and most participants purchase food for home consumption with resources both from SNAP benefits and from other cash income (e.g., from employment and Social Security) (Fraker et al., 1995). In the hypothetical case that SNAP program rules were changed to prohibit the purchase of SSBs with SNAP benefits, theory predicts that participants would continue to purchase the same amount of SSBs as long as spending on these products was less than the amount of cash they typically spent on overall food purchases. Given that restricting the purchase of SSBs would be unlikely to change household purchases, proponents of the change argue that taxpayer dollars should not be used to purchase SSBs, while opponents argue that the administrative burden of restricting the purchase of SSBs would be too costly, and that such restrictions are paternalistic and could further stigmatize SNAP recipients (Brownell et al., 2009; Shenkin and Jacobson, 2010).

There are some important exceptions to this prediction about purchasing behavior. If a participant typically spent more on SSBs than the amount of cash typically used to supplement the household’s food purchases, theory predicts that the household would reduce purchases of SSBs in response to such a restriction. Furthermore, items purchased with SNAP benefits are not subject to sales tax. SSBs are subject to sales tax in 33 states (mean tax rate = 5.2 percent) (Brownell et al., 2009). As a result, restricting SSB purchases with SNAP benefits would in some states increase the price for SSBs faced by SNAP households by making them liable for sales and excise taxes (McGranahan and Schanzenbach, 2011). Although there is little evidence on what effect this price increase would have on the consumption behavior of SNAP participants, Fletcher and colleagues (2010) found that current state soda taxes reduce adolescents’ consumption modestly. Several other studies have demonstrated that a 10 percent increase in the price of SSBs could reduce consumption by 8 to 11 percent on average (Andreyeva et al., 2011; Bahl et al., 2003; Bergtold et al., 2004; Yen et al., 2004).

An extensive discussion of the literature related to SSB consumption and obesity risk is beyond the scope of this report. Of particular relevance to this report, however, are studies that specifically examine whether the purchase of SSBs is associated with poor diet quality; nonetheless, the committee was unable to identify research on this topic (IOM, 2012).

Hot Prepared Foods

Historically, SNAP has restricted the purchase of hot prepared foods in eligible food outlets because the program was designed to supplement purchases of food for home preparation and consumption. Challenges entailed in preparing food at home, however, have led some areas to start their own restaurant programs with FNS approval, such as Rhode Island’s Food Access Prepared Meals Pilot Program (RIDHS, 2012) and California’s

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement