off the charts
POLICY INSIGHT
BEYOND THE NUMBERS

The Facts on SNAP — Again

Dottie Rosenbaum

Senior Fellow and Interim Program Area Lead for Food Assistance

Newt Gingrich’s ongoing criticism of the rise in food stamp enrollment under President Obama has brought more public attention to the program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  As we noted last week, we have updated two key papers that provide background information on SNAP:
  • Policy Basics:  Introduction to SNAP.  In 2011, SNAP helped almost 45 million low-income Americans to afford a nutritionally adequate diet in a typical month.  Nearly 75 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children; more than one-quarter are in households with seniors or people with disabilities.  While SNAP’s fundamental purpose is to help low-income families, the elderly, and people with disabilities afford an adequate diet and avoid hardship, it promotes other goals as well, such as reducing poverty, supporting and encouraging work, protecting the overall economy from risk, and promoting healthy eating.
  • SNAP Is Effective and Efficient.  SNAP caseloads have risen significantly since late 2007, as the recession and lagging recovery battered the economic circumstances of millions of Americans and dramatically increased the number of low-income households who qualify and apply for help from the program.  Yet, despite the rapid caseload growth, SNAP payment accuracy has continued to improve, reaching all-time highs (see graph).  Moreover, the Congressional Budget Office predicts that SNAP spending will fall as a share of the economy in coming years as the economy recovers and temporary benefit expansions that Congress enacted in 2009 expire.
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Note: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a non-partisan organization and takes no position on political candidates.