Research

The Problem:

SNAP is a USDA program that provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency. Due to COVID-19, the USDA has granted states significant program flexibilities and contingencies to best serve program participants. While many resources outline these flexibilities and provide some comparison, we aim to provide a rigorous and standardized state-by-state study on the administration and implementation of these flexibilities to determine how these policy levers affect food insecurity.

Our Research Question:

What is the nature and distribution of state-level responses to waivers and flexibilites granted by changes in federal laws due to COVID-19 concerning the Food and Nutrition Service’s SNAP Program?

Our Methodology:

We utilize standard policy surveillance and legal mapping methodology to guide our work. This includes conducting background research on state-based policies, identifying variation in responses across states, developing a coding manual to increase the accuracy of legal data coding, consulting with policy advisory groups to obtain feedback on data sources and our coding manual, extracting data from sources, legal coding of documents (i.e. administrative memos and press releases), checking against existing data sources for quality control, and analyzing coded data. We aim to incorporate secondary sources (i.e. SNAP distributions, unemployment measures, baseline SNAP policies, racial demographics) to answer more sophisticated research questions around food insecurity and equity.

Anticipated Deliverables:

We hope to create a publicly accessible database containing state-by-state information about each potential waiver and flexibility allowed by the USDA Food and Nutrition Services for health and policy researchers. Further, we hope to provide more consumable content such as an interactive map and infographics for use by journalists and policymakers.