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Report: For Healthier Diets, Raise SNAP Benefit Amounts

Raising SNAP or food-stamp benefits would lead to healthier diets for low-income families, according to a new report. (Pixabay)
Raising SNAP or food-stamp benefits would lead to healthier diets for low-income families, according to a new report. (Pixabay)
June 22, 2016

DENVER -- Giving low-income families a little more money to spend on food would lead to healthier meals and free up funds for other necessities such as housing and transportation, according to new research.

Increasing SNAP or food-stamp benefits by $30 per person per month also would help families prepare more meals at home, said Dottie Rosenbaum, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the group that commissioned the study.

"In addition to increasing healthy foods, notably vegetables and healthy sources of protein, they found that it would decrease people's consumption of fast food," Rosenbaum said.

Researchers used the $30 figure because that's the average amount low-income households have said is needed to make a difference in feeding a family. Rosenbaum said she hopes the findings will help prompt the U.S. Department of Agriculture to update the SNAP program, which currently assumes families can get by on $1.40 per person, per meal.

The report found that raising benefits also would help reduce food insecurity, the term for not being able to afford food at some point in the year. Rosenbaum said these households are disproportionately headed by people with disabilities, women and people of color. She said most people who rely on benefits live in working families.

"The purpose of SNAP is to be there when people are temporarily unemployed, or when they're going through a tough time with a divorce or separation," she said. "It would be a very different country if the kids in those families, when they go through those kinds of crises, didn't have access to enough food."

The study pointed to a growing body of research showing that investing now to make sure children get healthy food pays off down the road.

"Children who had better access to nutrition in their early childhood experience long-term gains in their education and in their long-term well being," she said. "What are we going to feed our children now, so that we can have the strongest America in the future?"

The report is online at cbpp.org.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO