Key Takeaways

  • SNAP can help you and your loved ones afford nutritious foods, protect your health and well-being, and support your income when times are tough.

  • Good nutrition is critical to health and well-being at every age, from early life through older adulthood.

  • Access to healthy food is especially critical during the 1,000-day window from pregnancy to age two—a time of rapid brain development that sets the foundation for lifelong health.

Good nutrition is essential to our well-being at all ages. Starting in early life, all the way through older adulthood, nutrition plays a critical role in supporting healthy brains, healthy bodies, and healthy lives.

Nutrition is important right from the start—especially during the first 1,000 days from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday. During this time, nutrition fuels a baby’s rapidly growing brain and builds the foundations for lifelong health. If you’ve spent much time with a grandchild or another young child, you won’t be surprised to learn that more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second1 during the early years! Among older adults, eating a variety of nutritious foods can help keep your mind and body strong and lower your risk for disease.

Unfortunately, many Americans do not have consistent access to healthy, affordable food. Even before the pandemic, millions of households with young children and older adults struggled to put enough food on the table. And for many of us, the past two years have only made things harder.

How can SNAP help with access to healthy, affordable food?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly known as the Food Stamp Program—supplements household budgets so people can buy the food they need. The program provides nutrition assistance to more than 4 million older adults living alone as well as more than 7 million households with children.2 Every day, SNAP makes a difference in the lives of older adults and their loved ones, including women and children in the first 1,000 days.

Here are 3 ways that SNAP helps:

1) SNAP helps individuals and families afford food

SNAP helps eligible, low-income individuals and families put food on the table.

According to the most recent data, adults ages 60 and over who live alone received an average monthly benefit of $104 per month. Households with children are often larger and so received an average benefit of $387 per month1.

SNAP benefits are flexible and easy to use. They are delivered monthly through electronic debit cards, which can then be used to buy groceries at one of hundreds of thousands of authorized retailers nationwide, ranging from superstores to farmers markets. Some states are even exploring the use of SNAP benefits for purchasing food through online retailers.

2) SNAP protects the health and well-being of older adults

SNAP helps ensure children have a strong start and seniors can age with dignity and independence.

When mothers and babies cannot access good nutrition, their immediate and long-term health and well-being suffers. But, when families receive nutrition assistance through SNAP, they experience less food insecurity and improved outcomes. Mothers have healthier babies, young children develop on-track, and older children perform measurably better in school.

Similarly, SNAP can help protect the health and well-being of older adults. By supporting the purchase of nutritious foods, SNAP promotes a healthy and independent lifestyle. Research shows that accessing SNAP can even help keep older adults out of nursing homes and reduces hospital admissions. 

3) SNAP often supports fixed incomes when it’s needed most

As the last two years have shown us, anyone can face unexpected challenges. SNAP provides the support that older adults and families need to get back on their feet. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread economic hardship; and even before the pandemic, 34 million people faced poverty in the United States, including 1 in 7 children and 1 in 11 seniors.3 But SNAP lifted 3.2 million people out of poverty in 2018 and reduced the severity of poverty for tens of millions of others.4

If you or your loved ones are struggling to afford food, remember that SNAP can help. Visit BenefitsCheckUp.org to see if you are eligible to receive SNAP benefits.

To learn more about the first 1,000 days and how you can join the fight to build a strong foundation for all mothers, children, and families to thrive, visit 1,000 Days on Facebook.

Sources

1. InBrief: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Harvard University Center on the Developing Child. Found on the internet at https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/inbrief-science-of-ecd/.

2. Characteristics of SNAP Housholds: FY 2019. Found on the internet at https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/characteristics-snap-households-fy-2019.

3. Income and Poverty in the United States: 2019 (Sept. 15,  2020). Found on the internet at https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2020/demo/p60-270.html.

4. Programs Targeted for Cuts Keep Millions From Poverty, New Census Data Show (Sept. 10, 2019). Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Found on the internet at https://www.cbpp.org/blog/programs-targeted-for-cuts-keep-millions-from-poverty-new-census-data-show.