Food Assistance Program (also known as SNAP/Food Stamps)

SNAP iS 7067928M Food Assistance Program (also known as SNAP/Food Stamps)During tough economic times, the demand for social services increases, while state and local resources diminish. Current economic conditions, in particular job loss, have resulted in a record number of Colorado families living in poverty, experiencing hunger and seeking public assistance—many of them for the first time.

While nutritional assistance is available to families through programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), many have trouble accessing those resources due to a lack of awareness, complicated application processes and problems in the benefits delivery system. Because most of these federally funded food programs are paid out as the resources are used, Colorado is leaving federal money on the table that is available to reduce hunger. In 2009 alone, Colorado failed to claim more than $750 million in food stamp benefits—roughly enough to feed nearly 480,000 Coloradans for a year.

Hunger Free Colorado has identified inefficiencies in the state-run food stamp program and is working to implement innovative solutions that close the gaps, maximize federal funding and ultimately help to eliminate hunger in Colorado.

Colorado performs dead last relative to other states
SNAP, commonly known as food stamps, is a federally funded program designed to be the nation’s nutrition safety net for struggling households. Unfortunately, Colorado has the lowest participation rates in the country, a fact that is attributed to a lack of awareness about existing resources and complex application processes. The result? Struggling Colorado families are hungry, even though help is available.

As a result, our local economies suffer
Maximizing enrollment in federally funded food programs makes good economic sense for Colorado. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which administers the food stamp program, estimates that food stamp benefits generate $1.84 in economic activity for every $1.00 provided in benefits. When people get the SNAP assistance they need, those dollars are spent on groceries at Colorado stores, leaving other family resources available for spending in other parts of the economy such as transportation and housing. Conversely, when SNAP benefits are not fully maximized, Colorado communities and the state as a whole are leaving money on the table. Denver alone lost $177 million in grocery sales between 2003 and 2008 because only 43 percent of those eligible for benefits actually received them.

Not only does low participation mean that federal dollars that could be spent in our local economies are left on the table; additional financial strain is placed on public health programs because of the connection between poor nutrition and poor health. In light of Colorado’s current economic crisis, we simply cannot afford bear the costs of increased demand on social systems caused by malnutrition.

Hunger Free Colorado promotes smart, efficient government solutions
Hunger Free Colorado is committed to ensuring that all eligible families are aware of the tremendous benefits of participation in SNAP/food stamps and have easy access to this federally funded program. We have already made progress by helping to streamline the administrative process and raising awareness about available resources. Improving the effectiveness of the Colorado Benefits Management Systems (CBMS) and conducting effective outreach are top priorities of our organization.

Fortunately, the State and its county partners are also working to increase access, even while also managing increased recession-driven caseloads. Colorado adopted its first state outreach plan with one outreach worker in Weld County. Hunger Free Colorado hopes the State will expand this plan to many more of Colorado’s 64 counties. Hunger Free Colorado is closely monitoring the State’s progress in improving access and timeliness of food stamp benefits with anticipation.