In fiscal year 2011, about 44.7 million people participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), on average, per month (USDA, 2011). Facts like this are great but how can we as Campus Kitchens across the country use this data to better address the needs in our individual communities? Until recently, many tools that measure and analyze food insecurity only gather data on the national and State level, but generally not for individual communities or regions.
However, this past month the USDA Food Nutrition Service (FNS) created a new online tool to help identify and analyze the characteristics of SNAP on a smaller more individualized scale. The SNAP Community Characteristic Tool allows users to search for fact sheets broken down by Congressional District. The tool looks at demographic data of all households in the district and then does some comparison of those on SNAP versus those who are not. Demographics presented include: age groups, poverty level, race/ethnicity, median income, and work status. Also included is the total amount of SNAP funds, total recipients and SNAP participation rate for each State.
This resource will be useful to the local communities wanting to see data from a smaller geographic area than previously available. These reports tell the story of a community’s food security and can be helpful to Campus Kitchens and other partners in addressing the actual needs of their individual communities. The information gleaned from this tool can be used in their advocacy work, programming and even grant writing.
Take some time to check out the SNAP Community Characteristic Tool and look through the fact sheet for your Congressional District to gain a better understanding of the needs in your community, as well as how to begin addressing those needs.
SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) is a federal nutrition program. The Program’s laws and regulations are based on the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 passed by Congress in 2008. In 1974 Congress required all States to offer food benefits to low-income households. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the program.
The intent of the Program is to help improve the health and well being of low-income households and individuals by providing them a means to meet their nutritional needs. Contrary to popular belief, SNAP benefits are not meant to meet all of the food needs of a household or an individual, but to supplement their nutritional needs. People do not need to be destitute to qualify for SNAP benefits.