249 posts categorized "SNAP"
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.
Our 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.
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.
The 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.
Imagine a future in which children no longer go to bed hungry. I know it's possible. The progress we've made in alleviating hunger and poverty over Bread's 40 years - combined with my faith in Jesus Christ - convince me of this every day.
In the 1960s, severe malnutrition and starvation were serious problems in our country. Today, thanks to programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), nutrition assistance for pregnant women, infants, and young children, and the school lunch program, these problems have decreased dramatically. In the next 15 years, we could end these problems for good.
This year, Congress has some big decisions to make on our child nutrition programs, which are up for reauthorization. Additionally, members of Congress are threatening major cuts to SNAP, and nearly half of SNAP recipients are children. Negotiations in Congress have already begun. Will you take two minutes to email or call (800/826-3688) your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators? Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs.
Ending hunger starts with our children. It starts now. It starts with you. You can help end hunger by 2030 with an action as simple as an email or phone call. We need you to do your part. And we need Congress to do its part. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.
David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.
By Robin Stephenson
When U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas, 11) was appointed to the chairmanship of the House Committee on Agriculture last November, he announced he was forming a new subcommittee that would conduct a full-scale review of SNAP (formerly food stamps). The hearings began Wednesday and are expected to continue with no end in sight.
“Today’s hearing marks the beginning of a top-to-bottom review of the program,” began Conaway’s opening statement. “We will conduct this review without preconceived notions and with a commitment to strengthening the program so it can serve as a tool to help individuals move up the economic ladder.“
Policy change that fosters economic mobility is good news. However, many anti-hunger advocates worry the hearings are a veiled attempt to dismantle SNAP, potentially leading to harmful programmatic changes, such as block granting or cutting benefits.
Bread for the World’s policy expert on nutrition, Christine Melendez Ashley, said she is happy to hear Congress is talking about hunger. “Faithful advocates who care about ending hunger need to be paying attention to these hearings,” she said. “The result of such talks must be to help end hunger and not exacerbate it.”
But there is reason to worry given the proposals that were part of last year’s farm bill negotiations. That bill was finally passed last February after three years of bitter debate. To the disappointment of Bread members, it included a devastating $8.6 billion cut to the SNAP program. Thanks to your letters, phone calls, and meetings with members of Congress, the proposed $40 billion in cuts and harmful programmatic changes were not enacted.
Those 2014 farm bill cuts came on the heels of another benefit reduction months earlier. Congress passed the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act with provisions that increased funding for school lunch programs and improved child nutrition programs – but they paid for the improvements by cutting SNAP benefits. In essence, funding for food at the dinner table was siphoned to fund the food at the lunch table. We need to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The child nutrition bill is up for reauthorization again this year and the focus of Bread’s 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children.
During yesterday’s inaugural hearing, the connection between child hunger and SNAP came up in several comments. U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga., 13) noted that 45.3 percent of all of those who are on SNAP are children – 1 in out 5 live in households that are food insecure.
SNAP, which provides a modest $1.40 per person per meal for those who qualify, is a critical part of our nation’s safety net. During the Great Recession, millions of families who experienced hardship depended on the program. As the economy recovers, SNAP caseloads are dropping – participation rates have dropped by 1.5 million over the last 18 months.
Hearings like these matter because they help us understand what Congress is prioritizing and give the public an opportunity to react before policy changes are made. SNAP and the child nutrition programs are both vital pieces of the safety net that feed our children. Faithful advocates need to make sure Congress is paying attention to both the dinner and lunch table - especially when it comes to our nation’s children.
Act Today: Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress. Tell Congress to prioritize children at risk of hunger and invest in strong child nutrition programs.
Read Bread for the World’s latest resource: Get the Facts About SNAP.
Photo: screenshot of U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway convening nutrition hearings, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. Hearings dates and times are posted on the committee’s website.
By Jennifer Gonzalez
Americans who experience hunger are not doing so because of a shortage of food in the United States. A visit to any supermarket or farmer’s market would confirm that. Rather, they are hungry because they live in a cycle of poverty that prevents them from earning enough money to provide adequately for their families.
