“Quantifying the SNAP Gap: Strategies to Address Food Insecurity Among Latinos in Illinois”
Author: Jose Serrano
Department: UIC Institute for Policy & Civic Engagement
Advisor: Dr. Joseph K. Hoereth, IPCE
Abstract: Food insecurity profoundly impacts the education, mental health, income, and physical health of Latinos throughout Illinois. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a critical tool for combating this issue. However, discrepancies between eligibility and participation – known as the “SNAP Gap” - among Latino households, can result in millions of unused funds and inadequate support for those in need. Despite the USDA portraying a high SNAP participation rate in Illinois, the statistical analysis undertaken in this study suggests that a wider SNAP gap exists. Through a literature review of existing strategies in other states, this study aims to identify solutions to close the gap for SNAP-eligible Latinos in Illinois. Research indicates that only 43% of SNAP-eligible Latino households, excluding non-citizens, participate in the program, leaving many households without essential support. Addressing this issue will require funding for Community-Based Organizations, hiring more diverse frontline staff, implementing technology to streamline the application process, and raising income limits to encourage greater participation. By implementing these recommendations, SNAP funds will be maximized, and in turn food insecurity will be reduced in Illinois.
Keywords: SNAP, Latinos, Illinois, food insecurity, immigration, accessibility, poverty, families, nutrition, health