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Despite its immense wealth, the United States has failed to end food insecurity. Data from the Census Bureau demonstrates that a staggering 10.2 percent of households were food insecure in 2021–including 12.1 percent in Broome County. The largest federal program that tackles food insecurity is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides vouchers for non-prepared food to eligible households. Despite the arguable success of the program, certain groups—particularly immigrants, the elderly, and college students—experience unique barriers to enrollment and thus have low participation rates. Drawing on government statistics and interviews with local welfare advocates, this research examines barriers to SNAP enrollment in Broome County to understand how these obstacles might be eliminated. It is also considered whether government assistance to reduce food insecurity should take the form of cash or vouchers, and whether a universal basic income could effectively address SNAP’s targeting problems and its so-called “welfare trap” effect.



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Barriers to SNAP Participation: A Case Study of Broome County