The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has failed to boost the nutritional value of food purchased and consumed by recipients or to improve food security (ensuring participants have food to meet household needs), according to a new study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers. New policies, programs, and nutrition education initiatives are needed to encourage SNAP participants to buy more fruits, vegetables, and other healthier choices instead of choosing less-healthy options such as sugar sweetened beverages, sweets, and highly processed grains, to improve their health and well-being.

The study was published online in the November 18, 2013, Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior and will appear in the June/July 2014 print edition.

Formerly known as the Food Stamp program, SNAP is designed to provide financial support to low-income people so they can purchase healthier foods. The program costs U.S. taxpayer $80 billion annually and, in 2012, served nearly 45 million people. The benefits can be used to purchase all foods, except alcohol, supplements, and prepared warm foods.

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