Children’s HealthWatch research was featured in The Urban Institute’s MetroTrends Blog.

Can housing assistance help protect children from hunger?

Cutting SNAP while food insecurity is on the rise

About one in five households with children have trouble putting food on the table. The lack of nutrition in these children’s diets can stunt their physical and cognitive development and leave them with lifelong health problems. Childhood food insecurity has only gotten worse since the Great Recession, rising 8 percent from 2007 to 2012.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) helps, but benefits were cut in November and Congress committed to another $8.6 billion in cuts in negotiations over the Farm Bill. These cuts on top of the already high rates of household food insecurity could have long-term effects on children’s health.

Housing assistance can lessen the burden

Offsetting the high cost of housing may help families avoid the trade-off between food and shelter, as well as among other basic needs like transportation and health care.

A small body of evidence suggests that, relative to other low-income children, kids in public housing are better off when it comes to food security and health. Children’s HealthWatch found that children living in subsidized housing are more likely to be food secure than children on the housing assistance wait-list. They also found that food-insecure children living in subsidized housing were 52 percent less likely to be seriously underweight than food-insecure children on the wait list. Another study found that housing subsidies were associated with improved nutrition in children from low-income families.

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