24 February 2020 | Health

SNAP waiver would benefit hungry Kansas children

Kansas Action for Children
February 24, 2020

The so-called Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents waiver for SNAP (also known as food stamps) might sound like a policy that would solely affect adults without children. In practice, however, low-income children and youth would also benefit.

Children under the age of 18 and the adults who live with them are technically exempt from the three-month time limit for SNAP. However, this does not reflect the complex financial arrangements that low-income families sometimes use to put food on the table. This bill could benefit the following populations: 

  • Children with noncustodial parents. 
  • Children whose extended family members provide financial support. 
  • Youth aging out of foster care and unaccompanied homeless youth.  

That’s why Kansas Action for Children supports SB 379, which would authorize the secretary of children and families to request a waiver from certain limitations under the food assistance program.

Food insecurity remains a major threat to health and well-being in our state, particularly for children. While every family wants to be able to provide healthy and fresh food for their youngest members, many families in Kansas struggle to provide. In 2018, 18.3 percent of Kansas children under age 18 lived in food insecure households. That means roughly 130,000 Kansas children survive without a dependable source of food. 

Food insecurity has devastating consequences for children. Without access to healthy food, children’s health, education, and development all suffer. Research shows that nutrition is one of, if not the, most critical environmental influences on developing infants and children.  

When children don’t have access to the nutrition their developing minds and bodies need, they are at greater risk for obesity and other long-term health problems. Hungry kids are also more likely to repeat a grade in elementary school, experience developmental impairments in areas such as language and motor skills, and have more social and behavioral problems. 

SNAP is a critically important resource for children given their higher prevalence of food insecurity and high rates of participation. Research links participation in SNAP for 6 months with an 8.5 percentage point decrease in food insecurity for households with children.

In fiscal year 2019, an average of 205,260 Kansans participated in the program.  Nearly three-fourths of Kansas SNAP participants are in families with children. However, 29 percent of eligible individuals in Kansas do not receive the benefit.  

Beyond its role in fighting food insecurity, SNAP significantly reduces child poverty and helps struggling families make ends meet. The economic impact doesn’t stop at the individual family. It is estimated that “in a weak economy, $1 in SNAP benefits generates $1.70 in economic activity.” Nearly all (97 percent) of SNAP benefits are spent in the month they are received, with more than half (59 percent) being spent in the first week, meaning SNAP funds go back into local economies almost immediately.  

With the possibility of an upcoming recession, as well as emerging layoffs in Wichita, SB 379 can give the state another tool to support those impacted by local and national economic downturns.

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