The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released new data Sept. 4 showing a continued decline in food insecurity (uncertain access to enough healthy food.) Unfortunately, even with this progress, food insecurity continues to disproportionately impact households with children. In fact, as of 2018, 11.2 million children (nearly 1 in 7) lived in a household struggling to put food on the table.

Food insecurity takes a costly toll on children. Not only does it increase the likelihood of poor nutrition and hunger, it impacts their health, school performance and behavior. The harmful effects of child food insecurity can reverberate into adulthood.

If we truly want to eradicate childhood food insecurity, we must drastically strengthen the assistance programs that help children access the food they need to thrive. Unfortunately, rather than investing in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which serves as the first line of defense against child food insecurity, the Trump administration has taken actions to cut SNAP benefits and discourage vulnerable families from enrolling in the program. These measures include a proposed rule that would restrict state eligibility options for SNAP, causing 3.1 million individuals to lose their benefits — of whom 1.9 million are either living with children or are children themselves. Worse still, 500,000 impacted children would also lose access to free school meals. This “Categorical Eligibility” proposal comes on the heels of a separate proposed rule that sought to limit access to SNAP benefits for adults struggling to access employment, which would create harmful spillover effects for several groups of children and youth.

The Trump administration also recently issued a final rule that imposes sweeping changes on long-standing, bipartisan immigration policy by allowing government officials to consider the use of an applicant’s broad range of services — including SNAP — when determining eligibility for green cards and/or lawful admission to the United States. Individuals who are eligible for SNAP will now be punished for using those benefits, meaning parents and children will likely disenroll from the program in order to avoid a public charge determination.

The USDA’s food insecurity data serves as a stark reminder that our children cannot afford the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to SNAP. Congress must fight these proposals as well as take proactive steps to invest in complementary child nutrition programs so that more children can access the food they need to thrive.

Take Action: The Administration’s Proposed Rule for the Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is open for comments until September 23rd. We encourage partner child advocacy organizations to submit comments by customizing our model comment template. Individuals may submit a personalized comment using Feeding America’s comment portal.