Tuesday, February 2, 2016

SNAP should focus on individual needs

A recent House Agriculture Committee hearing on SNAP focused on special populations like seniors, veterans, and military families. The elderly make up 9% of the SNAP population, veterans constitute 4%, and as many as 20,000 active military families also participate. Subcommittee Chairperson Jackie Walorski (R-IN) asserted that SNAP fails too many vulnerable Americans because it uses a one-size-fits-all approach that cannot possibly address this diverse population.

The SNAP benefit calculation assumes that all eligible households fit into the same box, with a few extra considerations for elderly and disabled people. But food costs might be higher for seniors than the typical family because of diet restrictions, and active military families face very different financial decisions around housing and other necessities than the typical household. Yet, for the purposes of calculating SNAP benefits, all households are assumed to spend about 30% of their income on food, even though food expenses vary greatly.

Source: American Enterprise Institute, 1/27/16, Individualize SNAP

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