Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

How Federal and State Food Stamps Programs Affect Recent Immigrant Families in the United States

Author: Heather Koball
Publication Date: January 2018

“Food insecurity” is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a lack of consistent access “to enough food for an active, healthy life.” This kind of insecurity can be measured either for entire households or for only children in affected households. According to the most recent data available, food insecurity affects 16.5 percent of all households with children, and 6.5 million children experienced food insecurity in those households. Food insecurity can harm children’s health, development, and psychological well-being. Children experiencing this form of deprivation may be in poor health or underweight, and young children affected by food insecurity may fall behind developmental milestones.

Children of immigrants are at greater risk of going without enough food than the children of native-born citizens – even when income levels and other economic factors are taken into account. Immigrant families often experience economic hardships, of course, but their food insecurity may also be traced to U.S. federal and state policies that make some immigrants ineligible for food stamps.

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