SNAP benefits go beyond filling the refrigerator

movinonupsquareThe Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program does more than put food on the table for 500,000 Minnesotans with low incomes. It has benefits that also help Minnesotans make healthier choices, stay independent and bolster the local economy.

“Good nutrition is key to so many important markers in life, including overall health and success in school,” said Lucinda Jesson, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, which oversees the national program in the state. “When children are well-nourished they have better attendance and are able to focus on learning.”

Federally funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, helps people with low incomes buy food. Today, more than 70 percent of Minnesotans who are eligible for SNAP receive it.

In federal fiscal year 2013, $756 million in federal nutrition assistance benefits were paid in Minnesota, with an average monthly benefit of $118 per person. SNAP also helps local economies; for every $1 in SNAP benefits spent, $1.80 is generated in economic activity.

Those eligible for SNAP can participate in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education, or SNAP-Ed, to learn how to make healthy food choices with a limited budget. Approximately 28,000 Minnesotans attend federally funded SNAP-Ed nutrition education classes provided statewide by the University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

Resources such as “Money-saving Tips for the Grocery Store” are also available online. In 2014, participants of all ages reported increasing their daily fruit and vegetable intake by an average of one-third cup or more over the span of a SNAP-Ed course.

SNAP use at Minnesota farmers markets is also on the rise, increasing 66 percent from 2012 to 2014. Last year, SNAP recipients spent more than $247,000 on fresh and local produce and other food products at farmers markets and directly from farmers.

In recent years, SNAP use has increased among seniors as well. Today, 50 percent of older Minnesotans age 60 and up who are eligible for SNAP use it, improved from less than 30 percent in 2008. Access to good nutrition can mean being able to live independently in their own homes longer for seniors. Every $1 spent on nutrition education saves up to $10 in long-term care costs.

For information about applying for SNAP, contact your county or the Minnesota Food HelpLine, 1-888-711-1151.

Information provided by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.