Agriculture Department Considers Data-Driven Nutrition Assistance

Lisa S./

Officials could use the database to make smarter decisions and improve state and federal cooperation.

The Agriculture Department is considering building a national database of state-level information about when, where and how people are using food stamps and other nutrition assistance, solicitation documents show.

The proposed database would help the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and its state-level partners make smarter decisions about where to invest time and money, according to the sources sought document posted April 29.

The government has invested more heavily in data collection and analysis during the past several years as part of a larger drive to make government programs more efficient. Some states have penned data sharing agreements for SNAP caseload information but there’s currently no national repository for this information.

The proposed study would analyze any technological or privacy barriers to creating a national database and look for ways to overcome them. It would also determine whether the database could include all data on SNAP caseloads or if it’s more feasible to analyze a representative sample, the sources sought document said.

A sources sought document means the Agriculture Department is merely surveying the field of possible vendors and hasn’t committed to purchasing anything.

(Image via Lisa S./