Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

402 posts categorized "Hunger and the U.S. Budget"

Teachers: When Stomachs are Empty, We Can't Fill Minds

By Robin Stephenson

Teachers have a problem with poverty. According to a survey of our nation’s top teachers, poverty – ranking just below family stress – is a barrier to classroom success.

The survey, conducted by Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic Inc., asked 56 Teachers of the Year about the issues that affect public education. Teachers stated that funding anti-poverty initiatives would be their top priority.

The United States ranks near the bottom on measures of child poverty in the developed world, while at the same time continuing to rank among the wealthiest nations. More than 16 million children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level ($23,550 a year for a family of four). The manifestation of poverty is often perceived to be an individual predicament, but poverty is a social problem that must be addressed on a national level.

16348200855_cd67e7b41b_kIt is no surprise that teachers find poverty – a solvable problem – an impediment to classroom success. Studies show that nutrition programs not only improve a child's diet and academic performance, but they also improve behavior – a prized commodity in any classroom.

But for the educator, the fruits of their labor are harvested long after the child leaves the classroom.

“If you don’t fund children for their well-being early on, you’re going to pay for it later on when they graduate from school – or don’t graduate from school,” Mickey Komins, principal of Anne Frank Elementary in Philadelphia, Pa., told Bread for the World.

In 2012, the safety net moved 48 million people above the poverty line – including 12 million children.  At Bread, we are advocating for better child nutrition programs as part of our 2015 Offering of Letters campaign, because children’s health and well-being is correlated with future success. When children have access to anti-hunger programs early on, studies show they are more successful later in life.

We can help teachers focus on educating our future leaders by advocating that the federal government invest in programs that help children.  Members of Congress are debating the future of child nutrition programs, SNAP (formerly food stamps), and deciding funding levels as they go through the budget process.

Instead of a focus on cuts, lawmakers must be urged to consider the future of the nation’s children. These anti-hunger programs must be strengthened if we want to get poverty out of the classroom for good.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Child Hunger: 'It is just sinful'

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Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ congregants write letters to their elected officials. Lena Isely for Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

“It is just sinful,” said Raul Hernandez, shaking his head, about the fact that some children in the United States go to bed hungry.

As he made his remark, he addressed an envelope to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla). The envelope would later be stuffed with a letter written by one of the many congregants of the Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ in Coral Gables, Fla., taking part in an Offering of Letters on Mother’s Day.

Tables were set up inside the church’s Fellowship Hall, as well outside the church, as a bright sun beat down on congregants writing letters. The idea was to have congregants write letters to their elected officials on behalf of the many mothers who struggle every day to feed their families.

“As a person of faith, I think there is nothing so contrary to God’s will for this world than to have people and especially children be hungry, said Rev. Dr. Laurinda Hafner, the church’s senior minister. “More than anything else, Jesus talked about feeding the hungry, so as members of a Christian congregation it is our faithful and moral imperative to do everything we can to fill the bellies of those who are without food.” LIP_0343

Bread for the World’s 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children is focused on ensuring Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill. The legislation is set to expire in the fall. It is vital that Congress hears from their constituents, especially since over 16 million children in the U.S. don’t always know where their next meal is coming from.

The church’s Offering of Letters was a well-coordinated effort, from the pulpit announcement to the near-precision assembly line of letter writing and envelope stuffing. Hernandez, who lives in Miami, was part of that assembly line – addressing envelopes to speed up the process.

Over 100 letters were written to Sen. Rubio and President Obama on Sunday. For Karen Newpauer of Key Biscayne, sitting down to write a letter to the senator was personal. “We are food-insecure right now,” said Newpauer, a divorced, single mom raising three daughters, including daughter Michelle Murcia, 11, who was also writing a letter to the senator.

“I try to shield the kids from what is going on,” she says. Newpauer said children should not be going to school with growling stomachs.

Sometimes you have to write a letter to correct a wrong. That’s the way Virgin Vanderblugt felt about the letter she wrote. She said too often elected officials get into office and begin to think about themselves and not their constituents.

She hopes the letters from her church will make elected officials think harder about the plight of others. “There are a lot of people who are struggling,” she said.

When Victor Tejera of Miami sat down to write his letter, he thought about the children he encounters every day as a school social worker – many who are hungry. Tejera said he connects students and their families with government services if they qualify. If they don’t, he “gets creative.”

He said he taps into his faith and nonprofit communities contacts to connect struggling families with services such as a local food pantry. He said he knows that his letter alone won’t have much of an impact, but he hopes that the sheer volume of letters elected officials receive will make enough of an impression to ensure that hungry kids get the food they need.

Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day is June 9. Join us to make some real changes in Washington, D.C., when it comes to feeding our children. You don’t need to be a policy expert to participate. You just need to care. 

Registration is free but space is limited. Register today to reserve your spot!

Photo inset: Michelle Murcia, 11, writing a letter to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Lena Isely for Bread for the World.

The Power of the Phone Call

PhoneBy Jon Gromek

Making a call to Congress can be powerful. It is how you can make your voice heard on important issues like ensuring Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill.

We need you to speak up on Tuesday, May 5 and urge Congress to protect the nutrition programs that give hungry children access to the meals they need to thrive. Call (800) 826-3688 and ask for the office or your senators and representative and tell them to protect child nutrition programs by reauthorizing the child nutrition bill.

If you think making a call to Congress can’t make a difference, think again. About a year ago, I got an email late in the evening from my Bread for the World government relations’ colleagues. As is often the case in Congress, an important vote was scheduled last minute in the Senate Appropriations Committee that would provide $35 million for food aid and help feed an additional 200,000 people in need. 

The problem? The vote was set for 10 a.m. the following morning and would most likely fail. We needed our Bread members to make calls to their senators and representative no later than 9 a.m.!

Knowing it was a long shot, especially so late in the day, I nevertheless reached out to some of our most ardent members and activists in Indiana and asked them to contact Sen. Dan Coats (R- Ind.) who happened to be a critical vote. Good news slowly started trickling into my inbox the next morning. Several members committed to make calls before they went to work and followed up with emails. They learned that the senator was actually going to be absent from the vote but with some gentle encouragement and some timely back and forth between Senate staff over email, and phone, they convinced him to cast a yea vote by proxy. 

The vote passed by 16-14, with the senator casting a critical swing vote. A handful of calls one sleepy morning made the difference in the life of 200,000 people in need. Later that day, I got an email from one of the brave few who took a few precious minutes of his early morning to make those calls.  “When I got your note last night I thought ‘I don't have time for this,’ he admitted.  “God is very good. To get this result is great.”

In the coming weeks, members of Congress will begin the serious work of reauthorizing our federal child nutrition programs, including a hearing in the Senate scheduled for Thursday, May 7, at 10 a.m. EDT. Lawmakers will hold in their hands the lives and future well-being of children across the country who depend on the nutritious food they get from services like school meal programs and the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) program. One in five children in the U.S. lives in households that struggle to put food on the table. In a country such as ours that is unacceptable.

We need you to speak up on Tuesday, May 5 and urge Congress to protect the nutrition programs that give hungry children access to the meals they need to thrive. Call (800) 826-3688 and ask for the office or your senators and representative and tell them to protect child nutrition programs by reauthorizing the child nutrition bill.

Jon Gromek is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Hunger: 'Congress Doesn't Get it'

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By Alyssa Casey

I love the work I do as a Bread staffer in Washington, D.C., but my roots will always be in northern Illinois. I grew up in Antioch, Ill., a small town where farmlands and suburban neighborhoods merge into one. Antioch is also where I first encountered hunger through service work at my church and local food pantry.

During a visit home to Antioch a few weeks ago, I accompanied my mother one night to a food pantry at Open Arms Mission. I saw many faces of hunger walk through the door. While I was there, I was fortunate enough to talk with Marytherese Ambacher, the director of Open Arms Mission. She confirmed what I saw firsthand- that there is no one face of hunger.

“We see a lot of men in their 50s and 60s, a lot of tradespeople,” she explained. Many tradespeople who work seasonal jobs get laid off during the slow months. While some are able to find another temporary job to fill the gap, others turn to the local food pantry while they continue their job search.

When I asked about SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Ambacher said many of the people coming to the food pantry receive SNAP, but the benefits they receive aren’t enough to get their family through the month. “Most people don’t come every week,” but come to fill the gap when their SNAP benefits run out. 

