Nourishing Futures: Strengthening Child Health Through SNAP

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) constitutes our nation’s first line of defense against hunger and food insecurity – major drivers of ill health throughout the lifespan. SNAP supports the nutrition of residents of every county in the United States. Each month more than 41 million people in the United States, almost half of whom are children, receive SNAP benefits. Decades of research show that SNAP is effective in reducing food insecurity, improving health across the lifespan, reducing health care costs, and supporting educational success, particularly during economic downturns and natural disasters.

The COVID-19 pandemic financially strained many households across the country, disproportionately affecting those already experiencing poverty. The pandemic also magnified preexisting racial and ethnic disparities in food security, for example, a greater prevalence of food insecurity within Black communities compared to national trends. Other data revealed that among food insecure families, households of color had more severe levels of food insecurity. Widespread closures of schools and child care centers further restricted access to nutrition for many families who relied on these settings for meals. However, pandemic-related expansions to SNAP and child nutrition programs mitigated some of this impact in the short term, but many of these expansions have now been rescinded.