Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Heather MacIndoe

Second Advisor

Hsin-Ching Wu


The purpose of this research paper is to look at the major factors that influence how SNAP recipients make decisions about food purchases. The secondary purpose of this paper is to touch upon whether or not SNAP recipients suffer disproportionally from food insecurity and obesity-related chronic diseases. Three sets of interviews helped to inform this study: interviews with employees at the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), interviews with researchers who have studied SNAP recipients extensively as part of their work, and interviews with nonprofit coordinators that work with SNAP recipients after they are approved for their benefits. Additional data was collected via a survey of SNAP recipients at food pantries in the city of Boston.

Results from the study show that there were four major themes that influence the food purchasing behavior of SNAP recipients. These themes include the cost of healthy foods, transportation and access to food stores, inadequate support services from the DTA, and finally SNAP recipients focus on surviving first and eating healthy second. Results also showed that while recipients suffer from some food insecurity it appears that they do not suffer at the same level they did before they received assistance. The results also showed that over half of SNAP recipients and their families did suffer from obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes.

Through these findings, I recommend how Massachusetts can take both legislative and funding steps to mitigate factors that stand in the way of healthy food choices for SNAP recipients and decrease both the food insecurity that comes with them, as well as obesity and other chronic diseases associated with these factors.

These recommendations include an incentive pilot in Essex County that provides double the amount SNAP recipients spend on targeted fruits and vegetables, the DTA hiring more caseworkers to be able to provide a better experience for their clients, a DTA communication plan, and the passage of An Act to Expand Access to Healthy Foods. Taken together, these recommendations will help to mitigate the level of food insecurity that SNAP recipients suffer from due to cost, access, support, and survival needs.