Growth In SNAP Retailers Was Associated With Increased Client Enrollment In Georgia During The Great Recession
Author: Jerry Shannon, Sarah Shannon, Grace Bagwell Adams, Jung Sun Lee
Policies to improve food accessibility in underserved areas often use direct financial incentives to attract new food retailers. Our analysis of data on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Georgia before and after the Great Recession suggests that increased program enrollment improves access to food for SNAP beneficiaries by acting as an indirect subsidy to retailers. We divided food stores into four categories: large, midsize, small, and specialty retailers. Between 2008 and 2011 the number of SNAP enrollees increased by 87 percent, and between 2007 and 2014 the number of SNAP retailers in Georgia increased by 82 percent, primarily because of growth in the number of authorized small retailers. Inside metropolitan Atlanta, changes in the numbers of SNAP enrollees and authorized retailers were positively and significantly associated for small retailers. For the areas outside of metropolitan Atlanta, the association between changes in numbers of enrollees and authorized retailers was strongest for small retailers; more modest associations were also seen for large and specialty retailers. Policy makers should consider how retailers’ sensitivity to and reliance on SNAP funding can be leveraged to improve not only food availability, but also access to healthy foods.