Open Arms allows clients to come in once per week, and in one visit they receive up to two days’ worth of food based on family size. The majority of these individuals and families rely on SNAP in addition to the food pantry. “That’s what Congress doesn’t get. They think we can feed these people but we only give them 2 days’ worth of food a week,” Ambacher said.

At Bread for the World, we know that while these churches and charities are immensely important, federal programs provide nearly 20 times the amount of food assistance as private sources.

Open Arms also coordinates with local schools to close the hunger gap during weekends and summers. The weekend backpack program provides a backpack with food on Fridays for some of the children who receive free- and reduced-price lunch during the week.

“We ran a summer camp for two years,” Ambacher said, “but we had more volunteers than we had kids.” Most summer feeding programs across the country require students to come to a specific site and finish the meal on site. Parents in Northern Lake County, which includes suburban and rural communities, find it difficult to get their children to the site because they are at work during the day.

Feeding students during the summer can be difficult. For every seven children who receive free- or reduced-price lunch, only one also receives food assistance during summer months. That’s why Bread for the World is campaigning this year to close this gap and expand access to summer meals for children at risk of hunger.

Private charities like Open Arms are invaluable partners in the fight against hunger, but they can’t do it alone. Strengthening federal nutrition programs like SNAP and school and summer meals would be a huge step toward ending hunger in the United States.

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

Alyssa Casey is a government relations coordinator at Bread for the World.

 

'From Kids Whose Stomachs Ache to Parents Whose Hearts Break'

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By Bread Staff

Editor’s note: This is a first-person account told to Bread staff members by a Bread colleague about the importance of good nutrition, especially during a child’s early years. Proper nutrition plays a significant, time-sensitive role in a child’s growth and development.

Over 16 million American children or 1 in 5 don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. Hungry children are not a rare exception. They are your neighbors. They are my neighbors.   

But statistics and reasoning are often not enough to convince us to take actions.  Real-life stories bring home the critical importance of good nutrition to a child’s growth and development.

I have one such story.

My younger son’s birth mother wasn’t able to provide him with strong pre-natal nutrition. There was no Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) nutrition program.  There were not enough nutritious breakfasts and lunches for the first 7 ½ years of his life.  He was robbed of his best potential because he did not receive critical nutrients.  Each day now and for the rest of his life he will pay the price of malnutrition.

Like many children in developed countries who have been malnourished, my son did not “look hungry.”  Only later, would we know the effects of his hunger – his shorter stature but more importantly the gaps in his brain’s development.

Today, at 17, he uses his fingers to count while doing his math homework because he lost out in having the brain development that supports the memorizing and recalling of elementary math facts.  My son is not lazy.  He does apply himself.  My husband and I support his educational efforts with countless hours of at-home tutoring. But, despite spending the equivalent of months trying to learn the multiplication table, he has not been successful because he does not have the capacity to learn them.

As we look to the future, my husband and I are asking, “Will a college degree pay off?  Who will hire him?  How will he be successful in a world that values speed and high productivity?”  We swallow hard and say a prayer, “Guide us Lord.  We don’t know what to do. We need your grace to figure something out.” 

Hunger is not a partisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats know that hunger hurts -- from kids whose stomachs ache to parents whose hearts break.  But, the biggest hurt is the lifetime price that children who have experienced hunger and malnutrition will pay.

A child whose brain does not develop optimally can’t eat extra food as an adult to make up for this deficit.  In our fix-it society, the effects of poor nutrition cannot be fixed later when the budget deficit is lower, when jobs are more plentiful, or when universal access to food is a reality. We need to make sure now that children have access to nutritious food so that they can be all that God intended for them to be.

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

 

 

 

SNAP Safe For Now, But Automatic Cuts Loom in Budget

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The joint budget resolution for the 2016 fiscal year includes deep cuts to anti-hunger programs.  (Screen shot from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media)

By Robin Stephenson

The House and Senate are close to finalizing a deal for the overall parameters of the 2016 fiscal year budget. The joint budget resolution, with deep cuts to anti-hunger programs, could be ratified by votes in the House and Senate this week.

“It’s a budget that fails to prioritize the most vulnerable, but there is a silver lining:  Thanks to our advocates, the joint resolution does not include reconciliation instructions to the agriculture committees,” said Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World.

In the final compromise, instructions were not included that would have put SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) directly on the chopping block.

