In 2016, over 44 million Americans received SNAP benefits, making it the largest federal food program and the largest expenditure in the federal Farm Bill. Despite the program’s size, there are many it doesn’t reach, particularly in California (where SNAP is called CalFresh). BFI is dedicated to supporting research on SNAP and ensuring that evidence-based policy is enacted at the state and federal levels. Read more about the research we’ve funded below.
Listen to an episode of our Just Food Podcast on CalFresh at the UC Berkeley campus.
Building an Evidence Base for SNAP Policy
BFI Seed Grant Research: Building an Evidence Base for State and Federal Policy on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Research Team: Barbara Laraia (Public Health), Pat Crawford (Nutrition Policy Institute; UC Cooperative Extension), Maria Echaveste (Latin American Studies), Hillary Hoynes (Goldman School of Public Policy)
External Collaborators: California Food Policy Advocates
Funding Level: $15,000
Research Summary: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as CalFresh in California, plays a valuable role in lifting low-income households out of poverty and mitigating food insecurity. Providing billions of dollars in nutrition assistance benefits to nearly 48 million children, adults, and seniors, SNAP has great potential to support health and healthful eating. Policymakers are currently considering proposals to restrict the purchase of certain foods and beverages with SNAP benefits. Any such changes require rigorous testing to assess the effects on SNAP participants and the program at large.
Objectives: The research team set out to convene a Scientific Advisory Board that would draw on expertise in economics, public health, nutrition, law, public policy, poverty, and behavioral sciences to inform the design of a CalFresh restriction-incentive demonstration project. While pursuit of the demonstration project was ultimately deemed unfeasible, the team successfully congregated a Scientific Advisory Board to produce two policy briefs that communicate SNAP’s existing strengths and challenges, as well as opportunities to encourage participants to make healthier choices.
Gender Dynamics and SNAP Enrollment
BFI Seed Grant Research: Gender Dynamics and SNAP/CalFresh Enrollment among Immigrant Households in California
Research Team: Tina Sacks (Social Welfare), Ron Strochlic (UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Nutrition Policy Institute), Maria Echaveste (Law), and G. Christina Mora (Sociology)
Collaborators: Elizabeth Katz (University of San Francisco) and Stephanie Nishio (California Association of Food Banks)
Funding Level: $50,000
Abstract: The research explores gender dynamics as a barrier to participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/CalFresh among eligible Latino immigrant households in California. There are numerous barriers to SNAP participation, including long applications, burdensome verification requirements, onerous reporting procedures, and perceived stigma. Additional barriers affecting immigrants include language concerns about impacts on immigration status. An additional yet largely unexplored barrier is the role of gender dynamics, particularly in immigrant communities. First-person reports by food stamp outreach providers suggest that it is not uncommon for immigrant Latina women to start the SNAP enrollment process without completion due to opposition from their husbands, who are concerned about stigma and impacts on immigration status. This exploratory research, which will be based on qualitative data collection, will shed light on an unexplored barrier to SNAP participation. A greater understanding of this phenomenon will contribute to the development of more effective policies and outreach strategies, with the goal of increasing SNAP enrollment rates in California.
Policy Brief: SNAP in the 2018 Farm Bill
In Defense of a Dignified SNAP: The 2018 Farm Bill
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called food stamps, is the largest program within the domestic hunger safety net aimed at providing necessary resources, improving dietary intake, and alleviating poverty for vulnerable Americans.
Policy Brief: The Future of SNAP
The Future of SNAP? Improving Nutrition Policy to Ensure Health and Food Equity
Hilary Hoynes and Sasha Feldstein
The Berkeley Food Institute, the Goldman School of Public Policy, and the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society sponsored a workshop in May 2015 on “The Future of SNAP: Improving Nutrition Policy to Ensure Health and Food Equity.” This brief summarizes key points and critical questions that emerged from the researchers, policymakers, activists and practitioners in attendance that day.
Policy Brief: SNAP Can Support Health
SNAP Can Support Health: Lessons for California and the Nation
Barbara Laraia and Tashara M. Leak
This brief provides information on the current implementation and health outcomes of SNAP participants within California and nationwide. Policy changes are outlined along with supporting evidence and examples of how these changes will help low-income Americans achieve a nutritious diet.