Keeping Food on the Table for Families: How Can Text Message Outreach Reduce SNAP Churn?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a lifeline for millions of Americans, but experiencing SNAP churn is all too common. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Network Service defines SNAP churn as when a household exits SNAP and then re-enters the program within four months — nearly one in five eligible clients lose their benefits around recertification and interim reporting deadlines and end up reapplying.

For eligible SNAP clients, a lapse in benefits can have an immediate impact on their food and financial security. For state and local agencies, this churn is costly and adds administrative burden for field staff — the average application takes caseworkers two to three times more time to process than a recertification.

Since 2005, Benefits Data Trust (BDT) has harnessed the power of data, technology, and policy to streamline public benefits systems and provide efficient and dignified access to assistance. In partnership with the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation, BDT is proud to address the critical issue of SNAP churn with the release of our guidebook, “Using Text Message Outreach to Reduce SNAP Churn”, which equips state and local agencies with the practical insights they need to develop a text messaging outreach program for SNAP recertification. As an increasingly common form of communication, text messaging can reach a large proportion of clients at a low cost.

The guidebook is divided up into modular sections covering core workstreams involved in a text messaging program, including guidance on:

  • Planning: Identifying churn rates and patterns, developing a text messaging program based on an agency’s needs and resources, assembling a team based on expertise needed, and creating a project plan
  • Evaluation: Defining outcome metrics and creating an evaluation plan to assess impact
  • Legal + Policy: Understanding regulatory considerations and compliance requirements
  • Texting Strategy + Content: Obtaining consent, choosing a texting approach (one-way messaging vs two-way messaging), crafting messages, and engaging clients
  • Data: Identifying and getting the data needed to support text messaging and measure impact, including executing a data sharing agreement and building a data pipeline
  • Engineering + Technology: Working with an engineering team to architect a texting platform

The “Using Text Message Outreach to Reduce SNAP Churn” guidebook will help agencies navigate key decision points and considerations that have been gathered from similar efforts already underway. Agencies can develop and implement a text messaging program in-house or partner with a vendor — BDT is readily available to offer guidance based on both scenarios.

To learn more about how text message outreach can reduce recertification churn, view the full guidebook here.