Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: A policy analysis of restricting foods with minimal nutritional value

Lisa Blackwell, The University of Texas School of Public Health


In 2011, expenditures for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reached an all-time high of $72 billion. The goal of SNAP is " to alleviate hunger and malnutrition…by increasing food purchasing power for all eligible households who apply for participation." It has been well established that proper nutrition is essential to good health, making SNAP an important program to public health consumers. Thus, this analysis examined whether SNAP is meeting its stated goal and whether the goal would be reduced if the purchase of foods of minimal nutritional value (FMNV) were restricted. A review of existing literature found that SNAP has been shown to alleviate hunger, but the studies on the nutritional impact of the program were not sufficient to assert whether change is needed. When considering whether limiting FMNV would reduce or improve the effectiveness of SNAP at alleviating hunger and malnutrition, there is very little information on which to base a policy change, particular one that singles out a low income group to restrict purchases. Several states have attempted to restrict the purchase of FMNV but, to date, no such change has been implemented or tested. Conducting pilot studies on the restriction of FMNV, along with better data collection on SNAP purchases, would guide policy changes to the program. Although there are many potential public health benefits to restricting FMNV purchase using SNAP dollars, research is needed to quantify the cost impact of these benefits.

Subject Area

Nutrition|Public health|Public policy

Recommended Citation

Blackwell, Lisa, "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: A policy analysis of restricting foods with minimal nutritional value" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1529213.