Children’s HealthWatch released a statement commenting on the nationwide reduction of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits resulting from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) rollback on November 1, 2013.

Statement on Nationwide Reduction of SNAP Benefits – Diluting the Effect of the SNAP Vaccine

Starting today, families already struggling to make ends meet will have less money to buy food as SNAP benefits are reduced nationwide. In April 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession, SNAP benefits were increased under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in recognition of the fact that SNAP is one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus.  Today’s benefit reduction is happening because Congress chose to prematurely end this increase, despite sound evidence that the increased benefit helped keep food insecurity rates from climbing during and after the recession and also helped to sustain young children’s healthy growth and development.

This nationwide SNAP cut, which is estimated to be $5 billion in fiscal year 2014, will affect millions of children who struggle to receive adequate nutrition. The SNAP benefit reduction brings the average benefit down to $1.40 per person per meal. We know that is simply not enough to purchase a healthy diet.  Our own research has also demonstrated that while SNAP benefits fall short of ending food insecurity, the SNAP benefit boost under ARRA closed some of the gap for families.  No longer.

Today’s reduction is a giant step in the wrong direction.  We are once again providing an inadequate dose of a very effective medicine.  SNAP acts like a vaccine for children – protecting children’s health now and in the future; research demonstrates SNAP’s effectiveness in protecting health and development across the lifespan.  Women who receive SNAP in pregnancy are less likely to have low birth weight babies and babies with neural tube defects. Young children who receive SNAP are more likely to be healthy, growing well and developmentally on track.  School-age children who receive SNAP do better in school, get along better with their peers and are in better health than children whose families are eligible but do not receive SNAP.  Adults who received SNAP as children are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases.  And women who received SNAP as children are more likely to be economically self-sufficient as adults.

Even as this reduction goes into effect, more cuts are looming on the horizon.  The House and Senate are currently trying to agree on a Farm Bill, which would include reauthorization of SNAP.  Today’s cut is harm enough; now is the time to protect and strengthen SNAP, not cut it further.