State Board of Human Services Approves SNAP Expansion
Last week, the Colorado State Board of Human Services approved several changes to Colorado’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP) to make the program more efficient and effective. One of these changes was increasing the gross income eligibility threshold for food assistance from 130 percent of the federal poverty level to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. This change will primarily benefit working families with high costs including housing and child care, and will help make those families eligible for food assistance. Several months of stakeholder outreach preceded the rule change.
Our Vice President of Health Initiatives, Erin Miller, testified in support of the rules noting that food insecurity is a pervasive problem in Colorado. Children are more likely to be impacted than other groups by food insecurity, and this change will help Colorado families overcome systemic barriers to opportunity to become more food—and financially— secure.
One in seven Colorado kids of all ages lived in households that experienced food insecurity between 2014 and 2016. Young children are particularly affected by food insecurity given the rapid pace of development during the early years of life. Improving access to SNAP for pregnant women can reduce the incidence of low birth weights in babies, and continuing those benefits into early childhood leads to improved health conditions in adulthood for their children. These benefits include lower rates of heart disease and obesity.
The benefits are not seen only in better health. Food and financial insecurity go on to impact academic performance and student behavior. Access to SNAP leads to improved educational outcomes, including high school completion and higher adult earnings. There are also mental health benefits. One peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Nutrition found that adolescents in families who reported they sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat were significantly more likely to have experienced depression and to have attempted suicide, even when controlling for family income. The policy change implemented by the State Board will improve child health and well-being, align Colorado policy with federal law and reduce churn in our food assistance program.