Food Security and Access to a
Healthy Diet in Low-Income Populations

To set the stage for its examination of evidence to support the feasibility of defining the adequacy of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) allotments, the committee first reviewed evidence on relationships between participation in SNAP and the potential for participants to reach the goals of improved food security and access to a healthy diet. This evidence on program outcomes underpins the committee’s examination of individual, household, environmental, and program-related factors that serve as components of a science-driven definition of the adequacy of SNAP allotments. The chapter first examines trends in food production, availability, and consumption at the population level. Although food availability data do not account for spoilage and other losses and do not provide a direct measure of consumption, they do serve as an indicator of food consumption trends over time. Next, the chapter examines food purchasing patterns and dietary intake among low-income households and SNAP participants. The chapter then describes evidence on access to a healthy diet and food insecurity among low-income SNAP-eligible as well as SNAP-participating households, including evidence on the impact of SNAP benefits. Next is a discussion of the data and analytical challenges faced in assessing the adequacy of SNAP allotments. The final section presents a summary of findings and conclusions.


Changes in food production over the course of the last century have led to an increase in total calories available per capita, as well as a change in

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