Hunger in America 2014, a study by the Vermont Foodbank and Feeding America, shows that 1 in 4 people, or an estimated 153,000 people, in Vermont turn to food shelves and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families.
They also turn to other food assistance programs, including WIC, free school lunches and 3SquaresVT.
We’ve taken an excerpt, below, from the study.You can also download the Hunger in America Executive Summary or the full report here.
“Many client households using the services of Vermont Foodbank also use government assistance to supplement their household food budget. Prominent among these services is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program). SNAP provides monthly benefit allotments (through a debit card) to spend on food. Eligibility and benefit rules vary across the states, and many clients need help applying for benefits.
“SNAP benefits are intended to supplement a household’s groceries each month; typically, benefits do not last recipients the entire month. The Client Survey displayed an image of the state’s SNAP debit card when asking about client households’ participation in the program.
- 66 percent of client households report participation in SNAP.
- Across all households reporting current receipt of SNAP, 21 percent report that SNAP benefits last only one week or less; 44 percent report that benefits last two weeks; 16 percent reported that benefits last for three weeks; and 19 percent report that benefits usually last four weeks or more.
“Although we know from income data presented in table 9 that many clients live below the poverty level, not all clients participate in SNAP. There may be many reasons some clients of Vermont Foodbank do not receive SNAP benefits. They may not have applied because they did not know about the program, or perhaps they knew about the program but did not think they were eligible. Others may have applied but did not pass the eligibility screens, and others may have failed to complete the full application process. SNAP limits eligibility to households with incomes below certain limits, and other state-specific eligibility requirements may affect SNAP eligibility and participation rates. The client households not participating in SNAP may or may not be eligible for SNAP benefits; we cannot determine eligibility exactly given the limitations of the data collected in the study. Nonetheless, reported household cash income provides some indication of SNAP eligibility among nonparticipating households, and reasons for nonparticipation given among this group provide additional insight.
“We estimate potentially income-eligible SNAP nonparticipants in two ways. First, we look at those in the survey who report not participating in SNAP whose household income is at or below 130 percent of the poverty level—the most common income threshold for SNAP participation across states. This calculation suggests that 36 percent of nonparticipating client households in this food bank’s area are potentially income-eligible for SNAP.
“Next, we examine income thresholds at a state level. Some states have higher income thresholds for SNAP participation—meaning that households with income greater than 130 percent are still eligible (25). Relative to the state’s specific SNAP eligibility threshold for this food bank, further analysis suggest that an additional 34 percent of nonparticipating respondents in this food bank are potentially income-eligible for SNAP. In total, then, 70 percent of this food bank’s clients not currently receiving SNAP are potentially income-eligible. It is important to note that households classified as potentially income-eligible for SNAP may be ineligible for the program because of citizenship, assets, or other reasons.
“Among client households that are SNAP nonparticipants and did not apply for SNAP benefits, 46 percent did not apply because they did not think they were eligible (see figure 15).
“Other large federal food assistance programs focus on households with pregnant and postpartum women and children (26). The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental foods for low-income pregnant and postpartum women and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk. WIC eligibility restricts benefits to families with incomes below 185 percent of the federal poverty level (states may use lower income cut-offs). School-based programs may also be an important source of food assistance. Most schools serve lunch, and low-income children qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) (27). Many schools also offer breakfast, and children in low-income families may receive a free or reduced-price breakfast through the School Breakfast Program (SBP). Households with children may also benefit from after-school snack and meal programs, and weekend BackPack Programs. These programs are not available in all communities, but are available in some schools for households that qualify. Households served by the Vermont Foodbank may also participate in one or more of these programs targeted at children (see figure 16). Based on their clients’ responses to the survey:
- 78 percent participate in NSLP, and 44 percent participate in SBP. We cannot identify the eligible population, but nationally about 72 percent of eligible students participate in the school lunch program and 49 percent participate in the school breakfast program (28).
- ++ percent participate in the after-school snack or meal program.
- 7 percent participate in WIC. Because the survey did not ask about the presence of pregnant women or nutritional risk, it is not possible to determine the eligibility rate within client households; however, nationally, about 61 percent of eligible households participate (29).
“Some households participate in multiple programs at the same time. An estimated 16 percent of households report participating in two or more programs.”
(25) In some circumstances, Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) allows some households whose incomes exceed 130 percent of poverty to be eligible for SNAP if their household income falls below a higher state-set income threshold. The following states and territories served by the Feeding America network employ BBCE levels above 130 percent of the poverty level: AZ, CA, CT, DC, DE, FL, HI, IA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MT, NC, ND, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OR, PA, RI, TX, VT, WA, WI. Whenever this occurred, we incorporated the state-specific threshold into our analysis. For states whose thresholds remain at 130 percent, no additional percentage of potentially-income households can be identified; instead these appear as ++.
(26) The federal government offers additional, smaller, nutrition programs. See www.fns.usda.gov/programs-and-services for a full listing.
(27) Families with incomes below 130 percent of the poverty level qualify for a free lunch or breakfast; and families with incomes
between 130 and 185 percent of the poverty level qualify for a reduced-price lunch or breakfast.
(28) MW Dahl, MW, and JK Scholz JK (2011), “The National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program: Evidence on Participation and Noncompliance,” (University of Wisconsin Working Paper, March 9, 2011), working paper.
(29) “National and State-Level Estimates of Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Eligibles and Program Reach, 2000–-2009,” Nutrition Assistance Program Report Series, Report No. WIC-11-ELIG.