SNAP Appointment Coordination (SNAP-AC)
Linking food pantries with SNAP Benefits
Crossroads Community Services has officially begun its latest research project, SNAP-AC. This project is a collaboration between Community Assistance Research (CARE), Crossroads Community Services, North Texas Food Bank, Sharing Life Community Outreach, University of Dallas and UT Southwestern. Funding for this project is provided by the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Fund at Communities Foundation of Texas.
The SNAP-AC Project seeks to help hungry North Texans eat healthier and more consistently by coordinating pantry visits with SNAP benefit distributions. We intend to change the context in which food budgeting decisions are made in order to decrease diet and economic uncertainty among vulnerable food pantry clients.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest public food assistance program in the US. 1,2 More than a third (37.2%) of SNAP recipients also receive food assistance from food pantries to supplement their benefits.3,4 Slightly more than half (55%) of food pantry clients in our population receive SNAP benefits. Food-insecure households make decisions over each SNAP benefit month to balance use of SNAP benefits and private food assistance. Existing research suggests they do so sub-optimally, not maximizing the efficacy of food assistance programs.
SNAP purchases are primarily made at the beginning of the SNAP benefit month, which in Texas is during the first 15 days of each month. Because grocers tend to put items on sale when demand by SNAP consumers is lowest (i.e., at the end of the SNAP benefit month), SNAP households may be able to save money by delaying their food purchases until later in the month. 5
The vast majority (90%) of Crossroads’ clients who receive SNAP have exhausted their benefits before visiting the pantry. Clients consistently report delaying visits to the pantry until after all other avenues of “making ends meet” – including SNAP benefits – are exhausted. 6
By coordinating client appointments with SNAP benefit distribution, Crossroads and our partners hope to help clients improve nutrition, food security levels and overall health. We also expect clients to realize financial savings and report lower stress levels due to financial pressures. This project will be conducted at the North Texas Food Bank’s (NTFB) Feeding Network Hubs: Crossroads and Sharing Life. Results from this project will be disseminated throughout the NTFB Network and beyond, potentially providing a systematic change in how both SNAP and food pantries are administered.
Crossroads has preliminary evidence that suggests modification of default timing of food pantry visits relative to SNAP benefit receipt may result in improved health. Households who visited Crossroads within 7 days of receiving SNAP and had SNAP benefits remaining at the time of their visit reported 32% fewer cases of fair/poor health than households who visited the pantry three weeks after receiving SNAP benefits. Therefore, Crossroads, NTFB, and Sharing Life will initiate the SNAP-AC Project at two locations to verify this preliminary evidence and assess large-scale implementation potential.
We look forward to share the findings from this research project with our supporters and the general public. Visit this page to see all SNAP-AC updates!
- Hoynes HW, Schanzenback DW. Consumption responses to in-kind transfers: Evidence from the introduction of the food stamp program. Am Econ J Appl Econ. 2009; 1(4): 109-139.
- Gundersen C, Ziliak JP. The role of food stamps in consumption stabilization. J Hum Resour. 2003:1051-1079.
- Bhattarai GR, Duffy PA, Raymond J. Use of Food Pantries and Food Stamps in Low-Income Households in the United States. J Consum Aff. 2005;39(2):276-298.
- Pruitt SL, Leonard T, Xuan L, et al. Who is Food Insecure? Implications for Targeted Recruitment and Outreach, National Health and Nutrition Examination. Natl Heal Nutr Exam Surv Prev Chronic Dis. 2005; 13. http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/.
- Hastings J, Washington E. The First of the Month Effect: Consumer Behavior and Store Responses. Am Econ J Econ Policy. 2010;2(2):142‐162.
- Swales S. Shame and Stereotypes: Psychosocial Barriers of Food Insecure Individuals to Receiving Charity Food Assistance.;