Policy Briefs

To Eat or to Heat – Proposed Change Reduces Food Benefits for Families

Over the past year, the Trump administration has proposed a series of changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that would systematically prevent millions of Americans from receiving needed benefits. The most recent adjustment would alter the way utilities costs are calculated in order to determine eligibility. The change could mean that nearly one in five current recipients lose up to $75 in monthly benefits or are removed from the program entirely.

In 1964, the Food Stamp Act was enacted by President Johnson with the goal of reducing malnutrition among low-income families. SNAP provides critical nutritional support for poverty-impacted working families, seniors, and people with disabilities – more than two-thirds of participants are in families with children. Since its inception, SNAP has become the largest nutrition assistance program in the United States. In 2018, nearly 40 million people received SNAP benefits, costing a total of $68 billion. However, the number of SNAP recipients has steadily decreased since 2013 when enrollment peaked at 47 million.

SNAP is an essential piece of the social safety net for poverty-impacted children and families, particularly since it helps to reduce food insecurity, which poses a serious threat to children’s development. When people lose SNAP benefits, they are forced to make decisions between feeding their family and paying bills. As a result, families that lose benefits are more likely to skip out on health and dental care, putting their children at greater risk of poor health. In the long-term, adults who benefitted from SNAP as children were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Adult women who benefitted as children were more likely to be financially independent. More immediately, SNAP prevents millions of people from entering poverty each year.

The proposed cut to SNAP comes through executive order by the Trump administration. This change means that households who spend more of their income on rent, heat, and gas would get less support or none from SNAP. The proposal remains under a public comment period until December 2, 2019, after which final changes are expected.

Learn more about the critical role SNAP plays in child well-being:
Food for Thought Food: Insecurity Undermines Learning Outcomes and Academic Success (Clark-Fox Policy Institute, 2018).


Hutti, E., Parker, G., Thurman, A. (2019). To Eat or to Heat – Proposed Change Reduces Food Benefits for Families. St. Louis, MO: The Clark-Fox Policy Institute, Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis