Newswise — San Diego, Nov. 12, 2018 – New research presented today at the American Public Health Association’s 2018 Annual Meeting and Expo revealed that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation declined in the first half of 2018 among immigrant families, following 10 years of increasing participation from 2007 through 2017. Preliminary 2018 data showed a 10 percent drop in enrollment among immigrant families eligible for SNAP who have been in the country less than five years.

This study surveyed over 35,000 mothers of young children in five U.S. cities — Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Little Rock — from 2007 through the first half of 2018. Researchers interviewed families in emergency rooms and primary care clinics about their household’s food security and their participation in SNAP, among other health topics.

Survey results showed a clear increase in SNAP participation among immigrant mothers whose families qualified for nutrition assistance from 2007 to 2017. In that time period, SNAP participation among eligible immigrant families whose mothers had been in the U.S. for less than five years rose to 43 percent by 2017, and to 44.7 percent among families whose mothers had been in the U.S. for five years or more.

Preliminary data collected in the first half of 2018, however, showed a distinct drop in SNAP participation. Only 34.8 percent of families in the U.S. for less than five years surveyed participated in SNAP, representing a nearly 10 percent drop. Among families with mothers who lived in the U.S. for more than five years, SNAP participation declined to 42.7 percent, a 2 percent drop.

Lead researcher and Deputy Director of Policy Strategy for Boston Medical Center’s Children’s HealthWatch Allison Bovell-Ammon said, “It’s important to note that the eligibility rules for SNAP remained unchanged between 2017 and 2018. We believe the drop in participation may be related to more nuanced changes in national immigration rhetoric and increased federal action to deport and detain immigrants. These findings demonstrate that rhetoric and the threat of policy changes, even before changes are enacted, may be causing families to forego nutrition assistance.”

“Some immigrant families may be forced to make agonizing choices between enrolling in critical nutrition programs and jeopardizing their future immigration status. These tradeoffs are likely to have a negative impact on children’s and families’ health,” added Bovell-Ammon.

The study also showed that household food insecurity increased from 9.9 percent in 2007 to 17.8 percent among immigrant families in the U.S. less than five years, and rose from 10.8 to 17.5 among families in the U.S. more than 5 years over the same time period.

This research will be presented during the APHA Annual Meeting on Monday, Nov. 12, during session 3242: Barriers and enablers promoting or impeding health among immigrant and refugee communities.


About the APHA Annual Meeting and Expo: APHA’s 146th Annual Meeting is themed “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Health Equity Now.” The Annual Meeting is the largest annual gathering of public health professionals and features over a thousand presentations on the latest research and newest thinking in the public health field.

About APHA: APHA champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the public health profession. We speak out for public health issues and policies backed by science. We are the only organization that influences federal policy, has a nearly 150-year perspective and brings together members from all fields of public health. Learn more at