By invitation from the World Bank, Dr. Craig Gundersen, ACES Distinguished Professor in the department of agricultural and consumer economics in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES), recently presented on America’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to Egyptian governmental officials.
“Egypt is thinking about a new approach to food assistance, and they are interested in SNAP as a model,” Gundersen explained.
The central goal of SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is to reduce food insecurity in the United States. SNAP differs greatly from Egypt’s current food assistance program, which consists mostly of bread subsidies.
“For decades, all Egyptians have been able to purchase heavily subsidized bread; they only pay about 10% of fair market price. Everyone qualifies for this subsidy. But the government is interested in expanding this program beyond just bread and to direct it towards those who are more in need rather than for the full population,” explained Gundersen.
The presentation on SNAP was well received by Egyptian officials due to the program being targeted and more flexible than their current arrangement, he said.
“They started to think if an upper income county can have this, so can they. And they talked about expanding to a ration card with more options.”
However, Gundersen sees challenges to a SNAP-type program being implemented in Egypt due to different cultural perspectives.
“There is a strong sense in Egypt that there is an entitlement to this subsidized bread. They foresee a lot of pushback if suddenly only certain people, for example those who make under $4 a day, would be qualifying for a program. Even if they expand to a SNAP-like program, the bread subsidy would likely stay.”
Gundersen, the principal investigator on the new Feeding America grant to reduce food insecurity, found this meeting especially innovative because it bridged previous gaps in the discussion.
“Within the topic of food assistance programs we rarely get the chance to talk across low income and high income countries so that was really exciting for me. I am hopeful that Egypt can find a new way to alleviate its food insecurity, which is dire, just as SNAP does in the United States. Given the strength of our college in this area we may be able to work with them more in the future,” he said.