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Cooking Matters Michigan

Empowering families with the skills, confidence and knowledge to prepare healthy and affordable meals

Filtering by Category: childhood hunger

The Farm Bill, SNAP, and You



As Congress weighs in on the Farm Bill-  the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government passed every 5 years- the future of SNAP (and SNAP education) is at stake.

What is SNAP?

SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.  The Food and Nutrition Service works with State agencies, nutrition educators, and neighborhood and faith-based organizations to ensure that those eligible for nutrition assistance can make informed decisions about applying for the program and can access benefits. The USDA's Food and Nutrition Service also works with State partners and the retail community to improve program administration and ensure program the integrity.

What is SNAP education?

The goal of SNAP-Ed is to improve the likelihood that persons eligible for SNAP will make healthy choices within a limited budget and choose active lifestyles consistent with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate.  The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-296), section 241, established SNAP-Ed as the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Grant Program. The Act calls for SNAP-Ed to include an emphasis on obesity prevention in addition to nutrition education.  Cooking Matters is a SNAP-Ed funded program.

It seems like everybody has their own two cents about SNAP (formerly food stamps) but we like to let the facts speak for themselves.

SNAP: Facts, Myths, and Realities

             SNAP is targeted at the most vulnerable.

  • 76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits.[i]
  • Recent studies show that 49% of all SNAP participants are children (age 18 or younger), with almost two-thirds of SNAP children living in single-parent households. In total, 76% of SNAP benefits go towards households with children, 16% go to households with disabled persons, and 9% go to households with senior citizens.
  • SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130% of the federal poverty guideline, but the majority of households have income well below the maximum: 83% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100% of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013), and these households receive about 91% of all benefits. 61% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 75% of the poverty guideline ($14,648 for a family of 3 in 2013).
  • The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $744

SNAP is responsive to changes in need, providing needed food assistance as families fall into economic hardship and then transitioning away as their financial situation stabilizes.

  • SNAP participation historically follows unemployment with a slight lag. SNAP participation grew during the recession, responding quickly and effectively to increased need. As the number of unemployed people increased by 94% from 2007 to 2011, SNAP responded with a 70% increase in participation over the same period. 
  • As the economy recovers and people go back to work, SNAP participation and program costs, too, can be expected to decline.

SNAP has a strong record of program integrity.

  • SNAP error rates declined by 57% since FY2000, from 8.91% in FY2000 to a record low of 3.80% in FY2011. The accuracy rate of 96.2% (FY2011) is an all-time program high and is considerably higher than other major benefit programs, for example Medicare fee-for-service (91.5%) or Medicare Advantage Part C (88.6%).
  • Two-thirds of all SNAP payment errors are a result of caseworker error. Nearly one-fifth are underpayments, which occur when eligible participants receive less in benefits than they are eligible to receive.
  • The national rate of food stamp trafficking declined from about 3.8 cents per dollar of benefits redeemed in 1993 to about 1.0 cent per dollar during the years 2006 to 2008.

The need for food assistance is already greater than SNAP can fill.

  • SNAP benefits don’t last most participants the whole month. 90% of SNAP benefits are redeemed by the third week of the month, and 58% of food bank clients currently receiving SNAP benefits turn to food banks for assistance at least 6 months out of the year.
  • The average monthly SNAP benefit per person is $133.85, or less than $1.50 per person, per meal.
  • Only 55% of food insecure individuals are income-eligible for SNAP


What Congress is Proposing:

House Ag Committee cuts = Almost $21 billion over 10 years.

These cuts:

  • Limit state SNAP coordination with LIHEAP (heat and eat) payments;
    • 850,000 households, which include 1.7 million people, primarily in 15 states, could lose $90 in SNAP per month;
  • Restrict the state Categorical Eligibility option to change asset and gross income tests ($11.6 billion cut);
    • 1.8 million individuals per year could lose SNAP benefits (CBO);
    • 210,000 low-income children could lose free school meal access.
    • Eliminate state bonuses for effective SNAP operation ($480 million cut).
  • Eliminate state bonuses for effective SNAP operation ($480 million cut).

Senate cut = $4.1 billion over 10 years.

The cut:  Limits state SNAP coordination with LIHEAP (heat and eat) payments.


Considering the fact that 49 million Americans are food insecure-- 16 million of which are children-- the Farm Bill and its impact on SNAP has very real and serious consequences.

Even if politics aren't your thing, the Farm Bill affects ALL Americans.  We all gotta eat, right?

2012 State of the Detroit Child


SAM_0031The Skillman Foundation and Data Driven Detroit (D3) published an annual comprehensive data view of Detroit’s children in 2012 entitled the Detroit Child Report.  This report is a tool to glean valuable information about the state of our city’s youth.  We encourage you to read the full report, but in case you don’t have time, we have included highlights on the state of poverty and diet in Detroit’s youth:

  • The percent of children and youth in poverty increased from 34.8 percent in 1999 to 57.3 percent in 2011.
  • When adjusted to 2011 dollars, median household income in Detroit decreased by more than a third (36.8 percent) between 1999 and 2011.
  • Children increasingly live in single parent family households. In 2010, nearly 3 out of 5 households with children (59.3 percent) were headed by a single female.
  • Nearly one in four Detroit households has no access to a vehicle.
  • Students in families at 135% of the poverty line qualify for free lunch; families at 185% of the poverty line quality for reduced price lunch. The share of Detroit students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch has never dipped below 60% and has risen steadily since the start of the recession in 2007 to a high of 82.5% today.
    • Recognizing this fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture made Detroit Public Schools a pilot district in fall 2011 for a program to provide all students, not just those who qualify, with free meals.
  • Though an increasing number of students attended physical education classes, the percentage of DPS high school students who are overweight increased slightly over the last decade (with a high of 22.7 percent).
    • The percent of students who watched television for more than 3 hours has declined since 2005 (with a low of 44.4 percent in 2011). However, as children increasingly turn to computers and other mobile media platforms for entertainment, the decline in television viewership rates is to be expected and does not translate to more time exercising, reading, or other healthier pursuits.
  • The weekly diets of DPS high schoolers have improved in the last ten years.
    • Students reported eating more fruits and vegetables in 2011 than in previous years.
      • Even with this improvement in healthy eating habits, over 20 percent of students had not eaten fruits or vegetables within a week of taking the survey.
    • The importance of healthy eating habits is well understood by the DPS Office of School Nutrition, which has initiated the Farm to School program, currently offered at every school.
      • Each month local farmers are identified to deliver fresh fruits and/or vegetables to each school in an effort to support Michigan-based farmers and increase student exposure to fresh foods.
        • In addition, the program delivers educational opportunities in the cafeteria, classroom visits by local farmers, and school garden opportunities.

It is clear that there is much work to be done here in Detroit, but there are glimmers of hope and progress amid what may feel like a sea of overwhelming obstacles.  As you know, Cooking Matters seeks to empower families with the skills, confidence and knowledge they need to eat healthy on a tight budget.  As part of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, it is one of our primary goals to see the diets of children improve.  Whether this is done by educating parents to feed their children healthier foods through a Cooking Matters for Adults course, or teaching kids and teens to try healthy foods and prepare them on their own in a Cooking Matters for Teens/Kids class, we are deeply invested in this issue.

For the full report, visit: Data Driven Detroit