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How a new law aims to help more people in N.H. access food assistance

This story was originally produced by the New Hampshire Bulletin, an independent local newsroom that allows NHPR and other outlets to republish its reporting.

New Hampshire will begin promoting an underused food assistance program after Gov. Chris Sununu signedSenate Bill 404 into law on Friday.

An analysis of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program found that 29,000 children and 45,000 adults in New Hampshire received benefits monthly in 2019, but an additional 17,000 potentially eligible children and tens of thousands of adults did not.

Proponents of SB 404 hope that getting word out about the program will ensure that people facing food insecurity know how to get help. Enrolling people who qualify can also boost the local economy, since SNAP brings federal dollars into the state, according to the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute.

The law was supported by the New Hampshire Grocers Association, which cited spending generated by the program on groceries and the jobs it supports. It also had the support of New Futures, a health policy advocacy organization; the New Hampshire Food Bank; and NH Hunger Solutions.

The state has not conducted outreach for the program since 2017, one reason the program may have been underutilized. That made New Hampshire an outlier among neighboring states.

Under the new law, the state would work with a nonprofit organization to develop and implement an outreach plan. The New Hampshire Food Bank had the contract in 2017 and indicated interest in applying again.

If the United States Department of Agriculture approves the plan, it would provide half the outreach funding. Gifts, grants, and donations would be used to fund the rest. The state has to submit its plan to the USDA by 2023, and the law, which went into effect on Friday, sets a 6-month deadline for implementing it after it is approved.

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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