programs. The committee’s literature search strategy is described in Appendix D.


Consumers choose foods for consumption within the context of their own and their household’s preferences and available resources. According to basic economic theory, households purchase foods and other market goods to maximize utility, or well-being, based on their preferences and subject to the constraint that the cost of those goods is less than or equal to the sum of all sources of income. However, households are subject not only to an income constraint but also a time constraint. Thus, according to household production theory, households combine time and market goods to produce commodities for consumption in the household (Becker, 1965). In the context of food choices, food consumption requires not only money expenditures for purchasing food but also time expenditures for purchasing, preparing, and consuming food and for cleaning up after preparation and consumption. Therefore, the full price of consumption is the sum of the direct and indirect prices for food, where the direct price is the purchase cost, and the indirect price is the value of the time requirements (Becker, 1965). The Becker model and its extensions help identify the types of individual and household factors that may be relevant in defining the adequacy of SNAP allotments. Furthermore, in the context of SNAP, the allotment is another source of “income” to the household that can be used to purchase food and may free up resources for the purchase of other types of market goods.

A complication of household production theory as it applies to the production of commodities that require both market goods and time is that a household’s “technology” determines behavior in addition to its preferences (Pollak, 2011). A household’s technology could relate to human capital (e.g., food preparation knowledge) or physical capital (e.g., kitchen equipment). Furthermore, it could relate to the form of the production function transforming ingredients into foods for consumption, such as whether there are economies of scale in food production. Economies of scale relate to the fact that as household size increases, the incremental money and time expenditures for each individual are reduced because meals are prepared jointly, so the resources for acquiring, preparing, and serving are spread over more individuals. These economies of scale factor into the allocation of SNAP benefits based on household size.

Recent research has investigated the trade-off between money expenditure and time expenditure in food production. These studies have found that low-income individuals and households, like those at higher income

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