide. In January 2018, new vendor eligibility standards for SNAP were fully implemented to increase availability of healthy staple and perishable foods. In order to examine changes in SNAP vendor participation and availability of fresh fruits and vegetables (FFV) both short-term (2015 through 2018) and long term (2003 through 2018) in an urban, low-income community, Drs. Akiko Hosler and Xiao Cong analyzed the longitudinal food store assessment data Dr. Hosler has been collecting since 2003 in Albany, New York.
In long-term trends, the researchers found significant increases in SNAP participation among farmers markets and nonprofit organizations. The proportion of SNAP vendors stocking only one type of FFV also significantly increased, which was likely related to a consumer trend of favoring bananas as a grab-and-go snack. In short-term trends, there was a decline of SNAP participation among convenience stores, which primarily came from increased program withdrawals, but it did not substantially alter FFV availability.
Based on the findings, the new SNAP vendor eligibility standards decreased participation of small food stores but minimally affected the FFV availability. Policy efforts and secular consumer trends appear to be responsible for long-term improvements in vendor participation and FFV availability. In-depth results of Dr. Hosler’s study can be found in Preventing Chronic Disease.Tags: Friday Letter Submission, Publish on November 22