For lower-income populations, SNAP serves as both a food assistance program and a critical income support program that helps individuals and families meet their basic needs. These two pillars of SNAP provide a framework for understanding how food insecurity, poor health, and poverty reinforce each other and are inextricably linked. Under the current food system, nutrition cannot be improved without the financial, social, and environmental resources to do so. Meanwhile, food insecurity, poor health, nutrition and unemployment make it difficult for households to lift themselves out of poverty.
Research, policy, and advocacy efforts to improve SNAP must focus on preserving the SNAP program’s strengths. In spite of political opposition, efforts must be taken to protect SNAP against budget cuts and to prevent a decline in enrollment by eligible participants, since it is proven to be a critical safety net.
For any effort, policy makers and researchers who may not have the lived experience of food insecurity and poverty must work closely with SNAP recipients and those who are in the field, in order to understand the nuances of how policy affects people’s lives on a daily basis. It is our hope that these linkages will help SNAP affirm its status as the fundamental safety net in the United States while continuing to promote an equitable food system.