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Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

The Business Case for Increasing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the cornerstone of the Nation’s nutrition safety net and an investment in our future. SNAP provides nutrition benefits to low income participating clients, supports work, and delivers economic benefits to communities.

Despite the obvious nutrition benefits of SNAP, in fiscal year (FY) 2009 28 percent of low income people who would qualify for SNAP do not participate. This means that about 12 million low income people in FY 2009 were losing out on SNAP benefits. But it also means that communities do not benefit economically from their participation. SNAP is the only public benefit program which also serves as an economic stimulus, creating an economic boost that ripples throughout the economy when new SNAP benefits are redeemed. By generating business at local grocery stores, new SNAP benefits trigger labor and production demand, ultimately increasing household income and triggering additional spending.

At the request of States, FNS developed the materials below which detail why increasing participation of eligible people in SNAP makes sense for States and communities from an economic development perspective and for low-income people from a nutrition perspective.

As part of this effort, FNS conducted an analysis to examine the economic impact, by State and for the Nation, of a five percentage point increase in the participation rate. The national participation rate for fiscal year 2009 was 72 percent. If the national participation rate rose just five percentage points, 2.2 million more low-income people would have an additional $859 million in benefits per year to use to purchase healthy food and $1.5 billion total in new economic activity would be generated nationwide. This analysis demonstrates that even a small increase in participation among those eligible for SNAP benefits can have a substantial economic impact for States and communities.

These materials are updated annually:

Last modified: 04/11/2012