More About Brynne Keith-Jennings

Brynne Keith-Jennings

Brynne Keith-Jennings joined the Center in June 2011 as a Research Associate in the Food Assistance Division.

Full bio and recent public appearances | Research archive at

Updated Resources Illustrate SNAP’s Important Role

June 10, 2014 at 11:54 am

We’ve updated a trio of SNAP resources — our Chart Book, Policy Basic, and state fact sheets — that explain the program’s essential details, including who receives SNAP (formerly food stamps), how much it costs, how it responds to need, and how it encourages work.

These resources highlight SNAP’s role in providing essential food support to low-income households and local economies, which was particularly important during the economic downturn.

In fact, as our Chart Book illustrates, a CBPP analysis using the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which counts SNAP as income, found that SNAP kept about 4.9 million people out of poverty in 2012, including about 2.2 million children.  National Poverty Center researchers found that counting SNAP benefits as income cuts the number of extremely poor households with children in 2011 by nearly half (see chart) and cuts the number of extremely poor children by two-thirds (from 3.6 million to 1.2 million).

Click here for more on SNAP.

CBO Projects Even Bigger Drop in SNAP Spending

April 28, 2014 at 11:25 am

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which has consistently predicted that SNAP (food stamp) spending will fall over the next decade, now predicts that it will fall even faster.

In updating its February projections, CBO lowered its estimate of total SNAP spending over the next ten years by about $24 billion for “technical” reasons — primarily because CBO has cut its estimate of the average benefit per person (now about $1.40 per person per meal) — and by another $8 billion due to the SNAP cuts in the Farm Bill enacted in February.  The total reduction rounds to $33 billion over the 2015-2024 decade.

These estimates are just the latest evidence disproving claims that SNAP is growing out of control.

Under CBO’s new projections, annual SNAP costs will fall from $83 billion in fiscal year 2013 to $71 billion in fiscal year 2024, a drop of 32 percent after adjusting for inflation.  SNAP spending is also falling as a share of gross domestic product (GDP).  CBO expects it to return to 1995 levels as a share of GDP by 2019 (see chart).

The main reasons for the decline are the recovering economy, which has already begun to shrink SNAP caseloads, and last November’s expiration of the 2009 Recovery Act’s benefit increase.

SNAP Caseloads and Spending Continue to Fall

April 10, 2014 at 11:37 am

Participation in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) has continued the downward trend that we described in our recent paper, new Agriculture Department data show.  About 240,000 fewer people received SNAP benefits in January 2014 than in December 2013, and about 1.2 million fewer people participated than in January 2013 (see chart).  This continued decline in participation shows that SNAP has functioned properly during the recession and the slow recovery:  it expanded to meet increased need, and it is gradually contracting as economic conditions improve.

SNAP caseloads grew dramatically during the recession and stayed high due largely to labor market weakness.  As the economy began to recover, caseload growth began to flatten and then fall, a pattern consistent with past recessions.  January 2014 was the fifth straight month that fewer people have participated in SNAP than in the same month the previous year, and the third straight month that the caseload declined from the previous month.  Most states’ SNAP caseloads are falling:  in January 2014, caseloads had fallen in 35 states compared with December 2013 and in 42 states compared with January 2013.

SNAP spending has also fallen, due to both declining participation and the November 2013 expiration of the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary boost in SNAP benefits.  The Agriculture Department’s data show that as a result of these two factors, SNAP spending on benefits in January 2014 was about 9 percent lower than in January 2013.  SNAP spending fell slightly as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) in fiscal years 2012 and 2013, and is predicted to fall further in fiscal year 2014.  The Congressional Budget Office expects SNAP spending to return to 1995 levels as a share of GDP by 2019.

SNAP Benefit Cut Has Worsened Hardships for Low-Income Families

March 11, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Average SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefits fell by about 7 percent due to last November’s expiration of the temporary benefit increase in the 2009 Recovery Act, according to our updated paper.  This reduction, which matches our earlier prediction, will have a powerful impact on low-income households’ ability to afford adequate food — and on local economies.

Benefits fell in every state except Hawaii, as these state-by-state tables show.

Most SNAP recipients already had difficulty affording food, and the lost benefits equal about ten meals a month for an average SNAP household.  Because SNAP households spend 97 percent of their benefits by the end of the month, the reduction will likely cause more households to run out of money for food.  News reports indicate that food banks have seen a rise in need since the cut took effect (see here, here, and here).

Agriculture Department research shows that a drop in SNAP benefits can raise the number of households with “very low food security,” meaning that one or more persons had to skip meals or otherwise eat less because they lacked money.

The total benefit cut exceeded $400 million for November alone and will amount to about $5 billion over the rest of fiscal year 2014.  To put that in perspective, $400 million roughly equals the entire fiscal year 2014 federal funding for emergency food assistance delivered through food pantries and other sites.

Because SNAP recipients spend their benefits quickly, the loss in benefits will ripple through states’ economies.  Moody’s Analytics estimates that every dollar in SNAP benefits generates at least $1.70 in economic activity in a weak economy.