The value of SNAP: Tackling food insecurity and hunger in America

With the holiday spirit in full swing and the end of the year nearing, a sense of giving, gratitude, and reflection is more likely to be on our hearts and minds. Many of us will soon gather around a table full of food. Yet, it’s important to remember that for some, a table full of food won’t be the reality.

SNAP | Healthy Families | Comprando Rico y Sano
Photo: iStock

The reality is that too many Americans live with food insecurity. Food insecurity, hunger, and inadequate nutrition affect our physical health, but also impact our emotional and social well-being, adding to the stress of not being able to provide a basic need for one’s family.

Adults who experience food insecurity are at an increased risk of developing chronic conditions and diseases (obesity, diabetes, heart disease), and are more likely to need medical treatment and hospital readmissions. For children, being hungry affects their ability to grow, learn, and ultimately thrive. In 2016, 15.6 million U.S. households (12.3%) were food insecure, with Latino families disproportionately affected (18.5%).

Thankfully, for the last 40 years, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has been a vital resource for families that find themselves in tough times and experiencing hunger.

SNAP is fundamental in aiding 40 million Americans, 10 million (20%) of whom are low-income and hardworking Latinos, to put food on the table when wages are too low to make ends meet. Furthermore, forty-four percent of SNAP recipients are children and 55% of households with child recipients work and earn wages. Sometimes these families work multiple jobs but still come up short to meet their family’s nutritional needs, find themselves temporarily out of work during an off-season, or are simply in between jobs. In these crucial times of need, SNAP makes the difference between having enough to eat or going without a meal.

That is why it is vital that safety net programs like SNAP exist and are utilized. Latinos often face cultural, linguistic, and structural barriers in accessing SNAP, as a result more than four million eligible Latinos are not enrolled. National programs like UnidosUS’s Comprando Rico y Sano—a promotor de salud-led program that addresses food insecurity and instills healthy eating and shopping habits among Latinos—become an invaluable resource for Latinos experiencing these barriers.

Farm bill
Comprando Rico y Sano improves knowledge and behaviors around healthy shopping and healthy eating, helping to reduce hunger among the Latino community, through culturally sensitive nutrition education and SNAP enrollment assistance. Currently implemented by 26 community-based organizations across 13 states and the District of Columbia, promotores de salud offer various nutrition education activities, which are complemented with SNAP education and enrollment assistance for eligible Latinos, helping them maximize their monthly benefits for healthier nutrition. Last year 25,636 eligible Latinos were enrolled in SNAP through Comprando Rico y Sano.

Current national anti-immigrant/Latino rhetoric is contributing to myths and misconceptions about SNAP eligibility, creating fear and reluctance among some Latino families to apply for SNAP even though they may be eligible. Unfortunately, this may lead to increases in food insecurity.

The future success of our nation depends on the health of our children and with 55% of SNAP recipients being children, some of whom are Latino, it is critical that we continue to protect this critical program, but also prioritize and strengthen its value.

To that end, community-driven strategies to reduce hunger and food insecurity among Latinos, such as the culturally relevant SNAP enrollment assistance offered through Comprando Rico y Sano, are vital. As part of this effort, UnidosUS is launching a “Value of SNAP” campaign, a series of video vignettes that will highlight the importance of SNAP as told through different personal perspectives.

In the coming months, we will share with you how SNAP is touching the lives of community-based organization leaders, promotores de salud, and program recipients. We invite you to join us in our efforts to fight hunger and improve the nutrition of millions of Latinos.

Follow our campaign and share the vignettes once they are posted to our social media platforms—together we can help fight food insecurity and secure the health of our nation’s future.

This blog post is part of Comprando Rico y Sano, a program supported by the Walmart Foundation.

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