Today, the White House will host a conversation about child hunger in America, with experts and direct service providers discussing how hunger continues to harm children across the country. Participants will discuss the role of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other core nutrition programs in ensuring American children have the fuel they need to thrive. The conversation will include SNAP recipients, academics, direct service providers, advocates, faith leaders, and federal, state, and local officials and will focus on the critical role of SNAP in reducing food insecurity and poverty, and the high-cost consequences when benefits are not enough to sustain a family to the end of the month.
The Obama Administration is dedicated to ensuring American children and families have the support they need to build a better future, especially when weathering life’s ups and downs, such as loss of a job, illness, or work that pays less than a livable wage. SNAP and other nutrition programs, like school meals, make a real and measurable difference in the lives of children and their families and provide a stronger future for the entire country. Building on its commitment to expanding access to opportunity for all, today the Obama Administration will announce additional actions to ensure American children have the food they need to grow, learn, and succeed.
NEW FEDERAL ACTIONS
Ensuring all low-income children have year-round access to the food they need to learn and grow.
The President’s FY2017 Budget will invest $12 billion over ten years to reduce child hunger during the summer through a permanent Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) program to provide supplemental food benefits during the summer months for all families with children eligible for free and reduced price school meals. During the academic year, school meals help ensure consistent and adequate access to nutritious food for the nearly 22 million low-income children who receive free and reduced price school meals. However, only a fraction of these children receive free and reduced price meals when school is out of session. As a result, low-income children are at higher risk of food insecurity and poor nutrition during the summer. Summer EBT, which provides benefits on an electronic debit card that can only be used for food at the grocery store, fills the food budget gap in the summer; rigorous evaluations of USDA pilots of Summer EBT programs have found that they can significantly reduce food insecurity among children and improve their diet.
Allowing States to use Medicaid data to automatically link low-income children to school meals.
USDA will announce a new initiative to increase access to school meals for low-income children through a project that will allow interested State agencies that administer the National School Lunch Program to use Medicaid data to certify students for free and reduced priced lunches. This will link eligible children to nutritious school meals with less paperwork for the State, schools and families alike. Interested states are invited to submit applications and USDA expects to approve approximately five States to begin the demonstrations during the upcoming school year (2016-2017), with additional states implementing the pilot in the subsequent years. USDA is committed to helping 20 States take up this pilot and begin implementing direct certification using Medicaid data over the next three school years.
BUILDING ON RESEARCH DEMONSTRATING SNAP’S CRITICAL ROLE IN HELPING CHILDREN SUCCEED
In 2014, nearly one in seven American households experienced food insecurity, meaning that one or more household members did not have a consistent source of adequate nutritious food. Moreover, 40 percent of all food-insecure households—and nearly 6 percent of US households overall—were considered to have very low food security. This means that, in nearly seven million households, at least one person in the household missed meals and experienced disruptions in food intake due to insufficient resources for food.
A report released by the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) found that SNAP, the largest federal food and nutrition program, plays an essential role in reducing poverty and food insecurity, and significantly improves the health and wellbeing of low-income families. In 2014 SNAP lifted at least 4.7 million Americans out of poverty, including 2.1 million children, and today helps families across the nation to put food on the table while they work to improve their economic situation. Research shows that among households who receive SNAP, food insecurity rates are up to 30 percent lower than they otherwise would be. But in spite of SNAP’s success, hunger remains a stubborn problem, in part because for many benefits are inadequate to provide enough healthful food to children and families living on a tight budget.
New research cited in the CEA report has linked diminished food budgets at the end of each month to significant consequences, including:
- A drop-off in caloric intake among SNAP recipients, with estimates of this decline ranging from 10 to 25 percent over the course of the month;
- A 27 percent increase in the rate of hospital admissions due to low blood sugar for low-income adults between the first and last week of the month;
- An 11 percent increase in the rate of disciplinary actions among school children in SNAP households between the first and last week of the month;
- Diminished student performance on standardized tests, with performance improving only gradually again after the next month’s benefits are received.
Today’s event builds on this commitment to high quality research and will feature perspectives from leading food security and nutrition researchers on the critical role of SNAP in reducing food insecurity and poverty, as well as in improving long-run health, education, and economic outcomes. The panel members, and resources to learn more about their work, are provided below. These resources are provided for informational purposes only and their inclusion does not indicate endorsement by, or the official views of, the U.S. Government:
- Dr. Hilary Hoynes, Professor of Public Policy and Economics, Haas Distinguished Chair in Economic Disparities, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California Berkeley: Dr. Hoynes has reviewed the role that SNAP plays in reducing poverty and food insecurity in the U.S. and examined the degree to which the program helps to buffer the impact of recessions and stagnating wages.
