National Food Assistance System in the USA

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2019-63-1-75-82

O. Bogaevskaya (, 
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation


Social policy has become a key prerequisite for long-term economic growth; therefore, much attention is paid to the search for new instruments of social policy, and to rethinking existing ones. Addressing basic needs, of which access to sufficient and healthy food is crucial, has been one of the top social priorities in the USA for decades. The major American program to address food insecurity and provide food assistance for low-income families is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the former Food Stamp Program. The Program is nationwide, with uniform standards and access rules set at the federal level, and is the only social program in the US directed not at a certain group of recipients, but at the entire population with low incomes. The paper examines goals, history and operation of the Program with special focus on technical details (financing, administration, participation requirements and procedures, quality control) relevant for launching similar program in Russia. SNAP has a triple goal: to provide access to healthy nutrition, help agricultural producers and reduce poverty. The flexibility built into the program allows to react quickly both to national economic shocks and to changes in the financial situation of individual families. The author refers to the evidence of long-run positive effects of SNAP participation on poverty reduction, food security, health and well-being of participants. The point is made that SNAP proved to be a well-tuned reliable instrument customized to the particular needs of certain households, with comparably low administrative costs, error and trafficking rates, and high precision rates. The Program also serves as built-in stimulating and counter-cyclical tool. The Trump administration has proposed radical changes in food assistance policy, including reduction in number of SNAP beneficiaries and partial replacement of benefits by “food boxes”. However, the proposals are not likely to be accepted in full. The paper concludes with comments on poverty in Russia and ways to confront it. Introduction of the food assistance program in Russia is an urgent task, and it is reasonable to consider the successful US experience of operating a similar program. Such features as administrative, cost-minimizing and benefit size calculation techniques, high level of coverage of the needy population, methods of lowering fraud and control over the parties involved are of special interest to Russia.  


USA, food security, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), food stamps, social policy, poverty alleviation 


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For citation:
Bogaevskaya O. National Food Assistance System in the USA. Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 2019, vol. 63, No 1, pp. 75-82.

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