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Study: Those eligible for food stamps may not be using program due to lack of state outreach

A photo of a blue empty bowl sits in front of a child who rests their head on a wooden table.
New Hampshire Bulletin
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In New Hampshire, one in nine children are affected by food insecurity.

New Hampshire hasn’t had an outreach plan for its food stamp program in more than four years – and ananalysis of recent years shows that people who are eligible may not be using the program, according to the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute.

The institute found that outreach could help increase awareness of the program and enrollment. The federal government will reimburse half the cost of outreach programs, as long as the plan is approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture each year.

But New Hampshire’s last federally approved plan ended in September 2017. This makes it something of an outlier in the region; bordering states have updated their plans more recently in addition to expanding eligibility for the programs to reach more people.

Outreach could lead to assistance for people who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, in addition to those who have become eligible for the first time during the pandemic. The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute also found that increased enrollment in the food stamp program, known as SNAP or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, can bolster economic recovery. Each dollar invested yields $1.50 in economic activity when the economy is weak, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nationwide, food insecurity – meaning people who have trouble getting healthy, nourishing food – worsened during the pandemic, according toFeeding America. The organization also found racial disparities when it comes to food insecurity; Black people were twice as likely to experience food insecurity as white people, even before the pandemic. Feeding America anticipates that disparity will persist in the wake of the pandemic.

In New Hampshire, one in nine children are affected by food insecurity, and one in 11 adults – or nearly 120,000 people total in the state. Around 28,000 of them are children. In 2019, around 75,000 Granite Staters used the food stamp program in a given month. “While certain individuals may choose not to access benefits even if they know they qualify, there may have also been thousands of additional adults eligible for SNAP who were not aware they were eligible, particularly during the pandemic,” according to the NHFPI brief.

Most households that earn less than 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines are eligible for SNAP, provided they do not have more than $2,250 in assets. That amount is higher when it comes to determining eligibility for older adults or those with a disability. Program benefits are funded by the federal government, and administrative costs are split between federal and state government.

Residents can apply online. Alternative ways of applying are available on a state application page.

New Hampshire Bulletin is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Hampshire Bulletin maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Dana Wormald for questions: Follow New Hampshire Bulletin on Facebook and Twitter.

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