- Dr. Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research Associate Professor, Human Development and Social Policy, Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy, Chicago, IL; Director of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution: Dr. Schanzenbach, along with her coauthor, Hilary Hoynes, has studied the extent to which SNAP acts as an investment in children’s long term outcomes and its payoff for both recipients and taxpayers.
- Dr. Adam Drewnowski, Director, Nutritional Sciences Program, School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA: Dr. Drewnowski has written about the relationship between diet quality and food cost, including whether inadequate food budgets pose a significant barrier to the adoption of nutrient-adequate diets.
- Dr. Hilary Seligman, Associate Professor, University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA; Lead Scientist, Feeding America: Dr. Seligman has summarized research on the connections between food insecurity and health, highlighting some of the medical costs that result from insufficient food budgets.
- Dr. Parke Wilde, Associate Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Medford, MA. Dr. Wilde has reviewed recent research on initiatives that enhance SNAP and other benefits to improve recipient households’ success in achieving a high-quality diet, including USDA’s Summer EBT demonstration and the Healthy Incentives Pilot.
The event will also feature local and national leaders who see hunger’s effects first hand—in doctors’ offices, classrooms, and communities: Dr. Sandra Hassink, Immediate Past President of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Dawn Pierce, mother, licensed practical nurse, and a former SNAP recipient from Boise, Idaho; Clint Mitchell, Principal at Bel Air Elementary School in Virginia; Carlos Rodriguez, executive director of the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in New Jersey; and Les Johnson with Area Resources for Community and Human Services, which participated in the Summer EBT for Children pilots in Missouri.
Today’s announcements build on ongoing efforts to ensure all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Over the past seven years, the Obama Administration has put in place an historic set of policies to expand opportunity for all Americans. The President, working with Congress, acted to prevent millions from falling into poverty, particularly through the Recovery Act. The Administration championed expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for working families, which reduce the extent or severity of poverty for more than 16 million people – including about 8 million children – each year. Through the Affordable Care Act, almost 18 million people have gained health insurance and, for the first time on record, more than 90 percent of Americans have health insurance. Family homelessness has been reduced by 19 percent since 2010. And unemployment has been cut in half, to 5 percent.
The Administration has also developed several initiatives to improve food security and nutrition for vulnerable children. Through the Community Eligibility Provision, schools in high-poverty areas are now able to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students with significantly less administrative burden. And revisions to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) added a cash benefit to allow participants to purchase fruits and vegetables, a change that substantially increased the value of the package.
States and counties are essential in connecting kids to federal nutrition programs. Today, the Administration is highlighting the efforts of State and local leaders that are spearheading aggressive efforts to tackle child hunger. For example, states including Florida, Michigan, Montana, Virginia, and Washington have publicly prioritized combating childhood hunger, with a particular focus on expanding access to school breakfast programs and adoption of community eligibility:
- In the 2011-2012 school year, Michigan became one the first states to adopt the community eligibility option, paving the way for other states to learn from their efforts. For the 2010-2011 school year, Michigan directly certified 72 percent of children in households receiving SNAP benefits who were eligible for direct certification. Over the next few years, Michigan substantially increased its direct certification rate, reaching 87 percent in the 2013-2014 school year.
- Montana’s efforts, led by the Governor and First Lady, have made it the state with the highest take up of community eligibility in the nation, with nearly all eligible schools’ participation.
- Also with leadership from the First Lady, Virginia is using an $8.8 million demonstration award from USDA to work toward the end child hunger in the Commonwealth, with a strong focus on expanding participation in the school breakfast program.
- California is proposing investing new State resources to improving the operations of their nutrition programs with a goal of connecting 400,000 eligible children to nutrition programs over the next two years.
- Colorado has created a streamlined online portal for a wide array of nutrition programs as a strategy to consolidate and simplify the application process, thus improving access for busy working families.
Other landmark accomplishments by the Obama Administration to create opportunity for America’s children include the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, which updated school nutrition standards for the first time in fifteen years; reforms to K-12 education including the Every Student Succeeds Act; expanding access to high quality early education through investments and quality improvements in Head Start, preschool, and child care; and championing both universal pre-K and access to free community college.