Farm Bill SNAP Solutions: Streamlining and Enhancing Data Sharing

By: Ryan Lauko, Senior Director of Operations

Benefits Data Trust (BDT) released our recommendations for how to streamline access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the 2023 Farm Bill. To explain our recommendations, we have developed a special blog series. Below is the second in the series, which focuses on the need for data sharing and collaboration across the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to align on data sharing guidance.

"Data sharing matters because it can reduce administrative burden while easing an applicant's experience." – Ryan Lauko, Senior Director of Operations

BDT has extensive first-hand experience in data sharing and executing data sharing agreements. We know it can be confusing and lengthy to execute, so we weren’t surprised when 39 states requested federal guidance on data coordination in a survey we reported last month.  

You may ask, “Why does this matter? What is so great about data sharing?” Data sharing matters because it can reduce administrative burden while easing an applicant’s experience.  

For instance, through data sharing agreements, state agencies can identify households that have already satisfied the eligibility requirements for Medicaid but are not enrolled in SNAP, a program with similar eligibility criteria. States can use this information to conduct efficient and effective outreach to households they know are likely eligible for SNAP.

BDT has leveraged the power of more than 40 data sharing agreements to reach out to people in states across the country, enabling us to facilitate about 900,000 benefit enrollments for SNAP and other state and federal benefits since 2005. 

In addition to greater outreach, states with data sharing agreements can use data from one benefit application to support documentation requirements for another program – effectively eliminating a separate application a person must complete and a program administrator must process. 

Federal guidelines on best practices for data sharing across systems would reduce the level of effort required to execute a data sharing agreement – harnessing existing government assets and opening a door for eligible households to access vital benefits.

Such guidance could include:  

  • A model template for data sharing agreements that has been vetted by both USDA and HHS (the federal agencies responsible for SNAP and Medicaid) 
  • Examples of states engaged in innovative data-sharing projects that USDA and HHS support 
  • A description of what data can be shared and under what circumstances 
  • A description of when consent is required for data sharing and when it is not 
  • Best practices for common issues that arise with integrated eligibility systems.

BDT is working to solve the benefits access gap – that is, the difference between the number of people who are eligible for benefits and those who are actually receiving them – informed by our on-the-ground experience in data sharing, screening individuals for eligibility, and providing application assistance. We are confident that more coordinated data sharing guidance will help agencies leverage existing resources and equip states to be more successful in processing enrollments – all while helping people.

Please reach out to us at if you have questions about our recommendations to reduce the effort required to effectively take advantage of data sharing, a critical tool for closing the benefit access gap.