Report outlines benefit of outreach to those who need help buying food in NH

The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute has produced a new analysis of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, and explores New Hampshire’s effectiveness in enrolling beneficiaries in the program compared to neighboring states.

The program supports the nutritional needs of individuals and families facing economic hardships and limited incomes. In New Hampshire, SNAP is administered as the New Hampshire Food Stamp Program and, before the pandemic, assisted about 45,000 adults and 29,000 children. Previous Fiscal Policy Institute analysis found that the New Hampshire Food Stamp Program may not have reached all individuals who may have been eligible for assistance in the state in 2019.

SNAP guidelines for states offer flexibilities to expand eligibility and conduct program outreach, which helps ensure that information regarding benefits and eligibility is available to residents who may qualify for assistance. The federal government reimburses states for half of the costs associated with outreach programs so long as those costs are part of an outreach plan approved annually by the United States Department of Agriculture. Outreach plans are encouraged by the federal government, as they may improve program participation and help ensure more stable access to food for populations with limited resources while providing economic stimulus.

The Fiscal Policy Institute found that New Hampshire has an opportunity to access more federal funding for outreach activities. The state currently does not have an approved outreach plan; the last approved outreach plan, which facilitated access to federal reimbursement support, ended in September 2017. Access to additional federal resources may help the state and other entities connect residents with food assistance, aiding families and supporting the local economy.

Expanded outreach to eligible residents may enhance program awareness and enrollment, including among populations disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and Granite Staters who may have become eligible for SNAP benefits for the first time due to the crisis, according to the The Fiscal Policy Institute’s issue brief. Increasing participation in SNAP would also bolster the ongoing economic recovery. According to analysis from the United States Department of Agriculture, SNAP benefits generate about $1.50 in economic activity for every additional dollar invested in assistance when the economy is weak.

States bordering New Hampshire have implemented federally-approved outreach plans more recently than New Hampshire, and expanded eligibility to a greater extent within the framework permitted by the federal government. These policies appear to have more effectively reached residents with low incomes.