The introduction of SNAP and WIC
Food Stamps are a source to buy food, for the deprived communities. It was established in 1939 by Henry Wallace, former Secretary of Agriculture. The name of this federally sponsored program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), implemented by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Administration.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children commonly known as (WIC) primarily protects the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at sustenance risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement their diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care. WIC is funded by the federal government through the appropriations process on an annual basis; states are not required to add contributions in the funds. The US Congress on a bipartisan basis, since the year 1997 has been providing ample annual financial support for WIC to support all eligible applicants. The program receives approximately $6 billion annually.
Unlike SNAP, the WIC issues vouchers for specific types of foods selected through a thorough science-based process because they are more likely to be missing in the diets of low-income women and their children. The program offers a very limited number of foods — such as whole-grain bread, baby food, infant formula, and milk — and also separate “cash value vouchers” that they can use only to buy fruits and vegetables.
Individuals or families receiving no other related means-tested assistance and earning a gross family income at or below 185 % of the federal poverty level (at present $37,296/ year for a family of three) to qualify for WIC benefits. To make things easier for program execution, an applicant who already entitled to SNAP, Medicaid, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash assistance is automatically considered income-eligible for WIC. A rough estimate is that around 73 percent of people approved for WIC benefits receive one of the other mentioned benefits.
According to a recent study conducted by the Iowa State University and funded by the United State’s National Bureau of Economic Research, over 6.5 Million children among 40 million Americans are in the state of food insecurity. It could be translated as these Americans do not have access to enough healthy nutritious food, the majority of whom, solely depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the same.
A previous study in 2016 showed that around 51.2 percent of the households among SNAP beneficiaries were falling in the category of food insecure. In this recent study aimed to scrutinize the possible connection between SNAP & WIC, which is the third largest nutrition aid program in the country.
It was discovered in the research that both SNAP and WIC are complementary to each other and not the substitute.
One of the researchers of the University involved in the study said that the finding of the study can work as a guideline for the lawmakers to propose more effective assistance programs for low-income households.
Intricacies to determine the Impacts
Both the SNAP and WIC are food assistance program with different objectives, addressing specific requirements of the participating individuals and families. The SNAP serves the low-income households’ nutritional needs in general while WIC takes care of dietary requirements of pregnant women, breastfeeding/new mothers as well as growing children and infants. On top of the food aid, the recipients are also provided guidance on diet and nourishment along with health services appointments. Both the programs have different eligibility criteria but there is a sizeable population that fulfills the standard set for both the assistance programs.
The individuals and families targeted in the study by the Iowa University were those eligible for both the programs but they independently decided to participate or not.
- This deliberate choice was one difficulty for the researchers to establish the effectiveness of food assistance program’s and how the program changed the status of food insecurity.
- Both SNAP & WIC are not arbitrarily awarded, and consequently, the difference between food security results on participating and non participating families could be varying due to their choice of applying for the program or not.
III. The researchers were of the view that, although the most vulnerable are most prone to apply for these programs in case of a job loss of the head of the household, it might wrongly reflect that these programs have very little or no impact in securing the food need of that family. In reality, the recipients might look more food insecure that the eligible nonparticipants but more food secure than they would have been in absence of these food aid programs.
- One more challenge in the study was that the benefiting families are more likely to misreport the assistance they receive leading to inaccurate approximations by any study, so the researchers adopted a methodology that allowed them to measure impacts of these food aid initiatives more precisely.
- The methodology used the statistics from the USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey or FoodAPS, as baseline information providing self-reported participation in SNAP and WIC and authenticated data for SNAP participation.
- The families included in the survey were on average consist of, four with two children, one under the age of 6 with a monthly income of about $1,600. Over 75 percent of whom with a rented residence, 26 percent without transportation and 11 percent had used a food store within the past month.
- The Study also provided evidence that participating in both the said programs improves the chances of getting food security of the applicant by almost 24 percentage points.
- FoodAPS cross-checked survey reaction about SNAP membership with official records to identify reply errors, but no corroboration was available for the WIC program. The researchers maintained that the new methodology was particularly planned to grasp this form of a situation in which researchers can confirm answers for some survey questions, but not others.
- The ultimate goal was to establish a balance between postulations that could be frail enough to be probable, but strong enough to be instructive as one professor of economics said about the survey. The policy guideline recommendation is that the WIC is still relevant and helpful even during the course of SNAP implementation and by no way could be called overlapping programs or the ineffective increase in government spending.