Emergency Food Pantry Use Among SNAP Households with Children (Issue Brief)

Publisher: Cambridge, MA: Mathematica Policy Research
Apr 30, 2017
Authors
Julie Worthington and James Mabli

Key Findings: 

  • Six months of receiving SNAP benefits was associated with a reduction in the use of emergency food pantries by 35 percent.
  • The size of the reduction in pantry use was influenced by differences in household urbanicity, supermarket access, and availability of social support networks.
  • Even after the large reduction in pantry use, 13 percent of SNAP households still use pantries after six months, which underscores the need to learn more about how households with children use available resources to meet their food needs.

This issue brief presents findings from an analysis of data from the SNAP Food Security (SNAPFS) study, the largest national survey of food security among SNAP participants to date. The analysis used a pretest-posttest design to compare use of emergency food pantries at SNAP program enrollment and after six months of participation for households with children, accounting for differences in key household characteristics.  The analysis found that six months of receiving SNAP benefits was associated with a reduction in the use of emergency food pantries of 35 percent. Continued pantry use in 13 percent of SNAP households with children was associated with environmental barriers and other household characteristics. This evidence suggests a need to further investigate the ways that SNAP households with children meet their food needs in the context of their environment, their networks, and their household composition.