SNAP benefits (or food stamps) are set at the national level without regard to local food prices. SNAP Benefit Adequacy researchers seek to assess how much this matters for recipient health.
The maximum SNAP benefit for a given household size is fixed across the country with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii. However, there is significant variation in the price of food across the contiguous 48 states, and evidence shows that higher food prices lead to higher food insecurity. The goal of SNAP Benefit Adequacy researchers is to assess how much the variation in food prices matters for (1) adequacy of benefits to purchase food and (2) health outcomes.
We are using the USDA’s new FoodAPS dataset to compare SNAP recipients to food prices in their area and to determine what fraction of SNAP recipients actually receive enough benefits to purchase the intended amount of food (the Thrifty Food Plan). We are also using restricted-access geocoded data from the NHIS, combined with the USDA’s Quarterly Food at Home Price Database (QFAHPD), to estimate the effect of SNAP on health outcomes and food security using regional food price variation (and thus variation in the real value of SNAP benefits geographically and over time) as well as other local economic conditions, such as unemployment.