Prosperity Watch (Issue 67, No. 2): Food assistance is critical for NC’s working families from East to West

Nov. 21, 2016

One of the best tools we have for fighting food insecurity, hunger and poverty has been the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP, formally known as Food Stamps, has been around for close to 70 years. In North Carolina, where 630,000 people are food insecure, SNAP is critical tool with helps families place food on the table.

Although we often imagine SNAP and similar programs primarily benefiting poor people in inner-cities, the reality is that SNAP helps struggling families of all types and in every corner of the state. In October 2016, the last month we have data for, counties with the top ten highest rates of SNAP participation represented every region of the state. According to the USDA, over 17 percent of households in North Carolina that receive SNAP benefits include elderly adults, and 20 percent include people with disabilities. More than 43 percent of SNAP recipients are children, and 28 percent are single adults who care for children. While SNAP can be a lifesaving tool to families in poverty or those who are unemployed, it is also crucial for thousands of working, low-income households. Just over 21 percent of SNAP households are above the federal poverty line, and nearly 36 percent of SNAP households have working adults. In fact, North Carolina has a higher percentage of SNAP recipients who work than both the national average (32 percent) and any other state in the Southeast.

The impact of SNAP extends beyond putting food on the table. Families who participate in the food assistance program are more likely to become and stay employed after receiving initial benefits. Additionally, auxiliary programs such as SNAP Employment & Training help to develop a stronger and better trained workforce. Protecting and strengthen SNAP and other supports is critical in making sure North Carolina’s economy is strong and working at capacity.

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