Roughly 45 million Americans live at or below the poverty line. Twenty-one million of those are children who are living either in poverty or extreme poverty. These children are more likely to experience hunger.
On Wednesday, the Children’s Defense Fund released a report demanding an end to child poverty with an immediate 60 percent reduction. Ending Child Poverty Now calls for investing an additional 2 percent of the federal budget to expand existing programs and policies that would lead to increase employment, make work pay, and ensure children’s basic needs are met. As a result, 97 percent of children living in poverty would benefit, and 60 percent of them could escape poverty immediately.
Seventy-two percent of black children living in poverty, who have the highest poverty rates in the United States, would no longer be poor.
“America’s poor children did not ask to be born; did not choose their parent, country, state, neighborhood, race, color, or faith,” said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, during a press briefing at its national headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“It’s way past time for a critical mass of Americans to confront the hypocrisy of America’s pretension to be a fair playing field while almost 15 million children languish in poverty,” she added.
The report outlined several policy improvements to reduce child poverty by 60 percent. Among them:
- Increase the earned income tax credit for lower-income families with children.
- Increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.
- Make child care subsidies available to all eligible families below 150 percent of poverty.
- Make the child and dependent care tax credit refundable with a higher reimbursement rate.
- Base SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits on USDA’s Low-Cost Food Plan for families with children.
- Make the child tax credit fully refundable.
Many of the policy changes that the Children’s Defense Fund advocates for in its report are similar to those Bread supports already. At Bread, we know all too well the impact poverty has on hunger. That’s why we work hard to ensure that the nation’s safety net is protected from budget cuts.
The earned income tax credit along with the child tax credit are among our country’s most effective anti-poverty tools. Bread is calling on Congress to ensure that these two measures stay intact. Both expire in 2017. Making the 2009 improvements to these credits permanent would prevent 16 million people—including 8 million children—from falling into or deeper into poverty.
And this year, the Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of nutrition among children. In 2013, 15.8 million children—more than one-fifth of all children in the United States—lived at risk of hunger. Bread plans to work diligently this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall.
The link between poverty and hunger is well established. Let’s not continue to look the other way as millions of children in the United States continue to live in poverty and suffer from hunger.
Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.
By Cameron Kritikos
A few days before Thanksgiving, the Food Recovery Network at Calvin College, as well as many other hunger-focused groups on campus, gathered and decided to host a Bread for the World Offering of Letters.
Our purpose was to get students to write letters to our Michigan lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the state’s junior senator. As the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Stabenow is a critical voice when it comes to making laws that can help end hunger. The committee has jurisdiction over SNAP (formerly food stamps).
At Calvin College, students involved with the Food Recovery Network retrieve leftover food from the dining hall and donate it to local food banks or church congregations that serve nightly meals.
With last spring being our first semester recovering food, my leadership team and I wanted to be more intentional about seeking food justice at the systemic level. Calvin students are beginning to do this by watching documentaries, such as A Place at the Table, and writing letters.
I got involved with food justice because I was utterly fed up with the way in which people who are struggling financially are treated in this country, especially those who benefit from SNAP. We have brothers and sisters here in Grand Rapids who not only do not have the financial capital to purchase groceries, but also live in areas where grocery stores are scarce.
Hunger is a problem, and at Calvin College, we are no longer going to ignore it. We can’t.
I have a friend who has a sticker on her laptop, one that inspires me. It’s a quote from William Wilberforce, the English politician and abolitionist. It reads: “You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.”
Those involved with the Food Recovery Network at Calvin College can no longer say that we did not know. We no longer have the luxury of living in ignorant bliss. Instead, we have been called to live faithfully on the front lines of food justice, fighting the cause in this country and throughout the world.
And we will do it one plate of mashed potatoes and one handwritten letter at a time.
Cameron Kritikos is a sophomore at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. He is studying international development, Spanish, and church-based community development.
Inset photo: Cameron Kritikos for Bread for the World.
