VERMILLION, S.D. – A collaborative research project between South Dakota KIDS COUNT and USD’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program reveals that rising numbers of South Dakota families with children rely on safety-net health and social service programs. The research highlights changes in child poverty and enrollment in health and social service programs since the Great Recession, and it includes data from Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the National School Lunch Program.
The report indicates that South Dakota children enrolled in SNAP increased by 47 percent between 2007 and 2017. In 2007, 29,695 children from newborn to age 17 were enrolled in the SNAP program. That number jumped to 43,739 by 2017. SNAP is the largest federal nutrition assistance program in the nation.
The research effort also revealed that between 2007 and 2017 the number of children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP increased by 20 percent, and the percent of children eligible for free or reduced priced meals in the state’s school lunch programs increased by 10.5 percent. Enrollment in WIC remained stable over the same time period with a slight decrease of 1 percent.
Chelsea Wesner, an instructor with the USD MPH program, led USD’s participation in the research in partnership with South Dakota KIDS COUNT director Carole Cochran and MPH student Taylor Clemmons. Findings can inform the administration and funding of health and social service programs, as well as the work of local nonprofits and schools.
"We know that access to healthy food and health care are really important social determinants of health, especially among families with children,” Wesner said. “Hunger and food insecurity are adverse childhood experiences and something we should be able to prevent."