The SNAP Vaccine: Boosting Children’s Health


Every day pediatric health providers use immunizations to protect children from diseases that make them sick, damage their brains, and may even threaten their lives. The right immunizations in the right doses at the right time save untold health and education dollars, not to mention personal anguish and pain. Hunger and food insecurity in the U.S. also endanger the bodies and brains of millions of children.  What is the right immunization to decrease a young child’s risk of ill health and slow learning? Adequate, healthy food. For 47 years American ingenuity has made that treatment efficiently available to millions of families through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program), America’s strongest defense against hunger and food insecurity. About 50 percent of children in the United States are expected to live in households receiving SNAP at some point in their childhood.2 Protecting the availability and enhancing the dosage of this widely used pediatric “vaccine” should be a major public health priority.

Children’s HealthWatch demonstrated that SNAP, like an effective immunization, significantly decreases families’ and children’s food insecurity, which are established child health hazards. Children’s HealthWatch also found that compared to young children in families that were likely eligible but not receiving SNAP, young children in families receiving SNAP were less likely to be underweight or at risk for developmental delays.

When we specifically examined the impact of SNAP among young citizen children from immigrant families, those whose families received SNAP were more likely to be food secure and in better health than similar children whose immigrant  families did not receive SNAP.

Good health in the critical early years of life increases children’s chances of succeeding in school, preparing them—and by extension, the United States—to succeed in the competitive global job market of the future. Preserving SNAP’s flexible structure—that serves all who are eligible— and improving benefit levels so all participants are able to afford a healthful diet are key priorities for the Farm Bill and beyond. As Congress considers reauthorization of the Farm Bill, today’s leaders need to know the medical evidence showing SNAP is an effective vaccine for supporting the healthy minds and bodies of our future leaders: our children.

Source: Children’s HealthWatch

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