“This is good news,” said Kegan. “It postpones our fight to protect SNAP. SNAP is always vulnerable and continues to have a target on its back, but this gives us some breathing room.” On the other hand, reconciliation instructions still leave Medicaid, the earned income tax credit, and the child tax credit potentially at risk.

However, given that 69 percent of the cuts put low-income people at risk, Kegan warns there is still much work to do. “The decisions of what programs get funded and what programs get cut is part of a complex process. There will be a few key opportunities and threats over the next five months in particular,” she said.

A budget resolution sets the top-line numbers for annually appropriated programs – the overall size of the pie that is then sliced up in what is called the appropriation process. Those slices fund individual programs administered through the federal government. Because the budget was balanced by cuts exclusively and not through revenue, the slices are thin. Making matter worse, unless Congress acts, the slices will shrink even more because of a process called sequestration.

Sequestration was offered as a stick during 2011 budget negotiations. In 2011, negotiators were given a choice: They could decide where to enact entitlement cuts and raise revenue or accept additional cuts that shrink the annual appropriations budget. The group of lawmakers, dubbed the Super Committee, failed to compromise. That result triggered the draconian policy to shackle spending even more.  

Since then, Congress and the Obama administration enacted moderate and temporary measures that eased the impact of the cuts.  Lawmakers must enact measures soon that would again ease cuts that affect anti-hunger programs like The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The domestic nutrition program, which is already stretched to meet unprecedented need, provides funding for food banks to purchase nutritious foods and to help transport and deliver that food to Americans in need.

“Sequestration is unacceptable and unsustainable. It is a decision that can be changed, if,” Kegan stressed, “Congress makes it a priority. But they have to hear from their constituents.”

There are several programs under the jurisdiction of the agricultural committee that are critical in our efforts to end hunger, but would be subject to a sequestration squeeze. The WIC program supports nutrition for children from low-income families so they grow healthy but would lose vital funding if the automatic cuts are not removed. The dollars that fund food aid and increase our ability to buy food closer to disasters like Nepal would be in jeopardy if sequestration goes into effect.  And the poverty-assistance programs like low-income housing assistance and Head Start would also be at risk.

Bread members are urged to tell their members of Congress to enact measures that will remove sequestration from the budget and develop a bipartisan, balanced approach to deficit reduction.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Churches and Charities are Key Partners, But Can't Fight Hunger Alone

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Federal nutrition programs are finding ways to connect the people who rely on them with a healthy selection of foods. Jim Stipe for Bread for the World.

By Alyssa Casey

“Many people call SNAP a safety net, but for me it was like a trampoline – bouncing my family back into work and a brighter future,” said Keleigh Green-Patton, a working mother and former SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) recipient, who recently testified on Capitol Hill.

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives held two separate hearings, both on critical anti-hunger programs. The House Agriculture Committee focused on the relationship between SNAP and the charitable sector, while the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing on serving students and families through child nutrition programs.

During the SNAP hearing, Green-Patton told her story of turning to SNAP after losing her job, participating in a job-training program through the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and then finding employment and moving off SNAP. While the three-month training program was facilitated by the food depository, the program was unpaid, and so to keep food on her family’s table, Green-Patton turned to SNAP.

In addition to Green-Patton, expert witnesses from food banks and anti-hunger programs emphasized the critical role of SNAP, even in the midst of the innovative work being done by private charitable organizations. “We are proud of our daily impact on hunger, but it pales in comparison to the tremendous job done by federal nutrition programs, including SNAP, WIC, CACFP, School Lunch and Breakfast and Summer Meals,” said Kate Maehr, chief executive officer of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) echoed this theme by citing Bread for the World’s research on charities and hunger. “I think the message that’s loud and clear is that churches and charities cannot do it on their own. To put it in perspective, I have a fact sheet here from Bread for the World… it says federal assistance for food and nutrition programs [in 2013] was at about $102 billion. Assistance from churches and charities was at $5.2 billion.”

It is encouraging to see members of Congress acknowledge the hard work of charitable organizations in feeding hungry people. But with federal nutrition programs – including SNAP, school meals, and WIC – providing 19 times more food assistance than private charities, these hearings couldn’t have been timelier. Members of Congress in the Education and Workforce Committee also heard from a panel of witnesses who spoke to the effectiveness of and need for strong child nutrition programs.

