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Food Assistance

Food Assistance programs in the United States are designed to ensure adequate nutrition and encourage healthy eating choices for low-income and at-risk families. The three main food assistance programs are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps until October 1, 2008), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the National School Lunch Program which provides free or reduced cost lunches to low-income families. Other governmental programs include the School Breakfast Program, Disaster SNAP, and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. State and local agencies may also support additional food assistance programs such as food banks and food pantries. This section features research on key issues related to food assistance including: the availability of healthy foods; cost and access to food for low-income families; food deserts; food insecurity; malnutrition; and obesity. Resources on specific programs and approaches, as well as research on program utilization is also highlighted.

View recommendations from the SSRC Librarian on Food Assistance and relevant Federal laws and regulations below. 


A boy sitting at a table drinking a juice box, with a pudding and sandwich in front of him

Many low-income individuals and families struggle to access affordable food due to lack of money and, in some cases, geographic location. Food assistance programs strive to improve low-income individuals' and families' access to affordable food, a critical component of the safety net. Click the phrases below to view selected research and resources on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program of Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/Food Stamps) programs.

An apple on top of a stack of books

Federal laws and regulations establish a framework which guides the design and administration of food assistance programs for low-income individuals. Click the first link below to view legislative resources specific to food assistance programs. Click the second link to browse additional self-sufficiency legislation and policy in the SSRC library.