Tuesday, December 22, 2015
END-OF-MONTH FOOD BLUES
Several studies cited in the CEA report look at how SNAP families use their benefits over the course of a month. Families tend to use a disproportionate share of their benefits early on, but not to stock up on non-perishables they can use to prepare meals all month long or to buy more pricey foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Apparently they just eat less; their calorie consumption declines as much as 25%, according to one researcher’s estimate. This pattern can have profound effects. One research team found 28% more admissions for low blood sugar during the last week of the month than the first. Two other studies looked at children’s school performance over the monthly benefits cycle. One found higher average math and reading test scores among children whose families had received their SNAP benefits several weeks before the tests, when the kids would have been learning what they were tested on. The other study found a higher rate of disciplinary actions against children from SNAP households than others. Factoring out differences in student characteristics suggests that the end-of-month exhaustion of SNAP benefits causes an 11% increase in disciplinary actions against students in SNAP families. The root of the problem may be found in other research cited in the CEA report: that the Thrifty Food Plan— the basis for determining SNAP benefits — is overly thrifty.
Source: Poverty & Policy, 12/16/15, End-of-Month