SNAP Helps Millions of Children
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) delivers more nutrition assistance to low-income children than any other federal program. It forms a critical foundation for the health and well-being of America’s children, lifting millions of families and their children out of poverty and helping them afford an adequate diet. Research shows that SNAP also has important long-lasting benefits for children.
- In a typical month, SNAP helps families with nearly 20 million children afford an adequate diet. That’s 1 in 4 children in the United States. (See Figure 1.) Nearly half (44 percent) of SNAP recipients are children; another 21 percent are adults who live with those children.
- Two-thirds of SNAP benefits go to families with children. SNAP provided an estimated $44 billion in 2016 to help families with children buy groceries. More than half of this amount went to families with very young children: infants, toddlers, and preschool- age children.
SNAP Improves Children’s Health and School Performance
- Mothers in areas with access to SNAP (then called food stamps) during pregnancy in the 1960s and early 1970s, as the program gradually expanded nationwide, gave birth to fewer low birth-weight babies than mothers without access.
- Research suggests that SNAP participation can lead to gains in reading and math skills among elementary school children, especially young girls, and increase their chances of graduating from high school.
SNAP Targets the Neediest Families with Children
- In 2015, a typical family with children that received SNAP included one adult and two children, with an income of $1,027 a month (not including SNAP) or about $12,300 a year. This corresponds to 60 percent of the poverty line. Over 80 percent of SNAP families with children had incomes below the poverty line. And 45 percent of SNAP families with children were in deep poverty, with incomes at or below half of the poverty line ($837 per month for a family of three in 2015).
- Families with children received SNAP benefits averaging $393 each month in fiscal year 2015 or about $4,700 a year, boosting their income by 38 percent.
- The overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients in families with children who can work do work. Over half of families with children with a non-elderly, non-disabled adult in the household have at least one working member while participating in SNAP. Almost 90 percent work in the year before or after participating. 
SNAP Significantly Reduces Child Poverty
- In 2015 1 in 5 children (14.5 million) lived below the poverty level — more than before the Great Recession. (In 2007, 1 in 6 children were poor, equivalent to 13.3 million children). In addition, the economic recovery has not reached many poor families with children in rural areas. Nearly 1 in 4 (23.7 percent) of children in rural areas were poor in 2014, a higher share than before the recession (22.3 percent in 2007). Numerous studies show that poor children are likelier to have health, behavioral, learning, and emotional problems.
- SNAP kept about 3.8 million children out of poverty, and 2.1 million children out of deep poverty, in 2014.
- Research finds that young children whose families consistently receive SNAP are likelier to have regular access to food, to be in good health, and are at lower risk of developmental delays, than young children in households that lost part or all of their SNAP benefits.
SNAP Helps Families Put Food on the Table
- 13.1 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2015, meaning the household had difficulty affording nutritious, adequate food at some point during the year.
- Food insecurity rates for households with children and households with children under age 6 were both nearly 17 percent in 2015, higher than the national average of 12.7 percent.
- Poor children are more likely to be food insecure. Food insecurity in households with children is associated with inadequate intake of several important nutrients, deficits in cognitive development, behavioral problems, and poor health during childhood. 
- SNAP benefits are modest yet alleviate food insecurity. Research indicates that food insecurity among children fell by roughly a third after their families received SNAP for six months.
|Selected Characteristics of Children Receiving SNAP, 2015|
|Number of Children Receiving SNAP||Share of all Children Receiving SNAP a|
|Total Children, Age 0-17, Receiving SNAP||19,891,200||100%|
|5 to 11||8,380,900||42%|
|12 to 17||5,390,700||27%|
|Children without disabilities||18,919,700||95%|
|In household with no members with a disability||16,996,300||85%|
|In household with someone with a disability||1,923,400||10%|
|Children with disabilities||971,400||5%|
|Household composition b|
|Children living with one adult||12,318,600||62%|
|Children living with multiple adults||7,530,300||38%|
|Other multiple-adult household||2,332,200||12%|
|Children living with no adults or where household composition is unclear||42,100||0.2%|
|Citizenship status b|
|Citizen children (U.S. born and naturalized)||19,561,200||98%|
|Citizen children living with only citizen adults||15,598,900||78%|
|Citizen children living with at least one non-citizen||3,921,100||20%|
|Citizen children living with no adults or with adults of unknown immigration status||41,100||0.2%|
|Non-citizen children (refugees, legal permanent residents, and other eligible non-citizens)||329,900||2%|
a. Some category sub-totals do not add up to totals due to rounding.
b. For determining household composition and citizenship status of adults living with of SNAP children, we include adults who, because they are ineligible, are not part of the SNAP unit.
Source: CBPP analysis of U.S. Agriculture Department 2015 SNAP household characteristics data.
|Children Receiving SNAP as a Share of the Population by State, and Average SNAP Benefits, 2015|
|State||SNAP Children||Share of State's Children Receiving SNAP a||SNAP Households with Children||Average Monthly SNAP Benefits, All Households with Children||Percentage of SNAP Households with Children, with Gross Incomes Under 51% of Poverty||Percentage of SNAP Households with Children, with Gross Incomes Between 51-100% of Poverty|
|District of Columbia||51,100||43%||25,700||$385||57%||31%|
|United States b||19,891,200||27%||9,509,900||$393||45%||37%|
a. Estimates of state population of children are as of July 1, 2015; estimates of children on SNAP are for fiscal years. National share excludes Guam and Virgin Islands because comparable population data are not available. In 2010, based on data from that year’s decennial Census and 2010 SNAP household characteristics data, about 40 percent of children participated in SNAP in both Guam and the Virgin Islands.
b. Individual state totals do not add up to the U.S. total due to rounding. Sources: CBPP analysis of Agriculture Department 2015 SNAP household characteristics data; Census Bureau 2015 population estimates; Census Bureau 2010 Census.
 Kelsey Farson Gray, Sarah Fisher, and Sarah Lauffer, “Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2015,” prepared for the Food and Nutrition Service, USDA, November 2016, https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/characteristics-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-households-fiscal-year-2015.
 Steven Carlson et al., “SNAP Works for America’s Children,” CBPP, September 29, 2016, https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/snap-works-for-americas-children.
 Bernadette D. Proctor, Jessica L. Semega, and Melissa A. Kollar, “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015,” Census Bureau, September 2016, http://www.census.gov/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-256.html.
 Thomas Hertz and Tracey Farrigan, “Understanding Trends in Rural Child Poverty, 2003-2014,” Department of Agriculture, Economic and Research Service, May 2016, https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=45543.
 Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Greg Duncan, “The Effects of Poverty on Children,” The Future of Children, 7(2), 1997, www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/07_02_03.pdf.
 Forthcoming CBPP analysis of Census Bureau data from the March Current Population Survey; corrections for underreported benefits from Department of Health and Human Services/Urban Institute TRIM model.
 Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba et al., “Punishing Hard Work: The Unintended Consequences of Cutting SNAP Benefits,” Children’s HealthWatch, December 2013, http://childrenshealthwatch.org/punishing-hard-work-the-unintended-consequences-of-cutting-snap-benefits/.
 Alisha Coleman-Jensen et al., “Household Food Security in the United States in 2015,” Economic Research Service, September 2016, https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=79760.
 John T. Cook and Deborah A. Frank, “Food Security, Poverty, and Human Development in the United States,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1136(1), 193-209, 2008, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1196/annals.1425.001/epdf.
 James Mabli et al., “Measuring the Effect of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation on Food Security,” Department of Agriculture, August 2013, https://www.fns.usda.gov/measuring-effect-snap-participation-food-security-0.