Tuesday, August 8, 2017
WEEKLY BUDGETING COULD IMPROVE SNAP SPENDING PATTERNS
A recent study of SNAP participants who use the FreshEBT app shows that the average household spends more than 80% of its SNAP benefits within the first nine days. Within the first 21 days, the average SNAP recipient has nothing left. Researchers suggest several reasons why SNAP benefits do not last through the month--(1) the benefit amount is too low to cover a household’s food costs and (2) the way SNAP benefits are disbursed only makes things worse. To test the latter proposition, they provided half of all new FreshEBT users a recommended weekly budget to remind them to spread consumption over the month and give them an appropriate weekly spending target. The remaining half got only a monthly balance. Over three months, researchers found that the weekly budget extended users’ monthly SNAP balance by roughly two more days. Families in the control group spent 80% of their monthly balance after nine days, while families who received a weekly budget took 11 days to spend 80% of their balance. Those two extra days means a family could use SNAP to buy about six extra meals a month, just from a changing how a person’s SNAP balance is displayed.
Source: Scientific American, 7/21/17, SNAP Spending Patterns