Charitable organizations, including food banks and pantries, churches, and faith organizations, are critical partners in the fight against hunger because they are on the ground in so many local communities. Yet many of these organizations rely largely on donations, work with extremely limited resources, and their presence varies by region. They cannot provide the certainty and consistency of SNAP or child nutrition programs.

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

Alyssa Casey is a government relations coordinator at Bread for the World.

Update on 2015 Offering of Letters Legislation

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By Bread Staff

Bread for the World's 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children focuses on our federal government's child nutrition programs. The heaviest activity in Congress on this issue is expected later in the year when a bill setting funding and policy for the major child nutrition programs is introduced.

But some other legislative activity is happening. Following is an update on some of it:

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) reintroduced the Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S. 613) on Feb. 27. The bill aims to improve the summer meal programs and help give more children access to meals and programs during the summer months. The bill specifically would:

  • Lower the area eligibility threshold to allow communities to participate if 40 percent of the children in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Currently, a summer meal site qualifies if 50 percent or more of children in the area qualify for free or reduced-price school meals as defined by school or census data. The current threshold prevents many communities with significant numbers of low-income children, but not a high enough concentration of poverty, from participating. In addition, the 50 percent threshold is inconsistent with federally funded summer programs, such as the 21st Century Community Learning Center programs and Title I, which have 40 percent thresholds. These important education programs should all be able to provide summer meals. 15725784024_a8738dc2e9_o
  • Allow local government agencies and private nonprofit organizations to feed children year-round through the Summer Food Service Program. Currently, sponsors must apply to and operate the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) separately in order to feed children — often the same children — after school and during the summer. This has created duplicative paperwork and confusing administrative rules that discourage participation.
  • Provide funding for transportation grants to fund innovative approaches to providing meals and mobile meal trucks. Transportation is one of the biggest barriers to children's participation in summer programs. These grants will increase low-income children's access to summer meals in rural and other under-served areas.
  • Allow all sites to serve a third meal. Many summer meal sites provide child care to working parents and operate all day, but most sites are able to serve only two meals. This leaves children without enough nutrition to get through the day or forces sites to use program dollars for food.

Bread for the World has endorsed this bill and supports this and other efforts to strengthen and improve summer nutrition programs.

The other primary bill to improve summer meals, which was introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in the previous Congress — the Summer EBT bill — has not been reintroduced yet in this Congress.

Keep those letters coming! Bread's office in Washington, D.C., has received a few reports from congregations elsewhere in the country about the Offering of Letters that they have held. Many more congregations and faith communities have letter-writing events planned for this year. Bread encourages you to keep your letters coming!

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

Photo: Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

"Please Open Immediately!" Says Teenager's Letter to Congressman

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Letter writing at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Yardley, Pa. Robin Prestage for Bread for the World.

By Larry Hollar

“Please open immediately!”

Michaela Drobak, 17, wrote these words of urgency on the envelope of her letter to U.S. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA-08) at a recent Offering of Letters on child nutrition at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Yardley, Pa.

When activist Mary Ann Bentz later organized a diverse Bread delegation to meet locally with Fitzpatrick and a staffer, they presented Drobak’s letter and more than 220 others from four area faith communities—with Michaela’s on top. The congressman read Drobak’s letter without delay. “He read it quietly, then agreed that she was an intelligent writer and had expressed her concerns about feeding hungry children well,” reported local activist Bob Anderson.

Churches in Bucks County, Pa., are working hard and creatively to reduce hunger, through community meals, food pantries, backpack programs, community gardens, education, and advocacy. A new Food Insecurity Alliance, bringing together churches, government, and the private sector, is taking shape, reflecting that “partnerships and relationships are key,” says Diane Casey of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection. “Last year the congressman visited our shared meal for veterans, families, seniors and others living in poverty, so he has seen these realities and heard these voices personally.”

Fitzpatrick had one of the strongest voting records among House Republicans on Bread issues in the last Congress—but the Bread delegation visiting him saw room for improvement.  “His voting record is mixed on hunger issues. We made it clear that we knew this record and would report to our faith communities on his votes and give credit where it is due,” Anderson said.

