Report: SNAP Participation Rates in Oregon

by Katie Furia

Today’s Oregonian featured a story about our just released 2013-14 SNAP participation report.

The article — “Oregon’s Economy Would Get $500 Million Infusion if Everyone Eligible for Food Stamps Accepted Them: Report” — looks at the amount of federal dollars SNAP brings into the state and explores why certain populations, like seniors, that are eligible for the nutrition support, participate at low rates.

The report also shows one way in which the economic recession continues to impact large swaths of our state. It’s an important reminder of the significant role that SNAP plays in helping people through an incredibly long and difficult economic recovery as they strive to build a better life. Though SNAP is doing a good job of ensuring that those who are working to provide for their families have the fuel they need to help them find a path toward success, we’re still missing a sizable portion of people at risk for hunger.

More than a quarter of a million Oregonians (27 percent) who are eligible for SNAP benefits are not participating in the program. This is a missed opportunity not only for those people and their families, but for our communities. We know that people who receive SNAP benefits are healthier, more productive and kids learn better in school.

Seniors Missing Out

We’re especially concerned about seniors who may be struggling with hunger because more than half of the seniors (58 percent) who are eligible for SNAP in Oregon are not participating. In 2012, we formed the Older Oregonian Hunger Coalition, which works to keep a spotlight on seniors struggling with food access and economic stability holding roundtable forums around state.

Economic Stimulus

SNAP brings in more than $1 billion federal dollars to local grocers, retailers and farmers markets, and with increased participation, an opportunity to bring in $500 million more into our state. This represents a huge federal investment in our local communities. For towns and cities that are struggling, this can be a shot in the arm for local economies in need of investment. SNAP increases the demand for groceries. People who use SNAP benefits, just like when you or I visit our local grocery store, generate economic activity. That means more work not only for cashiers and people responsible for stocking the shelves, but for drivers who transport the food, the people who operate the food storage warehouses and processing plants and the farmers who grow it.

We are eager for our economy to improve so that every Oregonian who is able has the chance to work to provide for their families. However, when people are in need of support, we encourage them to participate in SNAP, not only for their own health, well-being and future success, but for the broader impact their individual success has on their entire community.