View report highlights; how Colorado and all 64 counties are performing; why it matters to Coloradans, communities and our economy; proposed solutions to improve food stamp administration and access; and how you can take action to address hunger in your community and across the state.
Everyone is at their best when they have enough to eat, but there are many life storms that make it difficult for Coloradans to afford healthy food.
Having enough food supports the foundation for optimal health and well-being throughout our lifecycle. Nutritious food helps babies develop, gives kids the energy to excel in school, reduces the risk of chronic diseases in adults, and keeps seniors stable and independent.
Just as constructing a solid house requires a variety of materials, building well-being requires community resources like access to healthy, affordable food. When materials are cheap or not even available, the foundation is not as strong as it could be and soon may develop cracks. Similarly, nutritious food is one of those key materials for all people, and without it, we may have difficulty weathering life’s storms.
Community resources like food stamps, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, exist to ensure families and individuals can purchase groceries. Every program funded by taxpayers should be transparent and accountable to the community and those it seeks to serve. Nationally, food stamps is one of the most vigorously regulated benefits with 93% of federal program spending going directly to those in need and a fraud rate of less than 1%.
Though the monthly funds are modest—averaging $1.40 per person, per meal—food stamps remain the primary tool for addressing hunger for millions in the U.S. Yet, about 1 in 8 Coloradans struggle with hunger, not always knowing when or where they will get their next meal.
By enrolling more eligible Coloradans into this vital nutrition assistance program, we can strengthen Colorado communities and ensure people of all ages, backgrounds and zip codes can reach their potential.
Let’s make it a goal to ensure all Coloradans can access the fuel needed to thrive and reach their potential.
On Jan. 10, we released our annual “Food Stamp Impact Reports” for all 64 counties that detail the efficiency and effectiveness of the state-supervised, county-administered program. Since our first-ever release of the reports in January 2016, many positive strides have been taken at the state and county level, but we still have room to improve as a state.
Colorado counties have measurably improved enrollment for eligible residents. Through efforts to improve outreach and customer service, 44 of the 64 counties have increased performance, raising the statewide food stamp Program Access Index (PAI) from 56% to 59%, the 11th best national ranking for improvement. Despite the positive momentum, Colorado still ranks 45th nationally for program access, with more than 350,000 Coloradans who may be eligible for food stamps without needed assistance (based on Census income estimates).
Highlights from the released data include:
- Though some individual counties fall short, Colorado is meeting the federal standard for timely processing of 95%; the state has been above this benchmark for 12 consecutive months.
- 44 of 64 counties saw improved estimates for their enrollment of low-income, eligible Coloradans since the last report release.
- There is disparity among county performance with enrollment ranging from 12 to 94 percent of eligible Coloradans.
- Colorado continues to rank 45th in the nation for access to food stamps and falls below the national average of 74% for enrollment at 59%, with 2 in 5 of those eligible missing out on the nutrition they need (41%).
- Colorado leaves millions of dollars on the federal table and loses more than $269 million annually in grocery sales.
The newly released Food Stamp Impact Reports compare each county’s performance with the state and national averages for the following: enrollment, economic impact, and timely and accurate application processing. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an independent, third-party entity, performed enrollment data analysis for the reports. The analysis follows the same method as the USDA performance measures used to award bonuses to well-performing states.
View your county’s impact report and
find out how it ranks compared to last year’s report.
Each report also includes the food stamp data for the county and state, including participation, performance and economic activity. (Additional explanation of citations and sources is available here and at the link above.)
The released data highlights the progress made by Colorado since the last report and identifies areas for improvement, as well as best practices utilized by counties with the highest enrollment of eligible Coloradans in their county. The Center on Budget Policy & Priorities—an independent, third-party entity that the counties and state have trusted—performed the data analysis, and it’s based on how the USDA measures and determines bonus awards to well-performing states.
With this information, we can continue to work together, tailor best practices to overcome local barriers, and move forward a shared vision for improving food stamp enrollment across the state.
For additional data on county performance in other support services, visit GapMap.org.
A growing body of national research shows the importance of food stamps’ role in supporting individuals and communities, such as improving short- and long-term health outcomes, lowering health care costs, promoting work and economic stability, enhancing academic performance and early childhood education outcomes, helping seniors maintain their independence, and boosting local economic activity, such as grocery sales.
Food stamps continues to be one of the most efficient and effective ways of addressing hunger in Colorado and across the U.S. It provides residents with the essential resource of healthy, affordable food to weather life’s storms.
Federal nutrition programs, along with state and local counterparts, play an important role in connecting people of all ages, backgrounds and zip codes to needed food. By supporting people throughout their lives, we can ensure everyone reaches their potential, which benefits all of us.
Based upon all of the available data and research, Hunger Free Colorado recommends the following solutions to benefit all in the state:
- Improve upon food stamp access and enrollment, so Colorado is at least in-line with or above the national average of 74 percent
- Increase collaboration between counties to identify and implement best practices that allowed nine counties to exceed 85 percent estimated enrollment of eligible Coloradans, such as processing applications the same day that they are received by county human services offices and partnering with community organizations to better promote the program locally
- Provide greater transparency and efficiency within the state-supervised, county-based system
An important investment at the state level was the passage of Senate Bill 190. This bipartisan legislation focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of food stamps across Colorado. Signed into law in June 2016, it was sponsored by the Joint Budget Committee, passed with unanimous support, and united a diverse array of stakeholders from health, faith-based, senior-focused, agriculture and economic-focused entities.
The Colorado state legislature and counties have taken positive strides in the last year, yet one in eight Coloradans still struggle with hunger. By continuing to work together to improve food stamp access, enrollment and administration, we can ensure all Coloradans can get the fuel they need to reach their potential.
Use your voice to help strengthen your community and ensure all Coloradans have access to nutritious food!
With community members and local organizations demonstrating broad support for food assistance, we can demonstrate how much the administration of food stamps matters to Coloradans and why it should be a priority in our state and within our counties.
Here’s how you can take action:
- Contact your state legislators via email or phone to let them know addressing hunger should be a top priority and an efficient, effective food stamp program is one of the primary ways to ensure no one goes hungry across Colorado. Use our online look-up to easily find their contact information.
- Receive our advocacy alerts and updates. Sign-up to be notified when lawmakers are considering bills and proposals that impact those struggling with hunger.
- Amplify your voice online. Use #copolitics and #EndHungerCO. Tweet to @CO_CDHS.
- Write a letter to the editor, voicing why Colorado and your community needs to make an investment in addressing hunger and ensuring we have a strong, effective food assistance program.
- Attend a community meeting with elected officials in attendance. This is a powerful way to engage with key decision makers. Share what hunger looks like and why food stamps matter in your community; talk about the challenges and successes within the current administration of the program; and discuss possible solutions.
- Discuss the issue of hunger and share your county’s impact report with others. Talk about what hunger looks like, why food stamps matter and what possible solutions exist. (Find out more about the impact of hunger and why nutrition programs like food stamps matter.)