Applying Racial Equity to U.S. Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs - Flipbook - Page 23
Support SNAP-related measures that promote equity
A significant barrier for SNAP families seeking better nutrition is that, as explained earlier, SNAP benefits rarely last
the entire month,89 and they run out even faster if participants buy healthier foods. Less expensive foods are, on the whole,
less nutritious.90 This simply exacerbates nutrition and
Figure 4: SNAP Barriers for Optimal Nutrition
Barriers to participation in SNAP also work against
There are several barriers that make it
efforts to improve nutrition. Some of these are limited
difficult for SNAP recipients of color to use
amounts of time, transportation, and/or Internet and phone
their benefits for optimal nutrition…
access, or a combination. These may prevent people from
keeping appointments, calling, or emailing to reapply,
report problems, or seek nutrition information. Such
barriers are highest in states that no longer offer in-person
SNAP office visits at all.
Many interviewees reported that lack of time and
transportation prevented them from shopping to eat many
fresh foods. If someone can only get to the store every two
or three weeks or once a month, he/she generally must
choose items with long shelf lives. SNAP rules against
purchasing prepared foods can also hinder efforts to
improve family nutrition. As mentioned earlier, the Thrifty
Food Plan assumes that recipients have between 1.5 hours
and 2.5 hours a day to prepare meals,91 when the average
SNAP recipient only has about 40 minutes per day, similar
These barriers reinforce existing racial
to other U.S. households.92
nutrition and health disparities.
Another barrier is discrimination on the part of SNAP
caseworkers and other frontline staff (e.g., grocery store
clerks). This likely stems from unconscious bias and lack of training. Racist attitudes may dictate whether an eligible applicant
is in fact approved for SNAP benefits, or whether a recipient feels comfortable using benefits at the grocery store.
Using electronic benefit cards (EBT) for SNAP cards makes it easier for people to access their benefits and, since they are far
less conspicuous in grocery store checkout lines, reduces the stigma of using SNAP. Congress and state governments (whether
in the absence of federal legislation or while waiting for changes to take effect) should continue or take action to enact other
policies that encourage participation.
• Offer options to people who plan to apply for SNAP. Applicants and recipients should have options to apply online
and interview by phone. States are allowed to develop an online process93 and many have done so. All states should have
infrastructure in place for online and phone contacts with SNAP offices. This will ensure equity among participants
regardless of location. All SNAP offices, caseworkers, and online and print materials should advertise the options. They
should also inform recipients of the commitment made by AT&T to provide low-cost wireline home Internet to households
with at least one SNAP participant.94 States should also maintain regular business hours at offices for people who do not
have reliable access to the Internet or a phone.
• Mandate that USDA or state agencies explore the possibility of forming partnerships with grocery delivery
services. This would help address some of the barriers just discussed, including working long and odd hours and not
having reliable transportation. It could also increase recipients’ access to fresh foods and contribute to improved nutrition.
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