The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) helps Montana families put food on the table and make ends meet. But we also know that it accomplishes much more than that. SNAP is actively improving our children’s futures.
Research increasingly shows that SNAP can protect children against the long-term effects of experiencing poverty and food insecurity, events that take a toll not only on immediate well-being but can impact children’s economic and social mobility into adulthood. Nearly 20% of Montana’s kids live in poverty and just over 18% live in food insecure households, putting them at risk of poorer health outcomes, reduced nutrition, lower academic achievement, and increased behavioral issues.
Hungry kids often have trouble focusing, which makes it hard for them to pay attention at school and retain information. And parents who are too busy worrying about where their next meal will come from don’t have enough time or energy to focus on their child’s education. Studies show that young children whose families qualify for and receive SNAP are at lower risk of developmental delays than children from similar low-income families who do not receive food assistance from SNAP.
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. SNAP delivers more nutrition assistance to low-income children than any other program. In Montana, SNAP helps about 48,700 children each month, or more than 1 in 5 of our state’s kids.
In addition, more Farmer’s Markets are accepting SNAP, which helps families to access fresh, local produce and ensures their kids have the right nutrition to thrive. In Montana, SNAP is accepted at 23 Farmer’s Markets, a growing number of which also offer ‘double SNAP dollars’, an incentive program that doubles the dollar amount SNAP customers can spend on fresh produce.
SNAP is helping to give thousands of Montana children the foundation they need to succeed and the fuel they need to thrive. Efforts to reform or enhance the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program should build on its effectiveness in protecting the well-being of our children, and preserve the essential program features that contribute to that success.
Elizabeth Weaver, SNAP Outreach Coordinator, Montana Food Bank Network