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Report: Enrollment Surges for SD Health, Social-Service Programs

Nearly 90,000 South Dakotans received SNAP benefits in Nov. 2018, according to the South Dakota Department of Social Services. (nokidhungry.org)
Nearly 90,000 South Dakotans received SNAP benefits in Nov. 2018, according to the South Dakota Department of Social Services. (nokidhungry.org)
January 25, 2019

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A new report shows more South Dakotans are relying on safety-net programs that help lower-income families.

South Dakota's KIDS COUNT and the University of South Dakota's Public Health Programs analyzed enrollment for health and social-service programs since the Great Recession, starting in 2007. They found that families with children participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps increased significantly from 2007 to 2017.

Chelsea Wesner, an instructor with the USD Public Health Programs, says the increase was seen across all childhood age groups.

"We know that access to healthy food and health care are really important social determinants of health, especially among families with children,” says Wesner. “And hunger and food insecurity are really adverse childhood experiences, and something we should be able to prevent."

The data also shows an increase in the number of children enrolled in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program in the past ten years, and a small increase in the National School Lunch Program.

Carole Cochran, program director at South Dakota KIDS COUNT, says the research showed a minor decline in the number of families enrolled in WIC – the Women, Infants and Children program. But when it comes to putting food on the table, she says the increased numbers of people needing SNAP benefits is significant.

"Twenty-five percent for the younger-age children, zero to four; 56 percent among children ages 5 to 13; and 47 percent among youth ages 14 to 17," says Cochran.

Wesner says in Clay County, where the university is located, more families have used food pantries in the past five years and relied on the BackPack Program that sends at-risk kids home with food for weekends. She says social-service providers, schools and nonprofits need to know what's going on locally, because each county is different.

"So, it's really important at the local level for those counties to take note of which age groups and which families might need the most assistance and help,” says Wesner.

The new report is online at 'SDKIDSCOUNT.org.'

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD