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Family impact analysis provides a systematic way to examine a program, law, or a policy from a family perspective. It involves evaluating both benefits and disadvantages to the families and the ways it can be improved to support the well-being of families. In particular, family impact analysis is meant to provide an objective and informative examination of how a program or policy affects families in a non-partisan manner. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition assistance to low-income individuals and families. The implementation of SNAP is achieved under the guidance of Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). It works collaboratively with other state agencies, nutritionists, volunteers and other faith-based organizations. These efforts are aimed at ensuring the integrity of the program and that eligible individuals make informed decisions about applying for the program. On the other hand, the eligibility to access the SNAP benefits implies certain tests such as resource and income tests, and special rules for elderly or disabled. Notably, as a policy, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can be evaluated in terms of its impact on families, both beneficial and harmful effects, and how it can or might undermine families.
SNAP Support to Families
SNAP is one of the programs with the most significant impact on families. It assists Americans when their earnings are low (Hartline-Grafton, 2013). The program has helped many families reduce their poverty levels. For instance, in the FY2011, 13% of the participating families shifted from living below the poverty line (Hartline-Grafton, 2013). Secondly, additional report of the Current Population Survey data from 2000 to 2009 shows a decrease in poverty levels. Precisely, there was an average decline in the number of children living in severe poverty as a result of SNAP benefits (Thompson et al, 2013). Additionally, SNAP program has also improved the dietary intakes. Children of the families participating in SNAP have an additional intake of nutrients like Iron, Zinc and Thiamin. In other words, young children participating in nutritional assistance program have fewer cases of nutritional deficiency than non-participants (Bartfeld et al, 2015).
SNAP Undermining the Families
Family impact analysis shows SNAP program also undermines the well-being of families to some extent. There are critical issues of food insecurity, childhood obesity and poverty particularly in low-income neighborhoods (Bartfeld et al, 2015). Practically, participation in SNAP program depends on the unemployment rate and thus, SNAP is viewed as a safety net when the employment and earnings are low. However, a wider analysis of food insecurity and obesity shows that SNAP benefits do not play a significant role in reducing these issues. For instance, in most of food-insecure households children are obese (Gritter, 2015). The most suitable explanation is that to cope with food insecurity people consume highly-processed foods with high-calories that are relatively cheaper than fresh foods. Therefore, considering that the SNAP benefits are much below the cost of one meal, it is easier for the participants to consume foods that do not contain adequate nutrients (Thompson et al, 2013). As a result, it is not surprising that in households that report cases of food insecurity, the rates of obesity among children are also high despite their participation in SNAP. In addition, the problems of food insecurity are likely to become even worse following recent expiration of the temporary expansion. Congress has also proposed further cuts on the SNAP program increasing the number of households classified as being food-insecure (Gritter, 2015).
Additionally, most of the SNAP participants are children, elderly and people with disabilities. However, some people, who are eligible for SNAP, do not participate due to several reasons, which include mobility barriers, poor and limited access to technology, and the fear of stigmatization (Bartfeld et al, 2015). Moreover, there are misconceptions about activities of SNAP, its eligibility requirements and benefits offered. On the other hand, monthly benefits received by the participants are used for food purchase purposes only (Gritter, 2015). Essentially, beneficiaries use the Electronic Benefit Transfer cards at the authorized food retailers. Therefore, it means that SNAP overlooks other aspects of familial well-being such as shelter and health conditions. The problem is even worse in the neighborhoods with fewer resources such as grocery stores and parks that promote health and physical activity (Thompson et al, 2013). The program faces limitations that hinder its ability to improve the health of low-income populations. Furthermore, current monthly benefits are too low to afford a healthful diet for a full month (Gritter, 2015).
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Other Beneficial Effects That Have Been Overlooked without Family Impact Analysis
Nevertheless, SNAP plays a significant economic role. On the one hand, although there are concerns about the relationship between SNAP and working behaviors, the program has resulted in an increased participation of single parents in the labor market (Hartline-Grafton, 2013). On the other hand, there are certain SNAP policies that encourage working in an explicit manner. As a result, many individuals of the working age are participating in the labor market as a way to acquire eligibility for SNAP benefits. It therefore shows that SNAP is contributing to the economic status of Americans by reducing the rates of unemployment (Bartfeld et al, 2015). Furthermore, through the Employment and Training program, SNAP is directly influencing the participants to build successful careers. Notably, as SNAP recipients increase their earnings, their benefits reduce gradually. Therefore, the potential to view SNAP as work-disincentive is reduced (Thompson et al, 2013).
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Harmful Effects of SNAP That Can Be Avoided Through Family Impact Analysis
There are concerns among the policymakers that SNAP program is too generous and may discourage people from work. A major harmful effect is the inclusion of able-bodied adults in the program (Gritter, 2015). However, a family impact analysis shows that the benefits of SNAP are not enough to provide a comfortable life without working. In particular, on average the benefit is less than $1.40 and therefore, SNAP does not qualify to be viewed as a disincentive to work (Thompson et al, 2013). Moreover, most of the participants depend on such benefits temporarily when their earnings are low. Therefore, it is clear that SNAP does not provide permanent benefits and as a result, most of Americans will not participate in SNAP in any given year (Gritter, 2015).
In relation to family impact analysis, the funding of the SNAP program should be increased funding that will in return increase purchasing power of the low-income families. Second, the temporary participation period also should be increased to enable more families to access the benefits (Bartfeld et al, 2015).
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In conclusion, the SNAP is among the efforts of the American government to alleviate hunger among the low-income families. It has played an important role in improving the living standards of American citizens when evaluated in relation to family impact analysis. The program also yielded economic effects despite the glaring rates of unemployment. However, the funding and access to SNAP benefits should be increased to enhance the outcome of the program in improving the levels of public health.
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