The potential impact of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) restrictions on expenditures: A systematic review

Joel Cuffey, Timothy Km Beatty, Lisa J Harnack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objective To systematically review the potential impact of reducing the set of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-eligible foods (e.g. not allowing purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages with SNAP benefits) on expenditures for restricted foods. Design The impact on food expenditures of a US 1 reduction in available SNAP benefits can be used to estimate the impact of restrictions on SNAP-eligible foods. An electronic search of EconPapers, AgEcon Search, EconLit, WorldCat, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, PubMed and NALDC, and a snowball search were conducted to obtain a sample of studies up to March 2015 that estimate the impacts of SNAP and other income on household food expenditures. The studies were classified according to study population, study design and whether they attempted to correct for major study design biases. Setting Estimates were extracted from fifty-nine published and unpublished studies. Subjects US households. Results Fifty-nine studies were found, yielding 123 estimates of the impact of SNAP benefits on food expenditures and 117 estimates of the difference in impacts between SNAP benefits and other income. Studies correcting for or mitigating study design biases had less estimate variation. Estimates indicate that expenditures on the restricted item would decrease by US 1·6 to US 4·8 if US 10 of SNAP benefits would have otherwise been spent, with a median overall impact of US 3. Conclusions The present literature suggests that restrictions on SNAP-eligible items may result in a small but potentially meaningful decrease in SNAP expenditures for restricted items. Further research is needed to evaluate whether this would translate into improvements in diet quality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3216-3231
Number of pages16
JournalPublic health nutrition
Issue number17
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Caitlin Caspi and Lindsey Novak for helpful comments on the manuscript. Financial support: This research was supported through the Food Policy Research Center, University of Minnesota (T.K.M.B. and L.H., grant number 2012-70002-19403). The Food Policy Research Center had no role in the design, analysis or writing of this article. Conflicts of interest: None. Authorship: T.K.M.B. and L.H. initiated the study, reviewed the results and contributed to the manuscript. J.C. performed the search, designed and performed the analysis, and drafted the manuscript. Ethics of human subject participation: Not applicable

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright The Authors 2015.


  • Food expenditures
  • Policy
  • SNAP restrictions
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program/food stamps


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