The outbreak of a new virus negatively affects the economy and people’s well-being. There is a great number of families who suffer from a shortage of money and cannot afford to buy necessities and food. In the situation of economic instability, it seems to be crucial to support low-income households and individuals. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a federal program that provides nutrition benefits to support needy citizens. This paper aims to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the program implementation and consider how it can help people to improve their nutrition.
At a time when the whole world is fighting with the new virus and its consequences, it is of paramount importance to protect the most vulnerable population groups – children, older adults, and deprived families. The implementation of social distancing measures has substantially raised the specter of hunger (Dickinson, 2020). In response, the government began to allocate money to prevent hunger and lift its citizens out of poverty.
The emergency funding measures include the raise in SNAP benefit levels. This program provides households with money that they can spend only on groceries (Hastings, & Shapiro, 2018). It should be mentioned that the program places certain restrictions on purchases. For instance, one cannot use a benefit for buying alcohol, as the purpose of the program is to supply people with healthy food. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, a number of families in America did not have access to healthy food due to a poor financial state. SNAP, previously known as FSP, was first implemented during World War II, and for this time, it has proved to be effective in reducing food insecurity and boosting the economy.
Another benefit of SNAP is that by allocating money to healthy nutrition, the government might spend less money on healthcare. There is a clear connection between a balanced diet and people’s health. If families receive enough food of good quality, it influences their psychological and physical well-being and reduces the number of medical issues. During the pandemic, it becomes even more important to provide low-income households with high-quality food, as a proper diet helps to maintain immunoresistance. Consequently, the SNAP policy implementation may cut the number of patients in hospitals, and make more beds available for the seriously ill.
Malnutrition exerts a negative impact on a health condition, and, in the first place, it concerns children. Proper nutrition is vital for children and adolescents, as it helps to prevent the risk of developing various diseases in the future. Food insecurity is the main cause of cognitive and physical illnesses, and even short periods of undernourishment can lead to long-term implications (Fry-Bowers, 2020). As such, children in low-income families should receive enough food, and their meals should be well-balanced and healthy. It appears that participating in SNAP will boost children’s health and reduce food insecurity.
On the other hand, SNAP may also negatively influence children’s health. Apart from this program, America has special nutrition assistance strategies that focus on providing free meals in schools. Dunn et al. (2020) state that the problem is that SNAP “places few limits on allowable purchases, so relying more heavily on this program may inadequately address children’s nutritional needs” (42). Indeed, children tend to make unhealthy choices when they are on their own, and some parents cannot monitor their children due to lack of time. That is why, instead of buying fruit, vegetables, and dairy products full of vitamins and proteins, households spend benefits on chips, fast food, and fizzy drinks. As a result, the shift from school meals to nutrition programs as SNAP may lead to an unhealthy diet and cause weight gain among students.
However, SNAP is one of the possible ways out in the current situation, and it provides assistance to low-income families and children. Schools deliver meals for students during the school year, but when they close, some children from low-income families are deprived of the opportunity to eat balanced meals. Hence, food costs fall on families, and some of them cannot afford to supply healthy meals to their children. Increased financial burdens may force families to reduce food consumption or waive other necessities, such as utilities, rent, and medication (Dunn et al., 2020). Increasing SNAP expenditures appears to be an effective solution to the problem of food insecurity during the school closures and an economic recession caused by the pandemic.
All in all, when the whole world is suffering from the harmful consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program appears to be a useful tool in struggling with food insecurity and economic downturn. It seems that increasing the benefit levels will exercise a good influence on people’s health and will mitigate the negative economic effects of the pandemic. The policy’s implementation will help the government lift people out of poverty and prevent the development of serious health issues caused by the lack of food. Moreover, it may also reduce the government’s expenditures on healthcare, as the health condition is closely connected with proper nutrition.
Dickinson, M. (2020). Food frights: COVID-19 and the specter of hunger. Agriculture and Human Values.
Dunn, C. G., Kenney, E., Fleischhacker, S. E., & Bleich, S. N. (2020). Feeding low-income children during the Covid-19 pandemic. New England Journal of Medicine, 382(18), 40.
Fry-Bowers, E. K. (2020). Children are at risk from COVID-19. Journal of Pediatric Nursing.
Hastings, J., & Shapiro, J. M. (2018). How are SNAP benefits spent? Evidence from a retail panel. American Economic Review, 108(12), 3493-3540.