For about 5 years, from 2015-2020 while I was completing medical and graduate school in San Antonio, my family which consisted of myself, my wife, and our growing family (first one, then two, then three daughters) received SNAP benefits. While I do not claim to be an expert on the subject, I believe my experience gave me a unique perspective on aspects of SNAP that I had not previously considered thoroughly. After first briefly providing a generalized overview of the program, I hope to touch on a few perceived lingering limitations: 1) barriers to household participation, 2) barriers to ensuring proper nutrition, and 3) barriers to self-sufficiency. These limitations should be considered by pediatricians as they encounter patients and families who have food insecurity, so advice and resources can be helpful to and suitable for the families.
Texas is home to approximately 4.7 million immigrants (an estimated 17% of the state population), including approximately 317,000 immigrant children1. Of these immigrants, approximately 1.7 million are naturalized US citizens, nearly 1 million are eligible to become naturalized US citizens, and nearly 2 million are undocumented immigrants1,2. The number of US-born children in Texas who live with an undocumented family member is reported to be approximately 1 million, with approximately 500,000 children with an undocumented parent1,3. Obtaining permanent residency status is a lengthy process and a source of anxiety for many immigrants. Recent changes to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rules regarding which public benefits count negatively towards obtaining permanent residency may impact these families and children. Pediatric healthcare providers should be prepared to help immigrant families understand how the use of public benefits could impact changing their immigration status.
For decades, Congress has wisely ensured that federal child nutrition programs be guided by scientific recommendations from the Instutite of Medicine (IOM) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). As a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA), which the AAP supported, the USDA strengthened nutrition standards for school meals, based on recommendations by the IOM. These updated lunch standards have been in place for two years, and include provisions such as insuring more fruits and vegetables in school children’s lunches. 93% of lunches currently served meet these improved nutrition standards. As children receive up to 50% of their calories at school, it is critical that school meals are healthy, balanced and age appropriate. (more…)
Back in February of this year, Dr. Katie Maddox brought to our attention the Farm Bill (known officially as the Agricultural Act of 2014) and its proposed reduction of 8.6 billion dollars in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) budget. At the time, the Farm Bill had been passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and was pending approval by Senate. Before the revised bill went to Senate, the AAP issued a statement opposing the proposed cuts to the SNAP program (1). (more…)
A proposed reduction of 8.6 million dollars in the budget for The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called Food Stamps, has already been approved in the House and is moving on to the Senate. See quote below from the AAP president Dr. James Perrin.
“Pediatricians witness the effects of childhood hunger firsthand:hungry children are less likely to be healthy and are more likely to suffer developmental delays, have behavioral problems and have difficulties focusing in school. At a time when more than one in five U.S. children lives in poverty, the Farm Bill’s cuts to this program exacerbate the effects of child hunger and disproportionately hurt children. In fact, 850,000 households across the country will now receive $90 less of SNAP benefits each month. To a family already living in poverty, these cuts will mean fewer meals and contribute to more anxiety about where the next meal will come from. No child should be hungry in this country. Parents should not be left wondering how to feed their families at the end of each month.”