The SNAP Program Can Do Better: Options for the 2012 Farm Bill

by Kate Fitzgerald

In November, more than one in seven Americans – 46 million people – bought their food with SNAP dollars through the federal nutrition program formerly known as food stamps.

In this economic recession, discussions that concentrate on the human pain represented by high SNAP caseloads are wholly appropriate. But high SNAP participation also represents billions of dollars of food purchases every year. These dollars could do more than just meet immediate needs. SNAP could be a powerful lever to improve the food system permanently and create jobs and economic opportunity at the same time. The SNAP program can be a powerful tool to push the market to serve our struggling neighbors better, and the 2012 Farm Bill will be a prime opportunity to make that happen.

SNAP sales of $72 billion accounted for 12 percent of the nation’s grocery sales in fiscal year 2011 (October 1, 2010 – September 30, 2011). Congress appropriated $80 billion for the program this year, fully expecting it to grow. Targeting these food dollars to programs that link farmers with consumers makes sense both for individual health and community economic growth.

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