SNAP Declines Yet Hunger Persists:
NYC Caseloads 2012-2016 and the Need to Ease Access to Benefits
Made Possible by funding from the United Way of New York City with additional funding from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust
Hunger Free America in collaboration with the
CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute
Between 2012 and 2016, New York City experienced a 7.3% decline in participation in the federally-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), despite 1.2 million city residents living in food insecure households during that time, a level higher than a decade ago. This study analyzed data on SNAP caseloads, economic trends, and surveys of SNAP applicants and participants to better understand the large drop in SNAP participation over this period and to identify strategies to improve access to SNAP benefits for all New Yorkers in need of food assistance.
Our analysis of caseload data confirmed that the citywide reduction in SNAP participants, mirroring trends at the state and national level, is statistically associated with falling rates of poverty and unemployment, a positive outcome of New York City’s economic recovery from the Great Recession. However, many New Yorkers who struggle with poverty and food insecurity are not currently receiving these benefits. Additionally, there was significant variation in SNAP prevalence from community to community, with participation in neighborhoods like Bushwick dropping 28% and Bayside growing 8%. These differences indicate the need for closer scrutiny of neighborhood level data, particularly neighborhood-level SNAP eligibility rates, to determine whether they reflect demographic and economic changes (and particularly issues related to immigration and language) that warrant different forms of outreach and case management.
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