The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) asked the committee to consider in its review of evidence questions related to the two primary dimensions of its task. These included individual and household factors such as knowledge about diet and food preparation; food preferences and cultural influences on food choices; and environmental factors such as variation in food prices by locale and geographical access to food outlets. Evidence related to the sponsor’s questions is discussed in the report as noted below each question.
Questions related to the feasibility of defining Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) adequacy include
• What are collateral costs associated with food acquisition and preparation that need to be considered?
—Collateral costs associated with food acquisition and preparation such as time, knowledge and skills, availability of food preparation and storage equipment, access to transportation, and access to food outlets are discussed in the section “Household and Individual Factors” in Chapter 4.
• Are there economies of scale that adjust SNAP allotments for households of various sizes and incomes? What are they?
—Chapter 4 discusses taste preferences, personal and social factors, and acculturation in the section “Food Choice.”
• How does variation in cost of food by location or local economy (regional vs. urban vs. suburban) need to be addressed?
—The section “Geographic and Regional Variations in Food Prices” in Chapter 4 describes variations in food prices across geographic regions of the United States. Tables 4-1, 4-2, and 4-3 display data on the variation in market prices among certain food groups and across market groups. Recommendation 1 in Chapter 6 addresses geographic price variability as a factor to consider in defining the adequacy of the SNAP allotment.
• Do variation in economic fluctuation and price change over the course of a federal fiscal year need to be factored into a definition? If so, how?
—Variations in food prices over time due to changes in the availability of supply of raw commodities, changes in farm level production costs, changes in food processing costs, and seasonal variation are described in the section “Variation in Food Prices Over Time Due to Inflationary Factors” in Chapter 4. Chapter 2 describes the lag time from the calculation of the Thrifty Food Plan cost and adjustments to the maximum SNAP benefit to account for inflation. Recommendation 2 in Chapter 6 addresses economic fluctuation over the federal fiscal year as a factor to consider in defining the adequacy of the SNAP allotment.
• What demographic, compositional, and other household variations need to be considered?
—The section “Household and Individual Factors” in Chapter 4 includes a discussion of household variations that need to be considered, such as family structure, acculturation, and employment status. Recommendation 1 in Chapter 6 identifies specific household variations that should be considered in defining the adequacy of the SNAP allotment.
Questions related to determining the data and analyses needed to support an evidence-based assessment of SNAP adequacy were
• Are the data available to establish an operational definition? Are there limitations? If data are not available, how can they be obtained?
—Discussions of data needs and limitations are located in Chapter 3 in the section “Data and Analytical Challenges to Assessing
SNAP Allotment Adequacy” and in Chapter 4 in the section “Data and Analytical Challenges.”
• What kinds of analyses are necessary to create and validate an operational definition?
—The section “Other Research Considerations” in Chapter 6 addresses the data and analyses needed to support an evidence-based assessment of adequacy.
• What methodological strategy is needed to compare the adequacy of current and alternative SNAP benefit definitions?
—Chapter 5 addresses the methodological strategy to compare the adequacy of current and alternative SNAP benefit definitions, particularly the sections under “Evidence on the Components of the SNAP Benefit Formula.” Recommendation 2 in Chapter 6 addresses specific program factors to consider as components of a definition of SNAP allotment adequacy.