Maxwell X Lab
Veteran Food Assistance Awareness Survey Experiment
- Partners: Institute for Veterans and Military Families and the Veterans Administration
- Intervention: Testing behaviorally informed food assistance communication for transitioning military members
- Method: Survey experiment
- Outcome: Concise flyers increased program comprehension but did not affect intentions to apply for food assistance.
Military personnel and their families face significant challenges as they transition to civilian life, including increased risk of food insecurity. Drawing from behavioral science principles, the Maxwell X Lab designed a survey experiment aimed to potentially improve the salience and clarity of communication of food assistance programs, specifically the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to transitioning service members. Participants were randomly assigned to read the original TAP flyer (control) or a new flyer that utilized behavioral science principles such as simplification, social norming, and loss aversion in its design (treatment). This process was repeated in a series of A/B tests wherein the original TAP flyer was compared to a series of alternative flyers. Participants were then asked questions about SNAP comprehension and their likelihood of applying.
Receiving the treatment flyer increased comprehension of flyer content, even while decreasing time spent reading the flyer. However, there was no difference in intentions to apply for SNAP between the treatment and control groups. Many respondents cited meeting their family's food needs, eligibility concerns, the perceived difficulty of the application process, or lack of knowledge about how to apply as primary reasons for not utilizing SNAP. The Veteran Affairs (VA) could enhance SNAP uptake by providing clear instructions and outreach with counselors for veterans.