Fitzpatrick voted to reduce SNAP (formerly food stamps) cuts as Bread urged, but also voted last year for the House-passed budget which Bread opposed. “He commended our faith communities for writing letters and urged us to ask others to write,” Anderson said. More letters give political cover for members of Congress to do what constituents want.

“The congressman is a person of faith, and our delegation gave him scriptural and practical reasons why voting for child nutrition programs made sense,” Anderson noted, adding that “the congressman spent much more time with us than we expected.” Afterwards, Anderson wrote a letter to the editor of his local paper.

Michaela Drobak is right—hungry children can’t wait for the life-giving food that child nutrition programs offer. Schedule your Offering of Letters today, using resources at www.bread.org/ol .

Larry Hollar is a senior Bread for the World regional organizer working with activists in Northeastern states.

 

 

Building the 2016 Federal Budget: Round 1

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Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.


By Bread Staff

Before Congress left for its spring break, the House and Senate debated and passed their budget resolutions. The House resolution passed 228-199. The Senate resolution passed 52-46. When members of Congress return to Washington, the two chambers will iron out the differences and pass a budget for fiscal year 2016.

Every year, Bread for the World follows the federal budget process to ensure Congress adequately funds programs that provide hope and opportunity to people struggling with hunger and poverty.

This year, Bread is escalating its work on the budget. Unlike the past few years, one party now controls both the House and the Senate. This makes it significantly easier for Congress to cut anti-hunger programs.

Details of the Budget Proposals

Both the House and Senate sought to balance the budget within the next 10 years. They did so without raising taxes, touching Social Security, making any big changes to Medicare within the next decade, or cutting the defense budget. They actually increased funding for defense in some cases. So where did the trillions of dollars in cuts come from? Sixty-nine percent of the cuts in both budgets would be placed on the backs of low-income people.

In some cases, the budgets were clear about their vision for how to accomplish those savings. The House budget cut $140 billion from SNAP (formerly called food stamps). The Senate budget proposed cutting Medicaid by $400 billion. Both budgets also allowed the 2009 improvements to the earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit to expire. Those improvements have kept 16 million people from falling into or deeper into poverty.

Both budgets continued the additional cuts of sequestration, the automatic cuts Congress agreed to in 2011. These cuts are lasting and severe.

The House Budget proposal cut yearly non-defense appropriated spending by another approximately $759 billion on top of these sequestration cuts. By 2025, total funding for these programs (which includes foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, and many other programs) would be at least 33 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

The Senate budget proposal cuts yearly non-defense spending by another $236 billion on top sequestration. By 2025, total funding for these programs would be at least 24 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

This puts even greater strain and heightens competition for every dollar, threatening funding for international foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, low-income housing assistance, emergency food aid, and many other programs. 

Review of the Sequestration Agreements

Back in 2011, when Congress passed the law that established the sequestration cuts, it made an agreement. It was that automatic sequestration cuts would treat defense and non-defense spending equally.

During the committee mark-ups and floor debates, division emerged. Defense hawks protested the lower spending levels from sequestration. Ultimately, both chambers boosted defense spending by $96 billion in a special account that is not subject to the sequestration cuts or spending limit (known as Overseas Contingency Operations). However, a growing number of members of Congress are speaking out against the sequestration cuts, urging Congress to look to other areas in the budget, including revenues and other spending programs.

During the budget debates in late March, Bread stepped up its advocacy efforts, and our members responded. In particular, we urged the Senate to oppose several amendments. In the end, those amendments were either defeated or pulled before they could even get a vote.

Even though the House budget made horrendous cuts to programs that help people move out of poverty and put food on the table, there was a silver lining. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) got an entire section on food-aid reform included. This section: 1) asserted that cargo preference, monetization, and using only food commodities (practices in providing food aid that Bread believes are inefficient or harmful) “fails to use taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively,” and 2) endorsed the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015. This act would make many of the reforms that Bread has been seeking since last year’s Offering of Letters: Food-Aid Reform.

Round 2 and Beyond

When Congress returns after its two-week recess, it will conference the two budget resolutions. Bread will be watching closely to see what Congress agrees upon and the exact funding levels they give to specific programs.

We expect the spring and summer to be busy months as congressional committees mark up various budget bills. This could all come down to some important budget negotiations this fall between Congress and the White House.

Learn more: Budget Basics & Resources

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