SNAP Must Be Improved to Fight Child Hunger During the Pandemic and Beyond

Last updated: 05-21-2020

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SNAP Must Be Improved to Fight Child Hunger During the Pandemic and Beyond

Even before the pandemic, more than 11 million children—disproportionately children of color—went to bed hungry in America. Now, widespread school and childcare closures are leaving children with even less reliable access to nutritious meals and historic job losses are making it harder for families to put food on the table. Childhood hunger is rising rapidly anda third of households with children are not getting enough food each day. This pandemic is putting our children’s physical, mental, and developmental health at dire risk and exacerbating our nation’s hunger crisis. 

That is why income supports like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are more important than ever. In times of crisis, SNAP serves as our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. SNAP helpsfeed 17 million children and lifts 1.4 million children out of poverty each year. 

However, millions of children are still hungry or left out altogether because SNAP benefits are too low, requirements are too harsh, and access is too limited. SNAP benefits average only $1.40 a person per meal among families with children, which means many children and families still go to bed hungry. Others are unable to meet burdensome requirements or denied benefits entirely. And even in the midst of a pandemic and the greatest unemployment crisis since the Great Depression, the Trump administrationis continuing to push for implementationof a harsh rule that would impose stricter time limits and take healthy meals away from 700,000 people. 

At a time when children and families in America need help the most,we must strengthen—not weaken—lifesaving nutrition assistance. It is not only morally right, but also economically smart. Expanded SNAP benefits during the 2009 Great Recessionreduced food insecurity, prevented an additional 1 million people from falling into poverty, and stimulated our economy. SNAP is one of the most effective and responsive federal programs during an economic downturn, generating $1.50 to $1.80 in economic activity for every SNAP dollar spent. Simply put: SNAP works and must be expanded.

While theFamilies First Coronavirus Response Actand theCoronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Actmade some preliminary and temporary improvements to SNAP, Congress must do more to help children and families facing increased financial strain and hunger. We applaud House Democrats for including critical SNAP expansions in theHEROES Actand urge Congress to preserve and pass these much-needed provisions. The next COVID relief package must:

Children and families need real and permanent changes to SNAP to ensure full access to healthy food during this crisis and beyond. Now is the time to act.

To learn more about our proposal to expand SNAP, download our fact sheet here.

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