April 13, 2022

The Florida Project: Recommendations for Healthy Eating SNAP Pilot Projects

Executive Summary

Despite its singular role in combating hunger, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides monthly food assistance to nearly 2 million Floridians, is at times the target of inquiries into its scope and effectiveness. State and federal lawmakers question the nutritional value of food purchased with SNAP as well as underlying policies that have expanded the scope and eligibility for the program. Participants report that their ability to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables is affected both by benefit allotments that are too low and the lack of participating retailers that stock nutritious food. In addition, although people of color experience health disparities and are more likely to face food insecurity and die from nutritional deficiencies than any other group in Florida, participation among people of color has declined significantly in recent years.

Given these concerns, diverse stakeholders in Florida, with support from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), initiated the Florida Project to explore innovative strategies for strengthening the nutrition and health outcomes of SNAP participants based on the suggestions of people with lived expertise and experience. The goal of the project was to identify policy recommendations and pilot projects for SNAP that promote public health, nutrition, and equity, while protecting access to SNAP.

Stakeholders for the project include Florida Policy Institute, Florida Impact to End Hunger, Central Florida Alliance to End Hunger, Concerned African Women Inc., Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger, and Whole Child Leon.

Project results, based on a statewide survey of SNAP recipients, suggest that the top barriers to purchasing healthy food with SNAP are the high cost of nutritious food and low SNAP benefit allotments. Another issue identified by respondents as a roadblock — this one to a lesser extent — was marketing techniques; namely, healthy food not being promoted, or unhealthy food being advertised more prominently.

SNAP households responding to the survey demonstrated an interest in testing policies that provide incentives to promote healthy eating. While most respondents rejected the notion of a strategy that would directly restrict food choice, such as forbidding them from buying less nutritious food and beverages with SNAP, their suggestions recognized the importance of approaches that allow them to maximize their ability to provide a well-balanced diet. The top three recommendations for a policy or pilot project selected by survey respondents were: 

  • Allowing people to buy healthy hot and prepared foods;
  • Increasing how much money people can use in SNAP for healthy foods and beverages; and
  • Increasing how much money people can use in SNAP for food and beverages, regardless of the nutritional value.

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