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Abstract

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program (FSP), provides low-income households with electronic benefits that can be used to purchase food in grocery stores and supermarkets. People residing on Indian reservations, and households with American Indians and Alaska Natives residing off but near reservations, or in certain areas of Oklahoma, may have a food assistance option besides SNAP/FSP—the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), which provides a monthly package of commodities. FDPIR was established, in part, to address concerns about the distances some reservation residents would have to travel to SNAP/FSP offices and grocery stores in order to obtain and use food stamps. Eligibility requirements for FDPIR are similar, but not identical, to those for SNAP/FSP. FDPIR households cannot participate in both FDPIR and SNAP/FSP in the same month, so those who are eligible for both programs must choose between them. This report combines findings from site visits to seven reservations that participate in FDPIR with analysis of administrative and survey data to compare the two programs with regard to eligibility, participation, administration, and possible effects on health and nutrition. Results show that FDPIR benefits some American Indian and Alaska Native households that are not eligible for SNAP/FSP. Simulation estimates suggest that in an average month, 13 percent of households eligible for FDPIR would not be eligible for SNAP/FSP. Another 41 percent of the households eligible for FDPIR are eligible for SNAP/FSP but would receive FDPIR commodities with retail value above the SNAP/FSP benefit. The remaining 46 percent of households eligible for FDPIR are eligible for SNAP/FSP and would receive more benefits from that program than from FDPIR. What determines the choice between programs, among people who have a choice? The size of the benefit for which the household would qualify is certainly a factor, but administrators and participants suggest that the ease of enrollment, cultural compatibility, choice in food selection, and access to grocery stores also appear to affect participation decisions.

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