President Biden’s plan to push Congress to increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by 15 percent is a step in the right direction but will not be enough to cover the cost of a nutritious diet for many American families, says Virginia Tech expert George Davis.

“It’s certainly a move in the right direction,” said Davis. “But based on a good bit of research, it’s probably not going to be enough to meet SNAP’s stated goal of providing a nutritious diet for many families. The president’s announcement is significant because he has indicated that there may be more coming, and they are going to be looking more carefully at how the benefits are calculated. There’s certainly some justification for that, at least from an economic standpoint.”

Davis, who specializes in food and health economics and has examined the federal program’s benefits for over a decade, says the current model used to determine SNAP benefits has multiple shortcomings that need to be addressed. He suggests first using a well-known variation of this model that would provide higher SNAP benefits to help food-insecure families now.

“There’s two approaches to fix the problem – one is to go back and look at how the model is done – how the cost of a nutritious diet is calculated – and make corrections to the modeling,” said Davis. “That’s a much longer-term solution, which certainly needs to be done. The more immediate solution, however, is just to use variations of the existing model that already exists. Using those variations, families wouldn’t have to wait until the new modeling is complete to get a larger benefit that better reflects their needs in consuming a nutritious diet.”

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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