By Bread Staff
Yes, here’s proof that Rev. David Beckmann can cook – but with the help of two young anti-hunger activists, Elizabeth Quill and Margaret Hudak.
Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, answered a #ShareYourPlate challenge: a Catholic Charities, USA social media campaign to raise awareness about the pervasiveness of hunger. By sharing a cooking video, the #ShareYourPlate campaign reminds us that food is something we all share.
While preparing a taco salad, Quill and Hudak emphasized the need to advocate for programs that help people put food on their table. The girls told Beckmann of a meeting they had with their Virginia members of Congress in which they asked lawmakers to support funding for the SNAP program (formerly food stamps).
Their lobby visit illustrates how sharing a story with your member of Congress is a powerful advocacy tool. It can also help lawmakers understand the reality of hunger in states and districts far removed from their Washington, D.C. offices.
Hudak related her own experience of seeing hunger in the lunchroom at school. She noticed some students restricted their purchases to only cereal and milk and saw others go without food entirely. “A kid can’t function through the day on milk and cereal,” she said.
Last December, Catholic Charities USA, Bread for the World, and others answered Pope Francis and Caritas Internationalis’ call for a global wave of prayer to end hunger as part of the One Family #FoodForAll campaign.
Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, created his own cooking video as a way to build on the #FoodForAll campaign. He then sent out a challenge to others to do the same before November 27 - including a special invitation to Beckmann.
Beckmann now challenges travel writer Rick Steves, community food systems expert Sharon Thornberry – and you. Create a cooking video or post a photo at #ShareYourPlate and on your Twitter or Facebook page. Share a virtual meal and help bring awareness to the problem of hunger.
Folllow the challengers on Twitter: @DavidBeckmann, @Fr_Larry_Snyder, @RickSteves, and @OFB_SharonT and tag @bread4theworld with your cooking video.
By David Beckmann
On Tuesday, while the Senate shifted to Republican control, 18,000 children around the world died unnecessarily. Nearly half those deaths were caused by hunger. And in the United States, 16 million children still live in families that struggle to put food on the table.
Bread for the World’s members work for justice for hungry people in the United States and around the world regardless of how power shifts between our nation’s political parties. We pray that all our nation’s leaders will work to end hunger.
The number of people in extreme poverty in the world has been cut in half since 1990, and there has been progress in all kinds of countries, from Bangladesh to Brazil to Great Britain. If Congress and the president make opportunity for everybody a priority, we can end hunger in the United States and support continued progress toward ending hunger worldwide.
Bread for the World’s top priority for the 114th Congress will be the scheduled reauthorization of the nation’s child nutrition programs. Republicans and Democrats should work together to strengthen school and summer nutrition programs. But House Republicans have been pushing for deep cuts in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). Churches and food banks across the country have been unable to make up for the groceries that Congress took away from hungry families last year.
Bread for the World also notes with optimism bipartisan interest in other issues important to people in poverty:
- When Congress returns later this month, the leaders of both houses seem inclined to steer away from another budget crisis and finalize appropriations for the current fiscal year.
- The parties should be able to work together on continued progress against world poverty–the fight against Ebola and bills to reform food aid, strengthen agriculture and nutrition in poor countries, and promote trade with Africa.
- Leaders in both parties are calling for reforms to correct injustices in the criminal justice system that have crowded U.S. prisons and deepened the poverty of many communities.
- Tax credits for low-wage workers reduce poverty while encouraging work.
God has made it possible in our time to virtually end hunger in our country and around the world, so Bread for the World is pushing with urgency to make hunger, poverty, and opportunity for everybody a priority for our political leaders. We will push for change over the next two years and in the next round of elections for president and Congress.
Rev. David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World.
Fact Sheet: Churches and Hunger (updated).
By Christine Meléndez Ashley
A new survey released this week by the Food Research and Action Center and Tyson Foods reveals eye-opening trends about American attitudes toward hunger in the United States.
