Applying Racial Equity to U.S. Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs - Flipbook - Page 24
In 2017, USDA announced that its Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) would begin a SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot,
working with seven food retailers in eight states.95 Congress included the pilot in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Questions remain about specific policies that might or might not ensure that all recipients can participate equitably in
such services. The pilot program does not increase SNAP benefits to accommodate higher prices and/or delivery fees.
The program needs to ensure that the extra costs are not deducted from a recipient’s SNAP benefits or require her to use
household financial resources. Another issue is the need to develop relationships with additional vendors to ensure that
EBT payments are accepted online, and with smaller regional or local retailers to ensure that all communities have access
to this option. This may also require authorization for extra fees charged
to reservations or other communities that retailers consider remote. To
DID YOU KNOW THAT…
avoid reproducing inequity, reservations, other remote areas, and individual
SNAP recipients should not be charged. Instead, USDA should assume the
Enabling families of color to
responsibility for such charges.
purchase fresh vegetables and
Consider reforming SNAP policies on acceptable food items. The
fruit options by increasing the
proposed change would allow a percentage of a household’s SNAP benefit to
benefit amount can reduce the
be used for hot or store-prepared foods, like a rotisserie chicken, for example.
purchase of less expensive
This revision could help reduce the significant time commitment for food
canned goods, which
preparation that SNAP’s continued use of the Thrifty Food Plan requires.
often contain high levels of
Maintain or transition to co-located services. Co-locating services in or
high-fructose corn syrup. This
near the administrative offices for other federal benefits that SNAP recipients
exacerbates conditions such
may receive, such as WIC, can help save time and transportation money.
as diabetes and obesity—both
Other potential locations for limited-hours services might be local libraries or
already at higher rates among
community centers, such as the YMCA, that are closer to recipients’ homes.
communities of color.
A good example of program co-location is Mary’s Center in Washington, DC,
which offers a number of services under one roof—including SNAP, WIC, a
farmer’s market presence, a doctor’s office, and other community supports for recipients’ nutrition and health needs.
Create additional community-based partnerships aimed at increasing participation among those who are eligible.
Although SNAP had an 85 percent participation rate in 2016, up from 72 percent in 2010, 7 million people who are eligible
to participate in the program do not participate.96 Their reasons may include lack of awareness that they are eligible,
concern that the application process will be too difficult or time-consuming or that they will be stigmatized for participating,
distrust of government programs, or something else altogether.
Many of these barriers can be addressed with outreach conducted by trusted members of the community who already
participate in events along with potential recipients. Local SNAP offices could consider partnering with existing
community groups such as those based on school, faith, or community service. These groups could conduct basic
screening for food insecurity and connect potential recipients with SNAP. Hiring local office staff who reflect the racial/
ethnic background of their neighborhoods and/or are themselves current or former SNAP participants is another effective
strategy for increasing participation.
Expand transportation subsidies for low-income residents. These subsidies are not under SNAP’s jurisdiction, but they
directly promote better access to grocery stores for participants. Local governments should work to provide transportation
subsidies to low-income residents that cover at least half, preferably the full amount, of transit costs. See Appendix 13 for
information about cities that have adopted this approach or are on the verge of doing so.
Create formal support systems to bolster the food production efforts of people living on reservations. On some
reservations, Indigenous people are producing traditional foods using ancestral practices. These farmers are often SNAP
participants as well. The long distances to the nearest grocery store for many residents of reservations may make either
growing food themselves, or buying it from others on the reservation, a more realistic option. However, many people who
might be interested may not have the training and equipment to be successful.
Local farm and garden initiatives keep money in the local economy and ensure that people have access to preferred, often
much healthier, foods. In Wyoming, one reservation is piloting an effort to scale up a formal indoor farmer’s market. For
more information, see Appendix 10.
USDA should work with other agencies and with tribal communities to help make funds available to support
entrepreneurial start-ups with equipment and culturally competent agricultural training. This would enable more
Indigenous people who would like to farm and distribute food on the reservation to do so.
APPLYING RACIAL EQUITY TO U.S. FEDERAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS: SNAP, WIC AND CHILD NUTRITION