Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

225 posts categorized "SNAP"

Negotiations in Congress Will Have Long-Term Effects

Capitol_bldg_flickr_usr_smaedliAs we move toward the end of the year, members of Congress have many important decisions before them. Legislators will be dealing with the farm bill, immigration reform, sequestration and ongoing gridlock over the budget. The choices our legislators make now will affect people struggling with hunger for years to come.

Budget and Sequestration

On Oct. 16,Congress passed a bill that ended a 16-day government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling to avoid a U.S. default. The deal funds the government at current levels through Jan. 15, 2014, and raises the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, 2014. The deal also created a conference committee to negotiate a budget for the remainder of the 2014 fiscal year and address the automatic cuts of sequestration. The committee, which holds its next hearings on Nov. 13, has until Dec. 13 to emerge with a deal.  

These budget talks could play out in a couple of ways. The committee could emerge with a big, multi-trillion dollar, decade-long budget deal and succeed where all previous attempts have failed. However, members of Congress have said they don’t expect a big deal to emerge.

Alternatively, the committee could come up with a smaller deal that resolves the overall funding level for FY 2014 and replaces some or all of the sequester for one, or even two, years. If this happens, there are two issues to watch: the overall funding level and the makeup of any package that replaces sequestration. The size of the budget they agree on will determine the amount of funding available for all anti-hunger discretionary programs. If the committee agrees on a plan to replace sequestration, we will be focused on whether it includes revenues and protects important anti-poverty programs.

Finally, the committee could emerge with no deal. At that point, Congress will have until Jan. 15 to prevent another shutdown and potentially address sequestration.

We must continue to urge members of Congress to pass a moral budget that adequately funds programs that combat hunger and poverty, and replace sequestration with a balanced plan that includes revenues and smart spending cuts that won’t increase poverty.

Farm Bill and Food Aid

Members of the House and Senate have begun negotiating a farm bill to renew our nation’s agriculture and nutrition policies.

Last month, the congressional conference committee on the farm bill met for the first time to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The Senate version cuts $4 billion from SNAP over 10 years, while the House’s nutrition-only version cuts $39 billion. Any cuts to SNAP would make it more difficult for struggling families to put food on the table. Still, SNAP isn’t the only point of contention.

The farm bill conferees will also negotiate agricultural provisions, including food aid reform. The Senate passed provisions in its farm bill for more effective and efficient food aid policy that would allow U.S. food aid to reach more hungry people with better, more nutritious food. While an amendment to include similar provisions in the House version failed to pass, a bipartisan letter signed by 53 members of the House was recently sent to farm bill conferees supporting Senate-passed provisions in the bill.

In the coming months, we will ask our members with senators and representatives who sit on the conference committee to ask them to ensure that hungry people aren’t harmed in any final farm bill.

Immigration Reform

Bread for the World and its partners are working to ensure that House leadership puts a vote on immigration reform on the 2013 calendar. The Evangelical Immigration Table, of which Bread is a member, recently released a letter urging the House to continue working on immigration and take up reform that includes a pathway to legalization or citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

 Bread for the World will continue to ask members of Congress to come to agreement on these issues while also protecting programs that help people suffering from hunger.

Veterans Hit Hard by Cut to SNAP

Today, as we observe Veterans Day and recognize those who served in the U.S. military, some veterans may be spending the day wondering where their next meal will come from.

This year, Veterans Day comes a little more than a week after an $11 billion cut in food stamp benefits went into effect. Millions of Americans, including many veterans, will see their grocery budgets shrink because of this change. 

According to Census figures, roughly 900,000 veterans, in any given month, lived in households that relied on SNAP in 2011. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in a recent study on how the Nov. 1 cut will impact veterans , found that thousands of vets in every state will be affected. "For low-income veterans, who may be unemployed, working in low-wage jobs, or disabled, SNAP provides an essential support that enables them to purchase nutritious food for their families," the study found. 

Philadelphia vet Bill Olsson recently told a local TV station that he is one of the 59,300 veterans in Pennsylvania who relies on SNAP, and that the Nov. 1 cut affects his ability to buy enough groceries to feed himself. "I have no income, and then no food stamps, how am I supposed to live?" Olsson said in an interview with KYW-TV. "Elderly people like myself have worked their whole life, and now can’t work, and depend on food stamps."

Congress is currently negotiating the farm bill, which will impact SNAP and other vital anti-hunger programs. Additional cuts to SNAP would make it even more difficult for millions of Americans, and thousands of veterans like Olsson, to eat.

Florida resident and Vietnam veteran Charles Boykin says, in the clip above, that he can't understand why legislators would do anything to reduce his SNAP allotment. "Why take it away from us?" he asks of Congress. "We were there for them, why can't they be there for us?"

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Forty-nine million Americans live at risk of hunger — SNAP must be protected in the farm bill.   Email your members of Congress now and tell them that any final farm bill must not increase hunger.

