•   have access to affordable nutritious foods;

•   have the time and knowledge to cook most of their meals from scratch; and

•   have nutrient requirements consistent with Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) levels.

Other SNAP Program Characteristics

Aside from the SNAP benefit formula, other characteristics of the program may affect households’ food purchasing and consumption behavior. There are program components that affect or at least have the ability to affect each aspect of the conceptual framework that ultimately influences achievement of the program goals, as described below.

Nutrition education Although most individual and household factors that affect purchasing and consumption patterns are independent of participation in SNAP, the program’s nutrition education program (SNAP-Ed) has the potential to influence some of these factors and thereby have an impact on the purchasing power of SNAP allotments. For example, although SNAP-Ed has a limited reach, nutrition education may influence the dietary knowledge and attitudes of household members, food preparation techniques, budgeting, and planning. Ultimately, it could indirectly affect participants’ tastes and preferences for foods (see Chapter 4 for further discussion).

Allowed retail outlets As noted earlier, the SNAP program sets requirements for retail outlets to qualify to accept SNAP benefits: they must sell food for home preparation, and they must offer a specified variety of food items, or at least 50 percent of their total sales volume must be in staple foods. The SNAP program also does not allow the use of benefits for hot prepared meals in approved outlets or, with the exception of the elderly and disabled, in community feeding centers. The specification of approved outlets may affect the range of access to healthy foods (see Chapter 5 for further discussion).

Restrictions and incentives As with access to retail food outlets, policies regarding restrictions on foods that can be purchased with SNAP benefits often involve a trade-off between competing goals of trying to boost participants’ access to all foods and trying to encourage participants to obtain healthy foods. To circumvent this trade-off, options such as providing incentives (e.g., a rebate for each targeted item that is purchased) have been considered to guide participants toward purchasing healthier foods with their benefits (see Chapter 5 for further discussion).

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