The sustain a healthy lifestyle.1 Households with

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

 

Description and Population Served:

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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal program, which provides assistance to buy food to low income individuals and also people with no income who reside in the United States. Overseen by the United States’ Department of Agriculture, it was established in 1939 as the Food Stamp Program. SNAP assures that there is food security for millions of people who cannot afford to get the proper amount of nutrition that they deserve. The Food and Nutrition Service works with the various state agencies and other organizations to ensure that their target population, households with low income, can achieve the proper amount of food purchasing power that is necessary to sustain a healthy lifestyle.1

 

Households with an income of less than 130% of the Federal Poverty guidelines are eligible for SNAP assistance. These standards are eligible nationwide, thus creating a national safety net which provides food security to millions of individuals. Households under the SNAP benefit program receive a monthly benefit via an electronic debit card. To avoid faulty use of these benefits, a SNAP electronic benefit transfer (EBT) as it is called, cannot be withdrawn as cash. Furthermore, alcohol and tobacco products cannot be purchased using an EBT card. SNAP benefits can be cashed in at supermarkets, farmers markets, and other large and small grocery stores. This accounted for more than 230,000 retail stores at the end of the fiscal year 2011.2

 

The primary population that is served by SNAP are children. An April 2012 report suggests that about 47% of all participants were below 18 years of age. Furthermore, participating households with children received 71% of the benefits. Other population demographics included the elderly (aged 60 or older) or disabled, who constitute 8% of the population served. About 46% of the served population were non-elderly adults, and about 4% of participants were either legally immigrated individuals or naturalized citizens. Another 8% of the participants were on cash

welfare.

 

 

Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly referred to as the WIC Program is essentially a version of SNAP program specifically aimed at serving the vulnerable population of the society: pregnant women, infants and children. It safeguards the wellbeing of low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to five years of age. It provides nutritional supplements to diets and vital information on healthy eating habits including breastfeeding. It also provides aid with referrals to healthcare sites. WIC program is a Federal grant program, with allocated funds for each fiscal year. Just like the SNAP program, it is supervised Federally by the Food and Nutrition Service, and at the state level by individual state health departments and authorized retail stores. It includes more than 1,900 local agencies and 10,000 healthcare locations.

Similar to the SNAP program, the WIC program serves the underserved population of the society. However, the key difference is the level of vulnerability that the WIC target population possess. These are the pregnant, breastfeeding women who are at risk of being malnourished, and their children (up to 5 years of age), who are at the same level of risk, if not more. Enrollment incudes pregnant women up to 6 weeks after birth; breastfeeding women up to the infant’s first birthday, including their infants, who account for 53 percent of all infants born in the United States; and children up to their 5th birthday.3

 

Role of SNAP and WIC Programs in Improving the Nutritional status of their respective target populations

 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

An increase in SNAP participation has been observed whenever the nations poverty level rises, thus helping low income families to put food on their tables. Its overarching effect is that it helps prevent food insecurity. The diets of SNAP participants have been noticed to be similar to that of high-income Americans, thus accounting for an overall increase in the health of the SNAP population. However, in the report from April 2012, it is said that the diets of all Americans fall short of the Healthy Eating Index guidelines.2

However, SNAP is not a lost cause. SNAP participants also receive nutrition education along with food benefits so that it encourages healthy eating. This is accomplished through SNAP-Ed and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).

SNAP-Ed is an approximately $400 million program accounted for by Federal grants to state agencies. These grants are then awarded by state agencies to the various organizations?in the state, such as food banks and non-profits.4

Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program

Compared to the SNAP program, the WIC program has worked wonders in achieving food security and bolstering the health of its participants. The WIC section on the USDA website enlists a series of reports that state that in 1988, each dollar spent on prenatal WIC participation for women who were on Medicaid resulted in fewer premature deaths, longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths and greater chances of getting prenatal care.5 Studies have also found that children who are a part of the program have higher intakes of essential vitamins and other vital nutrients such as iron. Participants who received breastfeeding information from WIC clinics were more likely to engage in breastfeeding their infants.

 

Apart from these benefits, WIC participation has shown to result in:

·      Increased memory for numbers in children after the first year

·      Improved growth of nutritionally at-risk infants and children

·      Greater chances of children having medical care

·      An improvement in the growth rate in children

·      A decrease in the incidence of iron deficiency anemia in children

·      Improvement in weight gain in pregnant women

·      A reduction in low birth weight rates and increases the duration of pregnancy

·      Improvement in the dietary intake of pregnant and postpartum women

·      A reduction in fetal deaths and infant mortality

·      Participation also has been shown to improve children’s diets