New poll shows US public supports continued investment in Federal Nutrition Assistance Program

December 5, 2012

A new poll from researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) shows that the U.S. public broadly supports increasing or maintaining spending on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. The majority of Americans, including a majority of SNAP participants, also supported policies to improve the nutritional impact of SNAP by incentivizing the purchase of healthy foods and restricting the purchase of sugary drinks.

Congress is expected to debate changes, including potential cuts, to SNAP and other components of federal in the coming months as part of the stalled 2012 Farm Bill. More than one in seven Americans receives benefits from the SNAP program each month.

"This study provides decision-makers with a clear statement of public support for continued federal investment in preventing hunger and severe poverty through the SNAP program," said lead author Michael Long, a doctoral candidate at HSPH. "As Congress debates a new Farm Bill, these results show that SNAP participants and the broader public support innovative changes to the program that address the present and the growing epidemic of diabetes and other diet-related diseases burdening so many of our nation's families."

The poll analysis appears on December 5, 2012 in an advance online edition of Public Health Nutrition.

U.S. adults reported widespread support (77%) across all political parties and for increased or maintained federal spending on SNAP. Americans also supported a range of intended to help SNAP participants improve their diets, including:

  • Providing additional money to SNAP participants than can only be used to purchase fruits, vegetables, or other (82%).
  • Educating SNAP participants by providing nutrition or cooking classes (74%).
  • Removing sugary drinks from the list of approved SNAP products (69%).
  • Providing SNAP participants with more food stamp dollars to guarantee that they can afford a healthy diet (65%).
Concerns about stigmatizing SNAP participants have been raised as a barrier to removing sugary drinks from the program's list of permissible purchases. This is the first nationally representative poll to assess SNAP participants' support for the policy. The researchers found that a majority of SNAP participants (54%) who responded to this survey supported removing sugary drinks from SNAP benefits. Of the 46% of SNAP participants who when initially asked did not support removing sugary drinks, almost half (45%) subsequently supported removing when asked if they would support the policy if it also included additional benefits to purchase healthful foods.

The study's data were gathered from a nationally-representative random-digit-dialed landline telephone survey conducted by Harris Interactive between April 12 and April 22, 2012. The survey garnered responses from 3,024 adults, 418 of whom reported that their household had received SNAP benefits in the previous 12 months.

"The breadth of support for continued or increased funding for SNAP is gratifying; Americans really do want to extend a helping hand to those who are having difficulty putting food on their table," said Walter Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at HSPH and the paper's senior author. "However, the findings also clearly show that Americans want to do this in a way that supports, not undermines, the health of SNAP recipients, many of whom are children. The SNAP program clearly needs a tune-up to be sure that limited government resources are spent wisely."

Explore further: Federal food program pays $2 billion annually for sugar-sweetened beverages

More information: "Public Support for Policies to Improve the Nutritional Impact of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)," Michael W. Long, Cindy W. Leung, Lilian W.Y. Cheung, Susan J. Blumenthal, Walter C. Willett, Public Health Nutrition, online December 5, 2012

Related Stories

Federal food program pays $2 billion annually for sugar-sweetened beverages

September 17, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—The federal government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) pays at least $2 billion annually for sugar-sweetened beverages purchased in grocery stores alone, according to a study by the Yale ...

Food stamp customers buy more at farmers' markets when point-of-sale system is available

March 15, 2012
Record numbers of Americans are receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, as food stamps are now known, and many SNAP participants live in neighborhoods with little or no access to healthy food. ...

BMC pediatricians find increase in SNAP benefits associated with healthier children

October 12, 2011
Pediatric researchers from Boston Medical Center (BMC), in partnership with Children's HealthWatch investigators in Boston, Minneapolis, Little Rock, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, have found that higher benefit amounts in ...

Stronger social safety net leads to decrease in stress, childhood obesity

July 21, 2011
Social safety net programs that reduce psychosocial stressors for low-income families also ultimately lead to a reduction in childhood obesity, according to research by a University of Illinois economist who studies the efficacy ...

Recommended for you

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Study finds 275,000 calls to poison control centers for dietary supplement exposures from 2000 through 2012

July 24, 2017
U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures, according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, ...

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

App lets patients work alone or with others to prevent, monitor, and reverse chronic disease

July 24, 2017
Lack of patient adherence to treatment plans is a lingering, costly problem in the United States. But MIT Media Lab spinout Twine Health is proving that regular interventions from a patient's community of supporters can greatly ...

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.