Not only do a majority of Americans believe hunger is a bipartisan issue, but 71 percent also believe the federal government has a fair amount to a great deal of responsibility in dealing with it. Fifty-seven percent responded that local nonprofits, churches, and food banks have a fair amount to a great deal of responsibility.
These results make clear that ending hunger is a partnership among federal, local, and community-based entities.
In 2012, Bread for the World analyzed the cost of drastically cutting federal nutrition programs to churches. If cuts of the magnitude proposed by the House of Representatives had been enacted, each church would have had to come up with $50,000 a year for 10 years to feed people.
Clearly, churches and charities alone cannot feed everyone who is hungry. As food bank demand has increased, charitable donations to houses of worship have decreased, making the role of federal nutrition programs even more crucial.
To show the great importance and reach of federal nutrition programs, Bread analyzed federal funding of nutrition programs compared to the cost of food distributed by private charity. Food benefits from federal nutrition programs amounted to $102.5 billion in 2013, compared to $5.2 billion of food distributed by private charity.
In other words, federal nutrition programs delivered nearly 20 times the amount of food assistance as did private charities.
Members of Congress should take note. According to the survey, 61 percent of Americans believe we should do more to support and improve government-sponsored food-assistance programs. Yet, this Congress has voted at least 13 times to cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), our country’s largest anti-hunger program.
Christine Meléndez Ashley is senior domestic policy analyst at Bread for the World.
by Beth DeHaven
Note: While Bread for the World engages in advocacy at the federal level, many Bread activists are also involved in efforts to fight hunger at the state government level. Here’s one story.
On June 20, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed a bill that will help hundreds of hungry people across the state. Senate Bill 680 lifts the lifetime SNAP (formerly food stamps) ban for drug felonies, which is a recommendation of Bread for the World Institute's 2014 Hunger Report, and opens the way for a pilot program making it easier for SNAP recipients to purchase fresh food at farmers markets. The Missouri Association for Social Welfare (MASW) and other faith and justice groups have worked diligently for years to end the ban on SNAP, and the Bread for the World Team in Springfield, Mo., played a part in this success. (See Bread's interview from last year with MASW's executive director.)
For many years, members of Springfield Bread Team have sponsored annual Offerings of Letters in the area's churches, visited the local offices of their representatives in Congress, and traveled to Washington, D.C., for Bread's annual Lobby Day. Team members have hosted informational and letter-writing tables at local events like CROP Walks, Food Day, denominational gatherings, and alternative gift markets. The team has also learned more about hunger issues at its monthly meetings by discussing books like Exodus from Hunger and Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty, and the team has hosted screenings and discussions of the film "A Place at the Table." The team even put together a "Hunger Games" interactive event, complete with costumes and games, followed by discussion about the reality of hunger affecting poor people in our world today.
About a year ago, the team came to realize that in order to more fully live out Bread's vision of ending hunger, it also need to join forces with advocacy groups fighting hunger and poverty in Missouri. At that time, many team members did not even know the names of their state representatives. Through further research, the team learned that MASW was a well-established and effective state advocacy group and that it has a hunger task force, which the team decided to join.
This year, with support from Bread's regional organizer, the team has worked closely with MASW to advocate for lifting the SNAP ban for drug felonies and also for expanding Medicaid. On April 23, the team traveled to the state capital to participate in a lobby day. Each team member met personally with his or her state senator and representative on these issues. The team even visited the office of the Speaker of the House to urge him to assign SB 680 (the SNAP bill) to committee.
Efforts to expand Medicaid in Missouri have not been successful yet, but the team will continue to work with MASW on the issue in the year ahead. The team has also signed on as an endorsing organization of the Missouri Health Care for All movement, and members have met with the movement's statewide grassroots organizer to begin planning an educational forum to be held in Springfield in September.
The Springfield team is excited to continue advancing Bread's policy-change agenda and strengthening its partnership with advocacy organizations in Missouri. Hunger is a complex problem, but through collaboration and by addressing related issues like health care, the team believes it can do more to end it.
Beth DeHaven is a leader on the Bread for the World team in Springfield, Mo.
This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's September online newsletter.
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