Child nutrition key to achievement
Poverty and hunger hinder children’s opportunities to succeed in school. A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) in Washington, D.C., highlights the role of the country’s largest child nutrition program in improving educational outcomes for kids from low-income households, including nearly 32,000 children in Vermont.
The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, goes by the name 3SquaresVT in Vermont. The federally funded program is available to low-income households that meet certain eligibility requirements. Benefits vary with income and family size, with the maximum benefit going to households with no net income. One out of every four children in Vermont receives benefits under 3SquaresVT, which is about the same as the national average.
According to the CBPP report: “Research suggests that SNAP participation can lead to improvements in reading and mathematics skills among elementary children, especially young girls, and increase the chances of graduating from high school by as much as 18 percentage points.”
The report also points out the long-term health benefits and economic implications of ensuring that children get adequate, nutritious food. It cites research showing “that disadvantaged children who had access to food stamps in early childhood and whose mothers had access during their pregnancy had better health and economic outcomes as adults than children who didn’t have access to food stamps.”
The CBPP report shows that Vermont’s average benefit is lower than most other states. The average benefit for all eligible households was $342 a month in 2014, which placed Vermont 48th when the states were ranked high to low.
Many 3SquaresVT participants have jobs, and eligibility for Vermont’s program extends to families with incomes of up to 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which is higher than many other states. These two factors increase the average income for Vermont participants, which in turn reduces the average benefit.
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