Applying Racial Equity to U.S. Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs - Flipbook - Page 14
from SNAP harms their children and other family members as well. These bans disproportionately affect families of color31
since communities of color are over-policed32 and subject to discrimination in other parts of the criminal justice system.33
Latino/as and African Americans are three and six times as likely as whites, respectively, to be incarcerated. There are stark
disparities in the likelihood of incarceration for a man of color and a white man convicted of the same crime.
WIC could expand its inclusivity by revising policies that cut off WIC eligibility six months sooner for women who are
not breastfeeding, often disproportionately women of color, than for those who are. Child Nutrition programs could foster
inclusivity by expanding programs that now make fresh fruit and vegetables available to some elementary students via an
application process34 to all low-income students in elementary, middle, and high schools. Becoming more inclusive enables
programs to reach even more of the people most in need.
• Strengthen equity-centered approaches to make it easier for participants to access nutritional support. Developing
practices that center around the needs of the recipients is key to promoting equity-centered approaches (see glossary)
that make it easier for program participants to receive support.
Each program can strengthen its current approaches by revisiting program features that do not take the constraints that
confront many recipients when they try to access support into consideration. Two such constraints are inaccessible program
office locations, and the requirement that participants apply for or access services in person (instead of providing optional
online or phone service).
Resources and services must be accessible and co-located services should be closer to communities with the highest
concentrations of poverty (see glossary) and the largest number of transportation deserts, to help participants avoid
making multiple trips. Technology can also help make it easier to access benefits. Many low-income people still lack regular,
reliable access to Wi-Fi, so technological options should always be “in addition to” and not “instead of.” This will avoid
exacerbating inequity for people of color.
• Increase the cultural humility, competence, and accountability of frontline staff. The goal of applying a racial equity
lens is to achieve equal outcomes, which are in part contingent on participants receiving support from staff and feeling
comfortable doing so. Both linguistic and cultural competence and cultural humility (see glossary) are essential to
this process.35 Interpersonal racism, whether unconscious and subtle or conscious and overt, remains a problem in some
program implementation settings. It could be staff in offices who subconsciously judge their clients using stereotypes (see
glossary). It could be staff in grocery stores who are condescending and act as though people who participate in WIC or
SNAP should be ashamed. In other cases, it is wider practices that lead to a racist impact, whether this is intentional or not.
One example concerns office staff who either did not speak, or refused to speak, clients’ preferred languages. It could be,
however, that offices lack the resources needed to support speakers of other languages. There must be accountability both
for instances of interpersonal discrimination and for policies or behavior that lead to a racist impact. Just as each situation is
unique, solutions and measures of accountability will also differ.
• Create mechanisms that enable recipients, particularly recipients of color, to equitably participate in designing,
implementing, and evaluating programs. Achieving the goal of racial equity is a process, one that is strengthened by
ongoing evaluation. Creating opportunities for program recipients to have regular, meaningful input into how programs can
adapt to better serve their needs and address barriers will enable each program to continue applying an equity lens.
Programs should have a deliberate approach to engagement, perhaps consulting with nutrition program participants of
color and recognizing them as experiential experts. It is important to be conscious of the potential for programs to be
paternalistic and/or viewed as paternalistic.
• Strengthen data collection and disaggregation. Achieving racial equity requires researchers to track outcomes for each
racial group. Data is available on health conditions, as well as nutritional status, food security, and nutrition program
participation rates, within groups. However, there are glaring differences in the availability and quality of data as well as
a great deal of missing information. Neither information across all populations on the impact of nutrition programs on
reducing poor health or improving nutrition outcomes, nor similar information disaggregated by race and ethnicity, are
currently collected. Collecting this data and making it accessible to researchers will allow implementers, policy makers, and
program designers to gauge the impact of targeted investments and assess ongoing efforts to strengthen racial equity.
Collecting data is far from a straightforward process and raises questions that an agency or research team may not be able
to answer on its own. For example, for Indigenous communities, “blood quantum” laws36 combined with restrictive federal
government policies on which groups are recognized as tribes37 complicate the task of accurately identifying and classifying
individuals and families.
APPLYING RACIAL EQUITY TO U.S. FEDERAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS: SNAP, WIC AND CHILD NUTRITION