Date of Award

8-9-2016

Degree Type

Capstone Project

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Douglas Roblin

Second Advisor

Stacie Kershner

Abstract

The Food Stamp Program (FSP) is a federal food assistance program for income-eligible individuals and households aimed at preventing hunger and improving nutrition (SNAP, 2016). Although immense growth in the program over the years has served millions of people, a growing body of research has found that program participants consume more calories, less fresh fruits and vegetables, and purchase more sugar-sweetened beverages than their non-participant counterparts (Leung, Blumenthal, Hoffnagle, Jensen, Foerster, Nestle, & Willett, 2013; Nguyen, Shuval, Njike, & Katz, 2014; Bleich, Vine, & Wolfson, 2013).

Additionally, other studies have found that SNAP participants consume more high-fat dairy and processed meats and fewer nuts, seeds, and legumes than comparable non-participants (Bleich, Vine, & Wolfson, 2013). In the aggregate, the research suggests a correlation between program participation and long term diminished nutrition. In additional to nutritional deficiencies, concerns about increased program spending, welfare dependence, and fraud and abuse have also surfaced over the years (Schanzenbach, 2013).

In response to growing concern and criticism, Congress passed the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008, which among other things, changed the name of the Food Stamps Program to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), thereby promoting diet quality (nutrition) rather than simply promoting food (Leung, Ding, Catalano, et. al., 2012). The new law acknowledged fundamental deficiencies in SNAP and brought them to the forefront of a political agenda, paving the way for more substantive future changes.

Studying SNAP’s nutritional impact and amending ineffective policies is critical because of the program’s sheer size and impact (Leung, Cluggish, Villamor, Catalano, et. al., 2014). Today, SNAP is the largest federal nutrition-assistance program in the country, with 44.6 million Americans currently enrolled (Leung, et al., 2014). This paper analyzes aspects of SNAP’s nutritional delinquencies and seeks to develop recommendations for healthy legislative reforms.

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