The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is our nation’s most effective and largest anti-hunger safety net protecting low-income families from hunger and poverty. In 2018, SNAP spent $51 billion to serve 40.6 million individuals. Although food insecurity in the state of Arkansas is approximately 17.2% equating to 515,270 individuals, in fiscal year 2017, SNAP served 388,000 Arkansas residents, which is equivalent to 13% of the state’s population. During the 2018 Farm Bill debate, numerous cuts were proposed to SNAP funding. Therefore, during the time frame of this national debate, this study explored the impact of potential SNAP cuts among Arkansans.
An explanatory sequential design was utilized for this study. The purpose of this design is to use a qualitative approach to explain quantitative results by integrating both sets of data at a particular stage in the research process (Creswell, 2005). During September 2017 to March 2018, Bachelor of Social Work students at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (n=44) partnered with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. First, students gathered the following data points from each Arkansas county: number of county residents who participate in SNAP and those eligible who are not using SNAP, dollars pumped into the economy in 2017 due to SNAP benefits, county rate of food insecurity, and county unemployment. Next, students reached out to the following Arkansas entities: SNAP participants, grocery stores, farmers markets, and food pantries in all 75 counties to gather data concerning SNAP cuts and its potential impact. Three questions were asked of each entity: (1.) What capacity is there in your community to respond to SNAP cuts? (2.) How would cuts to SNAP impact you or your business? (3.) If you could say one thing to your legislator about SNAP or food insecurity in your community what would it be?
This Arkansas county level sample (N=192) consisted of responses from the following entities: SNAP participants (n=47), grocery stores (n=70), farmers markets (n=30), and food pantries (n=45). Quantitative data points from one Arkansas county revealed: 3,178 county residents participate in SNAP, 4,062 are eligible, but not using SNAP, $7,242,306 dollars were pumped into the economy in 2017 due to SNAP benefits, 19.8% is the county rate of food insecurity, and 3.9 of county residents are unemployed. Qualitative themes from SNAP recipients revealed: “SNAP takes a lot of weight off my shoulders”, “cutting SNAP would make life harder than it is.” Aggregate qualitative themes from grocery stores, farmers markets, and food pantries revealed: “our business would have to close,” “food pantries would not be able to sustain everyone.”
Cuts to the SNAP program will further expand economic inequality and have a negative impact on Arkansans' psychological, emotional, and physical health. Cutting SNAP funding may lead to a mass exodus of grocery stores, food pantries, and farmers markets throughout the state.