In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has provided billions of dollars in additional funding to prevent hunger and help ensure that children and families have access to healthy, affordable food. Part of the emergency funding is dedicated to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides short-term financial support to low-income individuals and families who struggle to afford food.
This brief describes the purpose of SNAP and who it serves, provides details about how the program works, presents research about its impact, and describes regulatory changes to the program recently proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The brief also recommends steps policymakers can take to strengthen SNAP during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
SNAP is the nation’s largest nutrition assistance program. In fiscal year (FY) 2020, the program served more than 39 million Americans. Nearly half (44 percent) of participants are children under age 18.
Hunger and food insecurity are serious public health threats that impact tens of millions of Americans and disproportionately affect low-income populations. The economic crisis tied to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacts these populations and puts millions more at risk for hunger, food insecurity, and poverty. This brief offers considerations for policymakers through the remainder of the pandemic and economic recession and beyond including: increasing benefits now and going forward to enhance anti-poverty and anti-hunger effects; continuing Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (Pandemic-EBT) through the summer and into the new school year as needed; streamlining eligibility and enrollment processes and focus enrollment efforts on communities with low participation; and, rolling back harmful regulations that limit participation in SNAP.
SNAP Supports Children and Families
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a critical lifeline for approximately 40 million low-income people across the United States.
Federal Policy Recommendations to Advance Health Equity from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
A series of policy briefs include evidence-based recommendations to help people through the immediate health and economic crises and longer-term recommendations to ensure a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.