Each day, roughly 1.7 million Ohioans go hungry or face what the federal government calls “food insecurity.” They cannot afford the nutrition necessary for a healthy diet. Those who choose to spend adequately on food must scale back elsewhere, say, in the medicine they take or the rent they pay or the transportation they use. The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is designed to help people deal with such challenges. Unfortunately, Ohio has not been taking full advantage of the support in recent years. Now that can change.

Mike DeWine can seek the complete set of waivers available from the program’s restrictions. In doing so, the governor would ensure the state does a better job of elevating the lives of many poor and vulnerable Ohioans.

The food assistance program requires adults between ages 18 and 49 to work or engage in work-related activities for at least 80 hours per month. There are exceptions for those who are disabled or have custody of children. Fail to meet the work requirement, and a recipient is limited to receiving food assistance for just three months during a three-year period.

That is, unless the state’s economic conditions permit seeking a waiver from the time limits, allowing those adults extended access to food assistance.

As Policy Matters Ohio, a Cleveland-based think tank, notes in a report released last week, states are eligible to get waivers for cities and counties with double-digit unemployment rates or an unemployment rate averaging 20 percent higher than the national average during the previous 24 months. A waiver also can be sought when a city or county lacks available jobs, as measured by a formula.

In response to the Great Recession, federal officials granted a waiver for the entire state. That held through 2013. Though the state still was eligible for such a waiver in 2014 and 2015, then Gov. John Kasich limited his request to just 16 counties and then 17 counties. In 2016, 21 counties and nine cities were eligible, yet the Kasich administration sought and obtained waivers for 18 counties.

The Kasich numbers improved toward the end of his tenure as governor, setting up for 38 counties with waivers in the 2019 fiscal year. As it is, the number of Ohioans enrolled in food assistance declined from more than 1.8 million in 2013 to 1.4 million last year.

The Policy Matters analysis shows that currently 41 counties and eight cities are eligible for waivers because their jobless rates average 20 percent higher than the national rate. That includes Summit and Stark counties, which have not received waivers, though they have been eligible. The same eligible-but-no-waiver status applies to Dayton, Lima, Springfield and five other smaller cities.

Gov. DeWine would do well to seek waivers for all eligible counties and cities.

A concern is that many able-bodied adults are gaming the system somehow. No doubt, some fraud exists, though the program has become much more rigorous. At the same time, Policy Matters cites research showing these Ohioans, many in their thirties and forties, have little income, 70 percent living at or below 50 percent of the poverty level. Many work but not at the level of 80 hours per month. Though they do not have custody of children, some have children in their households.

A state determined to provide adequate training and education for such recipients of food assistance would invest more resources, Policy Matters recommending a doable $4 million a year. If the Trump White House now is weighing whether to make such waivers more difficult to get, the governor can send his own signal about the need in Ohio.