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Food Stamps Making Progress, But CO Still Ranks 45th Nationally

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Colorado could save up to $2 billion a year on health care and other costs associated with not having regular access to nutritious food. (Pixabay)
Colorado could save up to $2 billion a year on health care and other costs associated with not having regular access to nutritious food. (Pixabay)
March 6, 2018

DENVER – A new report shows Colorado is making improvements on getting food assistance to struggling residents, but significant challenges remain.

Hunger Free Colorado's third annual "Food Stamp Impact Reports" measure how each of the state's 64 counties are faring when it comes to enrollment in the federal SNAP program and calculates benefits to state and local economies.

Katharine Ferguson is the group's director of public policy.

"Colorado is making great progress, but unfortunately the state ranks 45th in the nation for access to food stamps," she laments. "Today, just 58 percent of those who are eligible are getting the nutritious food that they need. The national average, by comparison, is 75 percent. "

Ferguson says even though Colorado boasts one of the strongest economies in the nation, one in 10 residents struggles with hunger. The Trump administration's budget proposal would cut food stamps by 30 percent, and proponents claim states can save money by distributing boxes of food with items such as canned fruits and vegetables.

Ferguson says that policy actually would cut benefits for most Colorado participants by almost half, and she warns that seniors living on fixed incomes could lose assistance altogether.

Ferguson notes the average benefit is a $1.42 per person, per meal, and can only be used for food.

"For families who are struggling to make ends meet, that little bit of help can be the difference between choosing between medicine and food, or rent, and feeding your children," she explains.

According to the Public Health Institute, if all eligible Coloradans were enrolled, the state could save up to $2 billion a year on health care and other costs associated with not having regular access to nutritious food.

Ferguson says food stamps also are a significant economic driver.

"They also support local businesses and the local economies," she adds. "Last year, food stamps brought $728 million to local Colorado economies."

The report's recommendations include making full enrollment in food stamps a priority at the county level and reducing barriers to access by expanding office hours so families can sign up without missing work.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO