Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

247 posts categorized "SNAP"

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

4132079614_d28ac6f6bc_o
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

OL2015-Blog

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.

Child Nutrition Legislation Kicks Off With a Hearing on Wednesday

Child-hunger-gap
SOCIAL SHARE: Click on the image above to open in a new window, then right click and save it. Tweet it or put it on your Facebook wall and tag your member of Congress. Tell him/her to #FeedOurChildren and pass a child nutrition bill that closes the hunger gap.

By Robin Stephenson

The moment has arrived! 

The first step towards passing a child nutrition bill that can end the hunger gap is here. The House will hold its first hearing titled “Serving Students and Families through Child Nutrition Programs” this Wednesday at 10 a.m. EDT. You can watch the hearing via a live webcast.

“This really kicks off the moment when our Offering of Letters Campaign starts moving in Congress,” said Christine Meléndez Ashley, Bread for the World’s policy expert on child nutrition. 

Every five years, Congress must craft a bill that sets the policy for child nutrition programs, which includes those for school meals, summer feeding, and the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) nutrition program. Many of you have already written letters as part of the 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children, letting Congress know their constituents at home care.

Over 16 million children in the U.S. don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. School lunch or breakfast is sometimes the only nutritious meal children from low-income families receive. It is easier for a nourished child to pay attention in class and learn more quickly. A good education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty later in life.

As we tune into the hearing tomorrow, we look for signs the House Education and Workforce Committee – the committee that will write the first draft of legislation – has the facts and is making ending hunger its target.

“This is the committee’s first chance to hear from experts on child nutrition programs,” Meléndez Ashley said. “The hearing will not only give us insight into the future of programs that keep hunger at bay for millions of kids, but also signal what members are thinking about in terms of child nutrition policy priorities.”

For example, summer is the hungriest time for kids. Pilot programs have shown that we can improve access to nutrition during the summer months. This committee has the opportunity to build on those programs and reach more children.

Another area that Bread will watch closely is whether committee members are viewing child hunger with a wider lens.

Parents who utilize child nutrition programs usually have a job, but low-income paychecks are not stretching to the dinner table - let alone the lunch counter. The last time Congress passed a child nutrition bill, they cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), a program that helps put food on the dinner table. When nearly half of SNAP recipients are children, cutting benefits makes no sense if ending hunger is the priority.

The budget proposals passed by both the Senate and House last month repeat a disturbing trend in Congress to balance the budget by cutting anti-hunger programs, especially SNAP. Tomorrow the House Agriculture Committee will continue their series of hearings reviewing the food stamp program in what some fear is a veiled attempt to cut even more. It's time for a new trend: making ending hunger a priority.

Tell Congress to act for kids. Don’t let the moment slip us by.

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

Building the 2016 Federal Budget: Round 1

Capitol 2
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

Thank You for Your Advocacy

Breadstaffthankyou copy
Bread for the World staff.

By David Beckmann

Thank you for your advocacy last week! Congress was busy voting on budget proposals, and you heard from us a lot. Because of your efforts, hundreds of calls and thousands of emails went to Congress.

At the end of the week, the House and Senate both passed their budget resolutions. Their budgets included some drastic proposals to cut anti-hunger programs. But we know your voices — your calls and emails — made a difference.

The Senate considered a number of very bad amendments. Some drastically cut foreign assistance funding. Others cut or negatively impacted SNAP (formerly food stamps), the earned income tax credit, and child nutrition programs. Thanks to your advocacy, these amendments failed or were withdrawn, which means they didn’t get a vote.

Your voice helped ensure these troubling proposals were defeated. One amendment to cut international affairs funding by 50 percent only got 4 votes of support. The last time this proposal was up for a vote, at least 20 senators voted in favor of it.

The House and Senate have passed their budget proposals, but our work continues. These budgets set the tone for anti-hunger policy for the rest of this year and beyond. But your faithful advocacy throughout the year will be critical in making sure these proposals do not become law.

We’re asking you to make one more call this week. See how your senators and representative voted on the budget resolution. If they voted against it, call (800-826-3688) and thank them for their vote. If they voted in favor, call and express your disappointment in their vote for a budget that would increase hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Thank you for continuing to raise your voice to end hunger.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Urgent: Say No to Vote-A-Rama Amendments That Target Poor People

http://bread.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341d945753ef017d42340f38970c-piBy Bread Staff

As budget debate and voting continue in the Senate today, Bread for the World is deeply concerned about several proposed amendments that would cut critical programs that serve vulnerable populations.

Yesterday, the House passed a budget resolution, which would balance the budget on the poorest in our nation. We need your voice to tell the Senate they must not do the same. 

Budgets are moral documents. A faithful budget values ending hunger and protecting the most vulnerable - not cutting programs that would make it harder to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Please call 800-826-3688 and tell your senator that this budget is unacceptable.  

  1. OPPOSE any amendments that cut foreign assistance or the 150 account including Paul Amdt #940, which increases the defense budget by cutting the entire international affairs budget by 50% over two years or a $42 billion reduction. These proposed cuts can severely impact funding for humanitarian and poverty-focused development assistance, including critical life-saving programs like maternal child health treatment, agriculture development and nutrition interventions, and humanitarian relief to millions of refugees. Amendment #940 failed in a recorded vote of 4 yays and 96 nays.
  2. OPPOSE any amendments that cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), change eligibility, or reduce benefits and oppose amendments that cut or make harmful changes to school nutrition programs. SNAP and school meals provide more than 21 million children with meals they need to learn and grow. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #375 and Rubio Amdt #547. Withdrawn.

  3. OPPOSE any amendments that cut Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), change eligibility, or establish barriers that make it more difficult for low-income working families to put food on the table. TANF is often the only source of support for families who receive it. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #372,which creates a financial burden on taxpayers and states while unfairly punishing children and familiesWithdrawn.

  4. OPPOSE any amendments that prevent individuals from claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Child Tax Credit (CTC), including Grassley Amdt #469. The EITC and CTC prevent more people from falling into poverty than any other program in the United States (outside Social Security). These tax credits reward work, promote economic mobility, and have a long history of bipartisan support. Withdrawn.

It is urgent to contact Congress in order to stop the cuts. Call your senators now - even if you have already reached out to them. This message is so important it must be repeated until they hear us and act. Call 800-826-3688 during the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

If you use Twitter, please tweet your senators here: Aid Saves Lives.

 

Rep. Jim McGovern Uses Paper Plates to Tell SNAP Stories

By Robin Stephenson

During a floor debate on the fiscal year 2016 House budget proposal today, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) used paper plates to illustrate the human stories behind hunger statistics. The budget resolution, if enacted, would cut SNAP (formerly food stamps) by at least 34 percent, the equivalent of up to 220 missed meals annually for each SNAP participant.

SNAP served more than 46 million Americans in 2014.  You can find data about your community and its SNAP households in a state-by-state interactive map created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“The numbers don’t lie,” McGovern said. “But the stories are far more powerful.”

McGovern, a Bread for the World board member, recently asked SNAP participants to send their messages to Congress on paper plates. The following are samples of messages McGovern read out loud on the House floor earlier today:

“SNAP means that as a single mother I was able to finish college, feed my family, and find a career where I am able to advocate for a program that really works."

“SNAP means dignity.”

“SNAP matters to me because no senior should have to choose between buying food or paying for their medication.”

“When I was a child my father left, and the only reason we could afford food was because of food stamps.  I never get a chance to say thank you.  So, thank you.”

The House will continue to debate the budget resolution with a final vote expected later this week. The Senate is also considering a budget resolution that could lead to devastating increases in hunger and poverty in the United States and abroad. 

It is urgent to contact Congress in order to stop the cuts. Call your senators and representative at 800-826-3688 during the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Find more resources to understand the budget process here.

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

 

 

Congress Wants to Cut Food Stamp Benefits by 220 Meals a Year

Aidan Rodriquez.php
SNAP is our nation's largest child nutrition program and provides 21 million children with meals. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Eric Mitchell

The House and Senate Budget Committees just released their budget proposals. Both proposals contain enormous cuts to effective anti-hunger programs. I'm outraged!

The House budget proposes cutting $140 billion from SNAP (formerly called food stamps). The Senate budget proposes cutting Medicaid by $400 billion. Medicaid provides health coverage for 28 million children.

Under these cuts, participants in SNAP would lose 220 meals a year. That’s 10 weeks worth of food!

Congress repeatedly wants to use anti-poverty programs as their piggy bank for deficit reduction. I’m tired of it. I need your voice.

Will you call or email your members of Congress? Tell them to protect SNAP and Medicaid from cuts.

SNAP is our country’s largest child nutrition program. It provides nearly 21 million children with meals when many would have gone without them otherwise. Medicaid provides health coverage for 28 million low-income children. Hungry children can't learn, and unhealthy children won't reach their full potential.

The federal budget is a statement on the priorities of our country. Our children's health and nutrition must be taken seriously. How can Congress propose cutting a program that helps nearly 23 million households, with 21 million children, put food on the table?

Call (800/826-3688) or email your senators and representative today, and urge them to oppose these budgets. Tell your members of Congress to oppose SNAP cuts and  to oppose Medicaid cuts. Congress should be investing in our children—not undermining their health and taking meals away from them.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.

When 'Reconciliation' Becomes a Bad Word

OL2015-Blog

By Robin Stephenson

For Christians, the term reconciliation is a sacred calling to heal the broken world – a call for heaven on earth. However, in the hands of the 114th Congress, budget reconciliation could become a tool that widens the gap of inequality and pushes more people – especially children– into hunger.

Reconciliation, in the legislative sense of the word, is expected to be included in the 2016 budgets the House and Senate plan to release next week. Both chambers are likely to call for deep cuts in non-defense spending.

Budget reconciliation is a set of instructions sometimes added to the yearly budget resolution – the overall amount Congress decides the U.S. government will spend in one year. Once the budget is passed, each committee is given its share of the total to distribute between all of the programs in its jurisdiction. When budget reconciliation instructions are included, certain committees are instructed to meet spending and revenue criteria – even if it includes finding additional savings by changing policy.

Budget reconciliation makes it easy to slip controversial changes through Congress that are hard to reverse, which is all the more reason we must pay attention to the process. To learn more, read Budget Reconciliation 101.

Under reconciliation, committees could include deep cuts to program funding or pass harmful policy changes to anti-hunger programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Medicaid, and the earned income tax credit (EITC) - programs, we believe, that have giant targets on them. In this scenario, children will pay a hefty price.

3963295139_3351abd412_bOur 2015 Offering of Letters aims to feed our children. The child poverty rate is already unacceptably disproportionate to our resources, but has improved since the height of the recession–nationally, we stand at 18 percent.  Without government interventions, the rate would be 33 percent, according to a recent analysis.

Deep cuts to a program like SNAP, in which half of the participants are children, would be a move in the wrong direction. The earned income tax credit and child tax credit moved 5 million children out of poverty in 2013 and must be protected to make further progress on reducing child hunger. Medicaid, another piece of the poverty-ending puzzle, provided healthcare to 32 million children in 2012.

Defending SNAP from the chopping block is becoming the new normal. Just last year, your faithful advocacy halted deep cuts to SNAP in the farm bill. Up to $40 billion in cuts were proposed during the two-year negotiations. Without SNAP, many families would go hungry. Food banks and pantries, already stretched thin, cannot make up the difference

Every time there is talk of fiscal belt-tightening, the most vulnerable in our society are targeted as notches. This is not the kind of reconciliation that God calls us to and not the kind of reconciliation people of faith should stand for from our leaders. We must speak up early and ensure these programs don't become a bull's-eye for lawmakers' cuts.

Christians across this nation must do the real work of God’s reconciliation--urging Congress to prioritize and protect critical anti-poverty initiatives in any budget reconciliation bill, especially programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and tax credits for families struggling to make ends meet. We have done it before, and we must do it again.

Find more resources to understand the budget process here.

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

Growing Up Poor in Rural America

OL2015-Blog

By Robin Stephenson

Clark Fork, Idaho is an idyllic rural community nestled near the northern tip of the state. The town has a median income of just under $28,000 a year and a population of 530. In November, the school district said it could no longer afford to serve hot meals at Clark Fork Junior-Senior High School.

Chris Riggins, the town's mayor, is concerned about food-insecure students. "The hot lunch that they receive here at school, a lot of them, this is the only hot meal they get during the day," Riggins told a local news station. 

Roughly 35 percent of rural populations live in high poverty, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Rural areas are defined as having populations of fewer than 2,500 and not adjacent to a metro area. More than 25 percent of all rural children live in poverty – significantly higher than their urban counterparts.

16160848070_43f57f9ce4_kThe National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a nutrition intervention tool that provides food to children who need it – food that gives them the fuel to learn. But a growing number of rural schools are struggling to make the program work for them.

The Bonner County Daily Bee reports that the numbers don't add up for Clark Fork. The school averages about 100 enrolled students a year and nearly half qualify for the federal government free and reduced-lunch program (available to students in a family of four that earn roughly $44,000 annually). About 20 students opt into the program on a regular basis. The federal government reimburses the school $2.58 for reduced lunch and $2.98 for free lunches. The $70 in revenue, however, is not enough to cover the $395 a day it takes to run the program.

Volume helps cut costs in schools with larger student populations.

Community eligibility, a provision in the 2010 child nutrition reauthorization bill, has the potential to help many struggling schools. If over 40 percent of students qualify for free lunch, all students get free lunch for schools that opt in. By eliminating application and fees, the streamlined process eases the burden on schools and increases the total reimbursement. Unfortunately, for a small school like Clark Fork, the numbers are not in their favor: Only 30 percent of the student body qualifies for free lunch.

The obvious solution to child poverty is stable, living-wage employment for parents. In the absence of adequate work, safety net programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the earned income tax credit, and child nutrition programs increasingly bridge the gap between income and cost of living. Nationally, the child poverty rate stands at 18 percent. Without government interventions the rate would be 33 percent, according to a recent analysis.

Kids deserve the chance to reach their potential no matter where they live. Anti-poverty programs like SNAP and school lunch, which keep hunger at bay, must be strengthened and protected for the sake of our children.

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.

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

Stay Connected

Bread for the World