—assess how effectively these educational programs align with the needs of SNAP participants and the program’s potential to enhance the purchasing power of SNAP allotments.
• To evaluate the impact of access to retail outlets on the opportunity for SNAP participants to be food secure and to make nutritious food choices, USDA-FNS should conduct periodic regional cross-sectional surveys to gather information on the cost and availability of foods that are consistent with the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The committee’s recommendations pertain only to the evidence needed to objectively define the adequacy of SNAP allotments and the data and analyses needed to support an evidence-based assessment of adequacy. Two factors emerged, however, that the committee wishes to acknowledge as issues that may have a secondary impact on defining allotment adequacy. Current levels of evidence are insufficient to support any recommendation for defining, measuring, or monitoring allotment adequacy based on these factors. However, these research questions were compelling enough to warrant their consideration as areas for other research that could contribute to a fuller understanding of the range of factors that influence allotment adequacy. These factors are (1) the influence of incentivizing purchases of healthier foods on access to a healthy diet and (2) documentation and assessment of the relative cost impact of ready-to-eat prepared foods on the total cost of a market basket of healthy foods.
First, the committee encourages USDA’s continued support for rigorous independent investigations evaluating the role of both incentive and restriction approaches to encouraging healthy food purchases in supporting the program goals. The potential for such approaches to influence program participation and attendant food security and to encourage SNAP participants to purchase and consume foods that would contribute to a healthy diet has not been established. Independent research is needed to assess the effects, both direct and indirect, including ethical, financial, and other considerations, associated with implementing such a policy. Second, the committee encourages research efforts by USDA-FNS to determine pricing variation among ready-to-eat prepared, partially prepared, and unprepared foods and assess the impact of this variation on the ability of SNAP participants to maximize their benefits to achieve the program goals.