In summary, the committee concluded that, using current evidence, it is feasible to define an adequate SNAP allotment as the extent to which participants have the opportunity to attain the program goals of improving food security and access to a healthy diet. Within these boundaries, certain factors need to be examined as elements of a definition of adequacy. Evidence reviewed by the committee indicates that a number of individual, household, and environmental factors can have an impact on the purchasing power of SNAP allotments, although more evidence is needed to fully understand the magnitude of the impact of these factors in influencing the adequacy of the current allotments. Further, evidence reviewed by the committee indicates that several features of the way SNAP allotments are calculated, such as how food prices and spending patterns are accounted for, must also be considered in defining adequacy. The committee notes that while defining the adequacy of SNAP allotments is feasible, implementing such a definition in practice would require the routine availability of data on all the elements of the definition.
The committee offers its recommendations in three areas. First, it recommends elements that should be included by USDA-FNS in an evidence-based, objective definition and measurement of the adequacy of SNAP allotments. Second, it recommends monitoring and assessment of the adequacy of SNAP allotments that is needed for evaluation and adjustment over time. Third, it recommends additional research and data needed to support an evidence-based definition of allotment adequacy. The subsequent section describes other research considerations for furthering the understanding of adequacy. Specific data and analytical challenges to the primary research effort are summarized in Chapters 3 and 4.
Defining and Measuring the Adequacy of SNAP Allotments
To define the adequacy of SNAP allotments objectively using currently available evidence requires consideration of a range of factors identified by the committee as likely to have an impact on the allotments’ purchasing power. As a first step, the committee established a framework for considering factors that can have an impact on defining allotment adequacy. With this in mind, the committee offers the following recommendations.
Recommendation 1: In defining allotment adequacy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) should include