SNAP reform could make program healthier

According to recent Harvard School of Public Health research, people who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits actually see their health get worse. HSPH nutrition expert Walter Willett appeared on the WGBH television show “Greater Boston” to talk about this problem on March 11, 2014.

Willett, Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and chair of the Department of Nutrition, explained that people who receive SNAP benefits have higher rates of obesity, hypertension, and pre-diabetes compared to people of similar income who do not receive the benefits. The program’s scope—serving about one in seven Americans—makes this a serious problem. But Willett believes there is a solution.

“It’s very reasonable to have some limits on what SNAP resources can be spent on,” he said. “For example, limiting soda and other beverages, I think, is completely sensible.” Willett also believes SNAP reform should allocate a portion of the budget for educating recipients about how to eat healthier.

Watch the “Greater Boston Video: Food Assistance and Poor Health” news clip and read “SNAP Judgment: Is Government Program Hazardous To Health?” (WGBH)

Learn more about HSPH’s research on SNAP

SNAP program fails to boost consumption of healthy foods

Diets of low-income adults in federal food program SNAP need improvement