The Mountain Times

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Vermonters continue to struggle with hunger: SNAP makes the difference

The number of Vermonters struggling with hunger has finally started to level off after a decade of steady increase. According to new data released Sept. 5 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its annual report on food insecurity, 12.8% of Vermont households do not have consistent access to enough nutritious food - about 1 in 8 households- down from 13.8% last year.

Vermonters who continue to be out of work or underemployed due to the recession may have been buffered from hunger by participating in 3SquaresVT (formerly food stamps), which provides them with more money for food. The program (called SNAP nationally) is currently being debated in Congress as part of the Farm Bill. If the cuts in SNAP that have been proposed by the House Agriculture Committee are voted into law, many Vermonters will lose this important food resource. The most vulnerable citizens depend on this nutrition program: The average SNAP household has an income of only 57% of the poverty level, and 84% of SNAP benefits go to households with children, the elderly and or those with disabilities.

Seniors and children are especially vulnerable to the devastating effects of hunger. Research has shown that seniors have higher rates of illness and disability with higher costs for dependent care if they don't have access to adequate food. Children living in food insecure households are in poorer health and have significantly more trouble in school. This costs more in the long run as society pays increased health care and education costs for this underfed population.

SNAP works like a vaccine, preventing illness and improving health outcomes for those who participate.

Executive Director of Hunger Free Vermont Marissa Parisi, notes that "SNAP is doing its job in Vermont, reducing hunger and stimulating the economy. Cutting the program now would be an injustice as well as bad economic sense. Now is the time for Congress to strengthen SNAP, to protect children and seniors from the devastating effects of hunger. The recommendations developed by the Farm Bill Nutrition Coalition of Vermont, convened by Hunger Free Vermont, would help ensure that we provide adequate food to all who need it."