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Strengthening SNAP a “Smart Public Investment”

April 29, 2016 at 3:45 PM

“Alleviating food insecurity is not only a moral imperative; it also makes good economic sense,” former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Hamilton Project Director Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach explained this week in the Wall Street Journal.  I couldn’t agree more.

Nearly one in five U.S. households with children were food insecure in 2014, meaning they lacked adequate food at some point during the year.  SNAP (formerly food stamps), the nation’s most important anti-hunger program, helps millions of low-income Americans afford a nutritionally adequate diet. 

Rubin and Schanzenbach cite a recent study finding that access to SNAP also has long-term benefits, such as higher high-school graduation rates, better health outcomes in adulthood, and greater economic self-sufficiency among women.

They call on policymakers to strengthen SNAP by allowing unemployed childless adults — more than half a million of whom will be cut off the program this year due to re-imposition in many areas of a severe time limit that limits SNAP benefits for these adults to just three months while they’re unemployed — to continue receiving benefits while they’re searching for a job. 

They also recommend expanding access to summer nutrition programs for children; raising benefits to reflect the reality that poor mothers (and others) who work usually don’t have time to prepare all of their families’ meals from scratch, and consequently have difficulty affording an adequate diet on current SNAP benefit levels; and providing more resources to families with teenagers to offset their increased food costs due to growth spurts.

These changes would be beneficial for low-income Americans and the nation as a whole.