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Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Use Among Active-Duty Military Personnel, Veterans, and Reservists

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Subpopulations have variable connections to specific institutions, such as the military, which can influence their use of social programs and access to resources. We use data from the 5-year (2008–2012) American Community Survey (ACS) public-use file to examine current Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) use by military service status: active-duty personnel, recent veterans, long-term veterans, and reserve/guard members. Overall and by military service status, we estimate weighted descriptive statistics and multivariate logistic regression models that include demographic and socioeconomic controls. We document low but non-trivial levels of participation among active-duty personnel (2.2 %), higher but still moderate levels of SNAP use among veterans (7.1 % for recent veterans and 6.5 % for long-term veterans), and the highest level of use among members of the reserve/guard (9.0 %). Multivariate analyses support hypotheses based on the potential for the military, as a total institution, to substantially reduce use of SNAP among active-duty personnel, while veterans and reservists, who are more distal from food-related institutional resources, have higher likelihoods of using SNAP. Although levels of SNAP use among active-duty personnel, veterans, and reservists are lower than those observed in the national population, which includes those with no direct connection to military institutions, findings suggest that leaving active-duty military service results in a substantial and relatively immediate reduction in food-related resources for many recent veterans and their families. We discuss the implications of the findings for policy, limitations of the research, and directions for future research.

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  1. Among those living below 185 % of the poverty threshold, 84.3 % were long-term veterans, 11.1 % were reservists, 2.3 % were on active duty, and 2.3 % were recent veterans.

  2. Among those below 185 % of the poverty threshold, 21.9 % used SNAP, with substantial variation in rates of use across the military service subsamples: 6.1 % among active-duty personnel, 19.1 % among recent veterans, 21.4 % among long-term veterans, and 29.6 % among members of the reserve/guard.

  3. Among those below 185 % of poverty, we find similar results: the odds ratios are 0.17 for the active-duty, 0.48 for the recent veterans, and 0.85 for the long-term veterans, and they are all statistically significantly different from the reserve/guard and from one another.


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Correspondence to Andrew S. London.

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London, A.S., Heflin, C.M. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Use Among Active-Duty Military Personnel, Veterans, and Reservists. Popul Res Policy Rev 34, 805–826 (2015).

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