Let’s Protect SNAP and Health Equity

A resource on ways to help protect SNAP in the face of changes that would undermine food access, poverty reduction, and health equity.

SNAP Helps Millions
Take Action to Protect SNAP
Messaging Tips to Protect SNAP
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SNAP helps millions of people and families access food and avoid poverty

Today, 45 million people in the US can afford to eat because of SNAP, a program that aims to alleviate hunger and malnutrition, and helps people stay out of poverty (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2016). These include families with children, which make up 7 out of 10 people who SNAP helps to feed (Econofact, 2017). Also, people who work — more than 80% of people using SNAP work in the year before or the year after receiving it, with even higher rates for families with children (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2013).

Currently, anyone who qualifies for SNAP can get access to food through the program (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2016). The federal government pays 100% of the cost of SNAP benefits, and splits the cost to administer the program with states (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2016). Funding for the program can increase or decrease as more or fewer people need coverage, such as during times of economic downturn or during disasters.

In 2015, SNAP helped people affected by wildfires in California, severe weather and tornadoes in Missouri, severe storms and flooding in South Carolina and Wyoming, and severe snow storms in Massachusetts — that kind of rapid response may change with Congressional Republicans’ proposals (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2016).

People who identify as liberals, conservatives, and moderates all use SNAP — and each group was as likely as the others to report using it (Pew Research Center, 2013).


Health Departments: Take Action to Stop These Changes!

Educate your community about potential health impacts of proposed changes to SNAP for your state — or more locally if you can access that data.

For example, using Kaiser Family Foundation and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities identify the number of people in your state covered by SNAP — describing available numbers of children, seniors, people living with disabilities, people just out of the reach of poverty, and people who work. Or cite info on SNAP use by Congressional district. Use local data and stories to highlight how undoing SNAP would undercut health for individuals and families.

Encourage your health department to speak publicly about proposed changes to SNAP.

Talk in your jurisdiction about proposed changes to SNAP, and use your platform at the health department to publicize the message.

Mobilize professional associations and advocates to take a position and provide them with data.

Work with professional associations like national, state, and local chapters of the American Public Health Association or the National Association of City and County Health Officials to communicate the impacts of the proposals. Provide local advocacy organizations with data, helping them understand how to request data from the health department as necessary, so they can make the case to protect SNAP.

Hold workshops for community members.

Host public workshops to help people understand SNAP and how changes may affect them.

 

Public Health Professionals: Take Action to Stop These Changes!

Inform the public — repeatedly and often.

Write letters with health colleagues through professional organizations like the American Medical Association and American Public Health Association to inform people about how pending decisions would change health and equity. This brief can be a starting point.

Get proactive — call for strengthening SNAP.

Read the evidence, join the discussion, and look to partner with other groups or agencies in advocating to strengthen instead of dismantling SNAP. Put another choice on the table. 


Tips for Talking About Proposed Cuts to SNAP

Start with values — for example, you can say:

“Access to nutritious, affordable food is a basic health need and human right.”

“Many people who work even more than full time — such as in food service, retail, and health care — are paid so little that they qualify for food assistance or SNAP. This may be the only way they can afford to feed themselves or their families.”

“Most of us agree on the basic principle that we all should be able to eat. All children should have food and people with disabilities, seniors, and people in great need should get food assistance that is essential to helping them live.”

“SNAP embodies these principles. And it works well.”

Here are some key points you can make about what SNAP looks like today:

  • There is bipartisan thinking that SNAP works well — it helps tens of millions of children, seniors, people living with disabilities, and people struggling to make ends meet who otherwise could not access healthy food.
  • We can all agree that helping people who can work get good-paying jobs and succeed is a good goal, but more rigid and restrictive SNAP work requirements won’t help us get there.
  • SNAP currently responds rapidly to changing needs in states — including economic downturns and disasters.
  • SNAP already gives states authority over aspects of the program, within federal standards. To ensure people across all 50 states have coverage, the federal government pays 100% of the cost of benefits and sets standards, including for benefit levels. Meanwhile, states still have options in how they administer SNAP, coordinate with other human services programs, and — within the federal standards — in setting some of the rules about who is eligible for the programs; for example, around what a household can earn within federal guidelines and still qualify for benefits.
  • SNAP gets money into the economy. In a weak economy, every $1 in SNAP benefits generates $1.70 in economic activity. And it is accurate in its payments — it has one of the lowest rates of any federal program for errors with over- or under-payments.
  • There can always be improvements. We should strengthen, not gut, SNAP.
  • The proposed cuts to SNAP would:
    • Harm the nation’s health — and that is not okay.
    • Make things worse for millions of people struggling to be able to eat.
    • Cap the amount of money coming into states, instead of responding to changing needs.
    • Save the federal government money at the expense of state budgets. Currently the federal government pays 100% of SNAP benefits. These proposals would shift that burden to states that then have to decide whose benefits to reduce or terminate, find a way to pay for services, or tell people who use the program that they will have to shoulder the cost themselves instead. It hurts people most at risk in our states for no good reason. The proposed changes would do all this to give tax cuts to wealthy individuals.
    • Be costly — in money and in health.

  • If you have questions or edits, please email: info@humanimpact.org. Our thanks to Anat Shenker-Osorio for messaging suggestions in this brief.