Study: Food stamp use in NH up sharply between 2008-’09

Posted Aug. 06, 2011, at 6:01 a.m.

The number of New Hampshire children whose families receive food stamps increased by 19 percent from 2008 to 2009, according to a new study gauging the health of the state’s children.

The annual New Hampshire Kids Count Data Survey, released by the Children’s Alliance of New Hampshire, uses 33 data points to measure the well-being of children in the state. Among the findings in this year’s report is that an average of 16.8 percent of children aged 0 to 17, or one out of every six minors, participated in the food stamp program in 2008 and 2009.

During that period, overall participation increased by 19 percent, according to the study.

This was attributed to factors such as rising unemployment during the recession and the rising cost of food.

Ellen Fineberg, executive director of the Children’s Alliance of New Hampshire, said it’s likely data from 2010 will show a great difference from previous years, even as the recession deepened. She added that cuts to state and federal funding could jeopardize programs that create a safety net for low- to moderate-income families.

“We hope that people will see that New Hampshire is still a great place to live for children,” Fineberg said. “With some effort in terms of kids who might not be doing as well, we know that all kids could have it be the best place. We still have some work to do.”

On Aug. 17, the national report funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, will show how the health of New Hampshire children ranks nationally. But one of the benefits of the state report is that is breaks down data by county, giving a snap shop of where the need for services is greatest, Fineberg said.

For example, food stamp participation in Hillsborough County averaged 17.2 percent, slightly above the state average. The lowest participation for children was in Rockingham County, at 8.6 percent, while the highest participation rate was in Coos County, at 31.7 percent.

Fineberg said there was some good news from the report, as well. For example, the high school dropout rate continued to decline. The four-year cumulative dropout rate in 2008-09 was 6.7 percent, compared to 9.7 percent the previous year.

Among the other finding was that the number of homeless students in the state jumped by 21 percent from 2008 to 2009. That translated to 2,573 students in kindergarten through 12th grade without permanent housing.

The study also found the following:

Nearly one quarter (24.1 percent) of New Hampshire children under age 19 rely on NH Healthy Kids Gold and Silver programs for their health insurance. The study warned that federal and state budget cuts to programs like these could adversely affect the health of New Hampshire’s youth from birth through adolescence.

Forty-one percent of the state’s fourth graders exhibit reading proficiency, indicating that 59 percent of New Hampshire’s children are falling behind.

There is a 7 percent gap between white and minority students in reading proficiency.

Copyright (c) 2011, The Telegraph, Nashua, N.H.

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