A recent administrative decision boosted SNAP payments by 25%. Regrettably, this unprecedented boost does not address the underlying issues plaguing this almost 60-year-old
Official SNAP website boldly declares, “SNAP offers nutrition benefits to augment food budgets of poor families so they may purchase healthful food…”
To that purpose, the previous food stamp program gave $79 billion to 40 million individuals last year. However, data shows that nutritious food is not what impoverished households think they need. Whether they follow the regulations or not, SNAP recipients presently spend 70-100 percent of their benefits on non-nutritious items.
Researchers found that average SNAP beneficiaries only spend 30% more on food than their payments. In other words, a person who previously spent $300 on food per month and qualifies for $100 in food stamps will now spend $330 on food and divert $70 from other expenses. Given that beneficiaries are supposed to increase their food budget by the entire amount of the benefits, this low proportion indicates that food is not a high priority.
What about the hope that poor families will buy food?
According to a major retailer’s survey, beneficiaries spend almost 20% of their overall shopping expenditure on junk food, with soft drinks topping the list at 20 two-liters every month. Because SNAP is only used for food, it essentially extends the shopping budget to afford junk food. SNAP households also spend 27% less on fruits and vegetables than non-SNAP families. This disparity is not due to lack of availability, as roughly 85% of SNAP purchases are done at major chain grocery shops with the abundant produce. Smaller shopping budgets and the higher cost of fresh fruit are probable factors in these selections.
The “house money” impact of SNAP may be contributing to poor nutrition. Wins are handled more carelessly by gamblers because they consider “house money” more disposable than their own. Similarly, persons who get SNAP benefits are sometimes less cautious than those who earn their own money.
I recently met a lady who told me how she helped her flatmate register for SNAP and then helped her spend all of their new “fun money” on bags full of candy, drinks, and snack cakes.
Also, while SNAP is typically praised for its low fraud rate of roughly 1%, this only counts identified fraud. Experts working with SNAP participants say a higher rate makes sense.
I recently met with a young man who received SNAP benefits and provided the card to his non-eligible mother. “Everyone I know does it,” he defended. If SNAP investigators are like IRS investigators, they don’t catch all fraud. The IRS believes they catch 6% of all tax evasion ($60 billion out of $1 trillion). If SNAP has the same detection rate, that would be a 15% fraud rate.
Aside from eligibility fraud, SNAP cards or goods are frequently resold. The typical fee for this sort of fraud is 50 cents on the dollar, according to reports from Massachusetts, Michigan, and Georgia. Because SNAP payments cost taxpayers twice as much as many beneficiaries, this rate is lowered.
Good intentions to feed hungry families do not work, and policy must be adjusted accordingly.
We should not assess policies and programs by their objectives rather than their outcomes, as noted by Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman.
The limited impact of SNAP on shopping expenditures and the drastically reduced resale value show that the nutritional benefit of SNAP is minimal. Their acts show that their genuine requirements are more complicated than one-size-fits-all solutions can handle. In-kind assistance programs like SNAP not only ignore the roots of poverty but also often fail to provide necessities to those in need.