The Missing Meals Study in 2008 identified a significant shortfall not only in the percentage of meals low-income Minnesotans miss but also in the percentage of meals government assistance programs and nonprofits provide. Government assistance programs provide just 22 percent of low-income Minnesotans" meals each year, primarily because many of those who are eligible for the programs don"t use them. In fact, the study revealed that only 45 percent of eligible Minnesotans are currently enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps and also called the Minnesota Food Support program).
Minnesotans are missing 10 meals every month, yet many of those meals are available to them through programs like SNAP. So why aren"t more eligible Minnesotans reaping the nutritional benefits available to them?
That"s the question The Boston Consulting Group set out to answer when it embarked on its Minnesota SNAP Access Study, a pro bono contribution to deepen understanding of the potential of "food support" — the state"s name for the program — to feed hungry Minnesotans. In the end, though, the study revealed much more, indicating that Minnesota is leaving $210 million in food and money on the table by not fully enrolling eligible people in SNAP.
Minnesota: More expensive, less effective
According to the report, based upon 2008 federal and state data, Minnesota"s administration of SNAP is more expensive and less effective than other states. Only five states have higher costs to administer SNAP, and Minnesota trails all but seven states in SNAP participation with only 302,000 of the state"s 670,000 income-eligible residents receiving benefits.
The Boston Consulting Group suggests that by enrolling currently eligible but non-participating individuals into the program, Minnesota would add $210 million to its annual economy as a result of direct benefits and a multiplier effect as new recipients shop in local food stores. And by bringing the state"s SNAP per-case cost closer to the national average, Minnesota would potentially save $29 million annually in administrative costs. In total, by becoming a cost-effective and high-performing administrator of SNAP, Minnesota could see nearly $240 million in annual economic stimulus, local jobs and savings.
Barriers to participation
Three primary factors account for 95 percent of the reason 55 percent of income-eligible Minnesotan"s are currently not enrolled in SNAP.
Breaking down the barriers
After uncovering the primary reasons why Minnesotans are not participating in SNAP, the Boston Consulting Group goes one step further and identifies six initiatives to break down the barriers to participation and begin reducing the 100-million meal shortfall in Minnesota by helping more Minnesotans enjoy the nutritional benefits available to them. According to the Boston Consulting Group, implementing these initiatives could add at least 148,000 eligible participants to the program.
Changing the tide
The Boston Consulting Group"s SNAP Access Study clearly suggests that there are ethical, political and economic reasons for Minnesota to become a more cost-effective and high-performing administrator of SNAP. From an ethical standpoint, 178,000 additional Minnesotans would be adequately nourished, which would reduce the overall shortfall in meals for Minnesotans in need. From a political standpoint, Minnesota would capture federal tax dollars. And from an economic standpoint, the state could see $240 million in economic stimulus, savings and local jobs.