Children of lawful immigrants in the United States are more likely to experience food insecurity—or a lack of regular access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle—than children of U.S.-born citizens, according to a research brief from the National Center for Children in Poverty.
The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, provides benefits to low-income families to purchase food. Lawful immigrants are not eligible to apply for SNAP unless they have lived in the United States for five years or more. At the time of the research study, seven states (California, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Washington, and Wisconsin) allocated state funds for providing food assistance to recent lawful immigrants not eligible for federal SNAP benefits. Lawful immigrants living in these states were less likely to be food insecure than those in states without these benefits. Today, five of the states (California, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington) continue to offer state-funded SNAP benefits for recent lawful immigrants. No states provide SNAP benefits to undocumented immigrant adults.
Food insecurity affects roughly 6.5 million children nationwide, and these children are more likely to have poor health, have social and behavioral problems, and are less likely to reach developmental milestones compared to their food-secure peers.