A new report released Tuesday from the White House Council of Economic Advisers lists the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as "highly effective" at reducing food insecurity.
The report suggests that children who receive food assistance see improvements in health and academic performance both short- and long-term. Two-thirds of SNAP benefits go to households with children.
According to the report, SNAP benefits lifted at least 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2014, and 1.3 million children out of deep poverty, or above half of the poverty line.
Over the past 20 years, the overall share of SNAP recipient households with earned income rose by 50%. Among recipient households with children, the share with a working adult has doubled since 1990; 57% of working-age adults receiving SNAP are either working or looking for work.
SNAP also supports work through the Employment and Training program, which directly helps SNAP beneficiaries gain the skills they need to succeed in the labor market, CEA said.
Additionally, the report says among adults who grew up in disadvantaged households when the Food Stamp Program was first being introduced, access to Food Stamps before birth and in early childhood led to significant reductions in the likelihood of obesity and significant increases in the likelihood of completing high school.
CEA says food stamps also have reduced the incidence of low birth-weight by between 5% and 23% among mothers who received benefits during pregnancy.
While the report highlights benefits of SNAP, it also suggests benefit levels are often inadequate to sustain families through the end of the month. This results in high-cost consequences, it said, such as a 27% 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, as well as diminished performance on standardized tests among school age children.
And, even with SNAP, still 40% of all food-insecure households and nearly 6%of US households overall were considered to have very low food security. This means that at least one person in the household missed meals and experienced disruptions in food intake due to insufficient resources for food.
The report also highlighted changes the White House has implemented or has been exploring to improve SNAP.
One of these improvement initiatives includes the Community Eligibility Provision, in which schools in high-poverty areas can offer free breakfast and lunch to all students with less administrative burden.
Additionally, recent revisions to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children added a cash benefit to allow participants to purchase fruits and vegetables. The Administration also has expanded access for low-income children to nutritious food during the summer months when school meals are unavailable and the risk of food insecurity is heightened.
Finally, the Administration has provided select states waivers to test ways of reducing the administrative burdens of SNAP for elderly households.
After seeing positive results in participating states, including an increase of elderly participation by more than 50% in Alabama, the President's 2016 Budget included a proposal to create a state option that would expand upon these efforts to improve access to SNAP benefits for the elderly.
Source: White House