Aiming for average: New data underscores need to improve food stamp administration, access across Colorado

Food-Stamps-FuelNew data highlights longstanding issues with the administration of food stamps in Colorado.

Today, we released “Food Stamp Impact Reports” for all 64 counties today that detail the efficiency and effectiveness of the state-supervised, county-administered program. While some Colorado counties meet national averages and federal guidelines, the overall data shows below-average performance at the state and county levels.

Colorado aims to become the healthiest state in the nation, but that simply can’t be accomplished when one in seven Coloradans struggle with hunger and we don’t have a strong, effective food stamp program to provide nutritional support. Food is essential to fueling better, healthier lives, stronger communities and a thriving economy.


Food stamps, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, provide eligible families and individuals with modest monthly funds—averaging $1.40 per person, per meal—to purchase food using a pre-loaded Electronic Benefit Transfer card. The majority of those eligible are children, seniors, working adults, veterans and those who are disabled.

A growing body of national research shows the importance of food stamps’ role in supporting the well-being of individuals and communities, such as improving short-term and long-term health outcomes, lowering health care costs, promoting work and economic stability, enhancing academic performance and early childhood education outcomes, helping seniors maintain their independence, and boosting economic development, such as grocery sales.

The newly released Food Stamp Impact Reports compare each county’s performance with other counties of similar size—small, medium and large—and shows the state and national averages for the following: enrollment, timely and accurate application processing, expenditures and economic impact. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an independent, third-party entity, performed enrollment data analysis for the reports. The data analysis follows the same method as the USDA performance measures.

Highlights from the released data include:

  • Colorado continues to rank 46th in the nation for access to food stamps and falls well below the national average of 75 percent for enrollment at only 57 percent, with nearly half of those eligible missing out on the nutrition they need.
  • Colorado leaves millions of dollars on the federal table and loses more than $686 million annually in grocery sales.
  • Colorado’s state-supervised, county-based system underperforms in some of the key metrics, including enrollment and accurate application processing, despite the effectiveness and efficiency of the program nationally.
  • There is disparity among county performance and costs, such as:
    • Enrollment ranges from 10 to 83 percent of eligible Coloradans.
    • The cost for a county to enroll among the “Big 10” counties ranges from $286.95 to $80.63 per recipient.

We now have consistent, relevant data that previously has not been available to Colorado counties. It’s an opportunity to build a shared vision for improving food stamp access, enrollment and administration, so all Coloradans can get the fuel they need to reach their potential.

Reaching average performance and avoiding future federal fines can be achieved without any new programs or tax increases. Based upon all of the available data and research, Hunger Free Colorado recommends the following solutions to benefit all in the state:

  • Bring Colorado participation up to the national average of 75 percent by improving access and enrollment
  • Meet the federal requirement of 95 percent for timely and accurately processed applications
  • Increase transparency and efficiency within the state-supervised, county-based system
  • Streamline the administration of food stamps and clarify expectations for the state and counties
  • Increase capacity at Colorado Department of Human Services for better oversight
  • Improve customer service for Coloradans, regardless of age, background and zip code

No one should go hungry, which is why we hope to see genuine action and results for the people of Colorado. If the state and counties will prioritize food access, we not only can avoid future federal fines but ensure all Coloradans have the chance to thrive.

View the Food Stamp Impact Reports for Colorado counties and all sources at

About Kathy Underhill

Executive director for Hunger Free Colorado


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