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Geographic Food Acquisition Choices within the SNAP Cycle

Mary Zaki aims to inform policy on food shopping costs for program users

Researchers have documented the spike in food spending of households that receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) benefits around SNAP disbursement dates and the corresponding unsmooth food consumption patterns of this population. Findings suggest that households may be suffering from self-control or budgeting problems and would benefit from more frequent disbursements of SNAP benefits. However, such a policy change could be harmful to households who incur large food acquisition costs (e.g. those who live in food deserts).

In this project Dr. Zaki will use the USDA’s newly collected National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to: 1) document food geographic shopping patterns of households throughout the SNAP month, 2) assess the degree that food acquisition costs drive the SNAP month expenditure and consumption patterns and 3) analyze the possible benefits or harms of increasing SNAP benefit disbursement frequency. The findings of this study would motivate and inform the use of interventions that lessen food shopping costs in future research.

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