By Marissa Zamudio
On November 1, 2013, the temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is due to expire, taking a slice out of the food budgets of families, especially, low income families with children. In Michigan, one in six people receive SNAP benefits and will be affected. Such a cut is likely to result in an increase of families with children going hungry – what policy experts call “food insecurity.” Food insecurity is identified as “the lack of consistent access to adequate food” in a May 2013 report titled “Food Insecurity in Households with Children” from the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The effect of food insecurity on young children can be devastating and enduring in the case of a child’s growth and development, assert child development experts. In fact, the consequences of nutritional deficiencies can impact child development during the intrauterine period, indicating the importance for intervention in the very young. Most everyone would agree that good health is our first line of defense against disease. Young children need this defense against childhood
diseases that otherwise can leave their mark on a child for the rest of his or her life.
A number of studies have found that food insecurity is linked to health problems that can impact educational outcomes for young children. During the intrauterine phase and continuing into the early years of life, lack of nutrition may result in delayed physical, cognitive and motor development. Some studies have also found a link between food insecurity and behavioral problems as well as impaired social skill development.
For example, a 2009 study by researcher Martha Zaslow and her colleagues found that infants living in households where food shortages occurred were more likely to have insecure attachment issues with adults and compromised mental proficiencies by age 2 than those not living in circumstances with food insecurity. Factors causing these problems in children could also be linked to maternal depression and parenting practices.
Michigan stands to lose $183 million in extra federal food dollars once the cuts begin and until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2014, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The boost had come as a result of the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Even though the extra support wasn’t huge – just $29 a month for a family of three – it did make a difference in light of the meager supplement families receive from SNAP overall. After Nov. 1, SNAP benefits will return to approximately $1.40 per person per meal.
Early nutrition intervention which meets the needs of pregnant women and young children is crucial in Michigan’s efforts to improve school readiness of young children. The lack of proper nutrition can undermine future work productivity, a major reason for the state’s interest in investing in young children. Let’s not be “penny wise and pound foolish.” It is vital that we maintain policies that promote critical programs such as SNAP and crucial that we campaign to protect these nutritional programs on behalf of young children and their families. In doing so, we are ensuring our future and the economic prosperity of Michigan.
“Household food insecurities: Threats to children’s well-being,” American Psychological Association “Low-income Michiganians face food assistance cut in November,” Michigan League for Public Policy
Marissa Zamudio is the diversity specialist for the Michigan Sandbox Party and the Early Childhood Investment Corporation.
What foods can I buy with SNAP benefits?
You can use SNAP benefits to buy foods for the household to eat, such as breads and cereals, fruits and
vegetables, meats, fish and poultry, dairy products. You can also use your benefits to buy seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat
You CANNOT use SNAP Benefits to buy beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco; any nonfood items, such as pet foods, soaps, paper products and household supplies; vitamins and medicines; food that will be eaten in the store; and hot food.
This was printed in the September 22, 2013 - October 5, 2013 Edition