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Investing in SNAP Integrity: Examining the Adequacy of SNAP Benefits

As the Federal agency responsible for carrying out the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s mission, we are constantly taking actions to improve program integrity. In 2012, we enacted tougher financial sanctions to punish those who abuse the program; sent letters to the CEOs of Ebay, Facebook, Twitter and Craigslist to engage their help in preventing the sale or purchase of SNAP benefits online; and began requiring increased documentation for high-risk stores applying to redeem SNAP benefits. Last year, the program reached a record level of payment accuracy, and fraud has been reduced to the lowest rate in the history of the program. In 2013, we expect to do even more to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used wisely.

But spending taxpayer dollars with integrity also means ensuring that the benefits provided through SNAP are actually able to do what they’re intended to do—provide healthy food to families. While the program has a strong track record of success, its size and reach underscore the importance of periodic review to ensure that the resources it provides accurately reflect the real-world circumstances in which SNAP households find themselves today; circumstances that directly affect their ability to make healthy food choices within a limited budget.

To that end, we commissioned the Institute of Medicine’s recent report to explore SNAP benefit adequacy. The panel identified a range of factors that affect food security and access to a healthy diet and recommended several possible actions that we could take in order to better account for these factors when attempting to define the adequacy of SNAP allotments.

This is thought provoking work. While it does not offer immediate answers, this report highlights the importance of initiatives that connect SNAP recipients with healthy food and information that supports healthy food choices—things like encouraging more farmers markets to accept SNAP benefits and partnering with local organizations to prevent hunger. Above all, this report reiterates the critical role SNAP benefits play in connecting millions of American families with healthy food. With that in mind, we look forward to reviewing the analysis and recommendations contained in this report and using them to help set our agenda for future program research.

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