Hurdles holding back SNAP participants from healthy diets reveal opportunities for brands, retailers

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According to a survey​ conducted by the US Department of Agriculture published yesterday, 88% of SNAP recipients routinely face hurdles to a healthy diet with cost being the most frequently cited challenge by 61% of participants, followed by lack of time to prepare meals from scratch (30%), need for transportation or distance to the grocery store (19% and 18% respectively) and lack of knowledge about healthy foods (16%).

The survey of 4,522 SNAP households and more than 100 in-depth interviews was conducted by the USDA and Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council as a first step to determine “objectively” if current SNAP benefits are adequate for maintaining a healthy diet, and findings suggest “we’re not there yet,”​ USDA deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services Stacy Dean said in a statement.

With this in mind and at the behest of Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill, USDA says it is actively re-evaluating how SNAP benefits are determined – including the Thrifty Food Plan, on which benefit amounts are based.

The TFP was introduced first in 1975 and since that time has only been adjusted for inflation, according to USDA, which notes that since that time, “our understanding of nutrition has evolved significantly, and there have been major changes to the food supply, consumption patterns and the circumstances of SNAP participants, resulting in an out-of-date food plan.”

By reevaluating the TFP, USDA says that it will help ensure SNAP families can afford a “realistic, healthy diet on a budget.”