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Why Food Stamps Matter for Children’s Health: What Medical Research Shows

A decade of clinical research by C-SNAP shows that food stamps are an essential medicine for America’s youngest and most vulnerable children. Infants and toddlers in food insecure households are at increased risk for iron deficiency anemia, deficits in cognitive development, and behavioral and emotional problems, all of which can impede their readi- ness for school and their future productivity as adults in the workforce.xvii Indeed, C-SNAP has recently found that children receiving food stamps are 26% less likely to be food insecure than eligible children not receiving food stamps, suggesting that they are less likely to suffer from the negative effects of food insecurity. The connection is strong: food insecurity contributes to developmental problems and poor health among children, and food stamps decrease child food insecurity.

The effect of food stamps on minority groups, who are disproportionately vulnerable to food insecurity, is clear as well. When benefits are decreased or eliminated, food insecurity rises and health suffers:

  • Latino children whose family food stamp benefit was sanctioned were more than twice as likely to suffer from food insecurity as those whose family food stamp benefit was unchanged.

  • Compared with black infants and toddlers whose family food stamp benefits were not reduced in the past year, young black children whose family benefits were reduced had 38% greater odds of being reported in poor health.”xviii

Other research supports and complements C-SNAP’s findings. Among preschoolers, for example, food stamps have consistently been associated with higher intake of vitamins and minerals crucial for children’s health.xix Participation in the Food Stamp Program has repeatedly demonstrated beneficial effects on children’s school achievement.xx Moreover a 2006 USDA-funded report found that childhood participation in the Food Stamp Program reduces the risk of serious nutrition-related health problems.xxi

Because they decrease the risk of food insecurity, food stamps can also protect children from costly hospitalizations, many of which—for families without private health insurance—are covered by tax dollars. C-SNAP’s research shows that children in food insecure homes are approximately twice as likely to suffer poor health and one-third more likely to be hospitalized, because poor nutrition can increase their risk of contracting illnesses and compromise their immune systems.xxii By reducing the prevalence or severity of food insecurity, food stamps promise to reduce child hospitalization and health care costs, saving money for both struggling families and our government.

Healthier Children, Stronger Communities

The Food Stamp Program also contributes to the health of the communities in which our children live. Each dollar spent on federal food stamp benefits generates nearly twice that in economic activity, so local communities

stand to benefit tremendously from the Food Stamp Program.xxiii

Conversely,

low participation rates translate into missed fiscal opportunities for cities. In 2006, for example, Los Angeles missed out on $463 million of federal money;

New York City, $430 million; and Houston, $168 million.xxiv

Food stamps lead to

more money flowing through local economies, producing healthier children in stronger communities.

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