Senior Research Analyst
One reason why the emerging research, which we summarized in our new paper, increasingly links SNAP (food stamps) with improved health outcomes is that SNAP reduces “food insecurity” — i.e., insufficient access to enough food to live a healthy life over the course of a year.
Food insecurity is one of many social and economic factors that recent research has linked with poorer health and higher health care costs. The stress that food-insecure families face because they can’t consistently put healthy food on the table, along with the health effects of unpredictable or intermittent meals, may contribute to a higher risk of chronic conditions and other adverse health outcomes.
It’s often hard to establish whether food insecurity causes poor health, poor health causes food insecurity, or both are caused by other factors. But regardless, research establishes a strong relationship between food insecurity and health:
While evaluating SNAP’s impact on food insecurity is challenging, in part because households that apply for SNAP tend to be more food insecure, rigorous research that controls for these differences finds that SNAP reduces food insecurity for participants. Because SNAP reduces food insecurity and associated stress and frees up income for households to buy healthier food and spend more on health, SNAP may be a path toward better health, as our paper shows.