SNAP benefits fall short in fully addressing nutritional needs of many Americans, because they significantly underestimate the cost of food, according to a Virginia Tech expert who specializes in food and health economics.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) forms a critical foundation for health and well-being, improving nutrition and food security for millions of Americans.  Still, roughly half of all households receiving SNAP benefits are food insecure, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Virginia Tech’s George Davis says “the estimates used for the SNAP assume there is no labor cost in food production. Labor costs are included in everything we buy.  In the present case, the labor cost would include going to the grocery store, meal planning and meal preparation.  Thus, ignoring labor costs leads to an underestimate of the full cost of a healthy diet.”

According to Davis, the study does a good job of summarizing why SNAP benefits are now considered inadequate for the objective of the program by many policy analysts for numerous reasons.  More fundamental is that the approach for setting SNAP benefits is about a half a century old and many of its underlying assumptions are outdated and do not reflect the current food or poverty environment in the United States.

Quoting Davis

·         “SNAP is long overdue for a complete overhaul to more accurately reflect today’s society and the needs of those in poverty.” 

·         “SNAP benefits for an average recipient is about $120 per month or about $4.00 per day.”

·         “Most Americans cannot grasp the severity of the budget crunch an impoverished person faces and the associated tradeoffs.   It is extremely difficult for someone who is not in poverty to understand the daily challenges and tradeoffs those in poverty face.”

Background

Davis is a professor of agricultural and applied economics in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. His research into the SNAP program examines the true costs associated with consuming a nutritious diet. Along with other colleagues, he has provided analysis for the Food Nutrition Service of the United States Department of Agriculture and have received national recognition among food and health economists for their research.

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To secure a live or recorded interview with George Davis, contact Bill Foy by email, or by phone at 540-998-0288.

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