The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps PA families put food on the table. But we know now that it accomplishes much more than that.
Research increasingly shows that SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps, can ward against the long-term effects on children of experiencing poverty, abuse or neglect, parental substance abuse or mental illness, and exposure to violence—events that can take a toll on their well-being as adults. As a new Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report finds, SNAP helps form a strong foundation of health and well-being for low-income children by lifting millions of families out of poverty, improving food security, and helping improve health and academic achievement with long-lasting consequences.
It’s doing all that across Pennsylvania. SNAP is improving our children’s futures.
SNAP delivers more nutrition assistance to low-income children than any other program. In 2016, SNAP will help about 20 million children each month—about one in four U.S. children—while providing about $30 billion in nutrition benefits for children over the course of the year. In PA, SNAP helps about 683,900 children each month, or about 1 in 4 of our state’s kids, as well.
SNAP’s benefits are modest, but they’re well-targeted to the families that need them the most. While participating families with children in PA receive an average of $379 each month, those with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty line get $498. That’s one reason why SNAP helps lift more children out of deep poverty than any other government assistance program.
In fact, much of SNAP’s success can be attributed to its design, including that consistent national structure that effectively targets food benefits to those with the greatest need; eligibility rules and a funding structure that make benefits available to children in almost all families with little income and few resources; a design that automatically responds to changes in the economy; and rigorous requirements to ensure a high degree of program integrity.
SNAP is helping to give thousands of PA children the foundation they need to succeed. Efforts to reform or enhance it should build on its effectiveness in protecting the well-being of our children—and those nationwide—and preserve the essential program features that contribute to that success.