Published: September 2022

ID #: CAS070

Journal: Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

Authors: Headrick G, Ellison C, Bresnahan C, Green C, Lyons M, Moran A

See more related research


This study aimed to describe state agencies’ implementation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, barriers and facilitators to SNAP implementation, and recommendations to improve SNAP implementation. This study was qualitative, using 7 semistructured, virtual focus groups in April 2021 with state-level SNAP administrators and supportive services supervisors from 26 states. Six primary themes emerged from the focus groups: the policy response, technology needs, collaboration, participant communication, funding realities, and equity. Implementation challenges included the design of waivers in the early pandemic response, inadequate federal guidance and funding, outdated technology, and prepandemic regulations limiting state authority. Modernized technology systems, availability of virtual programming, partnerships, and enhanced benefits facilitated SNAP implementation. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program administrators adapted their programs to deliver services virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. These experiences highlighted the importance of certain policy determinants, such as modernized technology and streamlined application processes, to improve outcomes for SNAP participants and staff in the future.

For a snapshot of the findings and policy implications, see the accompanying research brief.

Related Research

September 2022

Implementing SNAP During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Perspectives from the National Network of State SNAP Administrators

SNAP was a critical component of the COVID-19 pandemic response. The beginning of the pandemic saw the largest increase in applications in the program’s history, and the pandemic fundamentally altered how SNAP agencies deliver benefits, interact with participants, and provide supportive services. The goal of this research was to examine SNAP implementation during the first More

June 2021

SNAP Waivers and Adaptations During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Survey of State Agency Perspectives in 2020

This research seeks to understand perspectives from state SNAP administrators on the successes, challenges, and lessons learned from waivers and flexibilities used to preserve equitable access to SNAP during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on state agency survey responses, this report summarizes key findings from the first calendar year of pandemic response and provides policy considerations More

September 2020

Strengthening the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through State Waiver Flexibilities: Perspectives from the National Network of State SNAP Directors

The rapid rise in food insecurity among households with children during COVID-19 has reinforced the critical role SNAP plays in reducing food insecurity and poverty, particularly in low-income communities of color. Waivers and other state program modifications enacted during the pandemic could improve access to SNAP and reduce income and racial disparities that have been More