On November 1 of this year, nearly 47 million Americans, including 22 million children, experienced financial toil more than ever when Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), benefits were cut from every participating household. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)’s boost in benefits had expired on October 31, leaving a $5 billion cut, a serious depletion in nutritional promise for growing children.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, families of three will experience a cut of $29 a month – leading to a total of $319 for November of 2013 through September of 2014. That is a significant loss for millions of Americans, and will drastically alter their situation. Without the ARRA’s boost, SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014.
Annie Crist, a self-employed mother of two daughters, realizes these health risks but struggles in knowing how much to tell her children. She dreads telling them that the SNAP cuts will mean less chicken and fewer hamburgers for dinner.
“I don’t bother them or worry them with adult issues or adult problems,” Crist said. “But if they ask me, ‘Well, why can’t we get this? We always get this,’ how am I going to explain that?”
As claimed by the Journal of Nutrition, household participation in SNAP increases children’s intake of iron, zinc, niacin, thiamin, and vitamin A, according to a national sample of 499 children. Young children enrolled in SNAP and WIC, jointly or alone, have lower rates of nutritional deficiency than low-income nonparticipants, based on a study of over 350,000 children in Illinois. Furthermore, based on national food consumption data, each addition SNAP dollar increases a household’s overall dietary quality; the higher the level of SNAP benefits, the larger the positive nutritional effect of program participation.
With these numbers, it is evident that the lack of SNAP benefits will have a substantial role in the depreciation of children’s nutritional quality, which would have a disproportionate effect on their well being.
Based on research cited in Children’s Health Watch “Food Stamps as Medicine”, children receiving SNAP benefits are 26 percent less likely to be food insecure than eligible children not enrolled in the program, and citizen children of immigrant parents receiving SNAP benefits are 32 percent less likely to be in poor health than if their families did not receive benefits. Minority children are more likely to suffer from food insecurity and poor health when food stamp benefits are reduced or eliminated. Moreover, reducing SNAP benefits can increase the risk of hospitalization, deficits in cognitive development, and behavioral and emotional problems.
Lauren Nivens, a mother of two, is one of 800,000 Marylanders who fears what will happen to her children’s health as a result of these cuts. Nivens learned that her 15-month-old daughter, Morgan Carolina, isn’t growing as quickly as she should be, weighing a meager 17 pounds and standing at a stout 30 inches tall.
“My daughter, she is underweight and striving to grow; it is important for me,” Nivens said, expressing concern towards the doctors’ and nurses’ warnings that if Morgan doesn’t grow healthy and strong, her brain development and ability to learn could be put in jeopardy.
“If my child doesn’t get WIC [Women, Infant and Children], she’s going to get sick, because she won’t get the proper nutrition,” Nivens said. “Food costs are high. I am one of those people who are struggling.”