Children are one of the forgotten bastions when it comes to food stamps, as they sit silently by the sidelines with little say in the matter. They’re too young to vote on changes that would affect the food stamps program, they’re too young to bring in enough income to avoid being on food stamps, and they’re too young to live healthily without consistently good nutrition. However, with new statistics released from the New Republic, it seems as though the SNAP program has been children out greatly, so let’s take a look.
Thinking of the Children
There’s more than one way in which food stamps helps out a family when there are children involved. Parents can use food stamps to buy their groceries and funnel other money toward other essential household expenses, all of which can help them keep on top of rent and paying their bills. Studies have also shown that when children who live in poverty have parents on food stamps, their long-term health increases dramatically.
What’s important to clarify, though, is what extreme poverty means. In terms of SNAP, it’s when a household with children lives on $2 or less each day. It’s not enough by a long shot, and it really puts families at a disadvantage. Things like buying that first car, attending college, going on a senior-year vacation with friends, and picking out an outfit for prom become reduced to things children just read about, not things that actually happen to them.
In that sense, the SNAP program is an extremely valuable lifeline that can offer families with children a way out. New Republic conducted research that found when households with children were on food stamps, it cut the number of them living in extreme poverty in roughly half. It means they don’t have to make tough decisions, like paying the rent or putting food on the table. Having that little bit of social assistance can often times be just what a household needs to keep going, as well as being enough to take a bit of the stress and pressure off their situation.
Waste Not, Want Not
One of the biggest criticisms surrounding food stamps is the perceived fraud and waste, but the numbers just don’t back it up. The New Republic’s research has found that “about 95 percent of all federal dollars spent on the program goes directly into benefits.” That’s a really impressive success rate, and one that definitely does not point to rampant waste and fraud.
In terms of the numbers related to fraud, the data gets even better. The highest point of fraud in the food stamps program came in 1993, when fraud was at a whoppingly high rate of…3.8%. That’s right — even the amount of fraud that was going on in the food stamps program was a lot less than the previous statistic we talked about, where 5% of federal dollars spent on the program do not go into the program.
After the abysmal year of rampant fraud in 1993, the rates, thankfully, did go down. In fact, there was a six-year period from 2002 to 2008 when the fraud rate was a meager 1%. And if you want to look at more current fraud rates, the number “spiked” to a whole 1.3% from 2009 to 2011.
It seems to us as though the food stamps program is actually doing pretty well.
Consequences of Restricting Food Stamps
Children would be the hardest hit demographic, as they can’t take care of themselves the way adults can; they’re almost completely dependent on their parents or caregivers. Imposing more restrictions on food stamps, such as introducing work requirements or tightening up the qualifications, would mean a greater presence of food insecurity (never being sure if you’ll have ready access to food) and material hardship.
Along with these reasons, it just makes more sense to keep households with children on food stamps until they’re absolutely ready to get to the next level. By keeping children fed and nourished, we’re giving them a chance to do better in life later on: they won’t have to worry about going hungry every day in class, they can turn their focus and attention to bettering their long-term health, and they’ll be able to experience what it’s like to work for something, as opposed to just scrabbling to stay out of the hole.
And if the statistics say that half of the households with children on food stamps have gotten out of extreme poverty, then that seems like a mighty good sign to us that the program is working the way it’s intended: to lift the impoverished out of poverty and give them a fighting chance at improving independence.