Act Now: 80 Million Meals Eliminated Since Last Friday

A+ABy Eric Mitchell

Only the current Congress would allow cuts to critical anti-hunger programs, taking food away from parents struggling in this economy to put food on the table for their kids. Last Friday — on the first day of a month in which we celebrate bounty with a national feast—all families receiving SNAP (formerly food stamps) saw their benefits cut. The average family of four lost up to $36 a month.

This $11 billion cut over four years equals nearly 10 million meals each day. That's 80 million meals eliminated since the SNAP cut went into effect last Friday! This is as if nearly all of the residents of the states of California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Colorado did not eat for a day. And some in Congress are pushing for far more extreme cuts to SNAP.

Email your members of Congress now and tell them this is unacceptable!

As we move toward Thanksgiving and Christmas and prepare to gather with friends and family around big meals and parties with lots of food, we know you will be making many trips to the grocery store. We encourage you to use your trips to the store as an occasion to give thanks to God for our bounty and as a reminder to take action on behalf of those who have experienced SNAP cuts. We invite you to say this prayer every time you visit the grocery store this season: God, empower us and our leaders to fill the hungry with good things.

In the coming weeks, as the number of eliminated meals from SNAP cuts grows, we will call upon you to continue saying this prayer as you buy food and share this message with your members of Congress.

Right now, Congress is debating whether to allow cuts to nutrition assistance for low-income women and children to continue under sequestration. Already, struggling seniors have had to go without 4 million meals because of cuts to the Meals on Wheels program, and if sequestration continues, another 4 million meals could be cut.

We can make a difference this fall, but there’s not much time. Congress has just a few weeks to reverse the harmful cuts put in place by sequestration and to pass a farm bill. And these cuts threaten so much more—funding for international emergency food aid, poverty-focused foreign assistance, nutrition assistance for struggling seniors and pregnant women, and Head Start for low-income children.

Tell your members of Congress that all should share in the bounty and they must not cut programs that help struggling families.

Thank you for your continued prayers and action during this critical time.

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

Photo: Alex Morris feeds her son, André, in their Bend, OR, home. Alex depends on SNAP, WIC and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system (Brad Horn).

 

Cutting Poverty and Expanding Opportunity


Good jobs that pay a living wage are key to addressing U.S. income inequality. Photo: Roofers install solar panels on a home in the District of Columbia (Courtesy of Mt. Pleasant Solar Coop).

By Allie Gardner

The U.S. economy is continuing to slowly, steadily recover, but too many families are not sharing in the nation’s economic growth, according to a new report from Half in Ten

“Resetting the Poverty Debate: Renewing Our Commitment to Shared Prosperity” finds that income inequality remained high even as the economy grew during the last year. This annual report tracks the nation’s progress toward cutting poverty in half over the next decade, and recommends a set of policy priorities that would help more families escape poverty and enter the middle class. The report cites job creation, boosting wages, and investing in family economic security as means of accomplishing this, and also calls on Congress to end sequestration, and invest in programs that keep Americans out of poverty.

Increasing the minimum wage would help narrow the gap between productivity and compensation, as well as boost the income of low-wage workers, the report finds. While the top five percent of U.S. income earners are the only group that has seen an increase in income since the end of the recession, poorly compensated workers have seen the largest declines in their wages over the last ten years.

The importance of federal safety net programs, such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) and Social Security, is also noted. The former has helped stabilize the food-insecurity rate in recent years, and the latter lifted the income of 25.6 million Americans above the supplemental poverty line. Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, stressed the importance of these programs at the launch event for the report. Beckmann explained that SNAP “is very vulnerable to deep, deep cuts,” as many members of Congress do not prioritize it. “All of us need to rally around SNAP,” Beckmann added. 

Cutting poverty in half over the next ten years is an important mission.  In order to achieve this goal, Bread for the World believes that hunger and poverty must be put on the national agenda during the next election. Additionally, we must continue to remind our members of Congress that our nation's budget has to be a moral document that reflects our nation's concern for the most vulnerable. 

Allie Gardner is an editorial intern at Bread for the World.

Prioritizing Hope in the Farm Bill and Budget Negotiations

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

The farm bill and 2014 budget conference committees continue to meet, and we continue to ask Bread for the World advocates to keep calling and writing their members of Congress. At stake in these negotiations is more than making columns of numbers balance; at stake is the funding for nutrition programs that allow Alli Morris of Bend, Oregon, the opportunity to move on and move up.

The story of Alli and her infant son Andre, told in the video above, shows that nutrition programs are a hand up. The Bend community takes advantage of federal programs to care for those who experience need in their midst. SNAP (formerly food stamps) is the life preserver Alli needs as she makes her way to solid ground. WIC provides the nutrition baby Andre needs to fight a pituitary disease he was born with.

The decisions made by Congress in the next two months must prioritize nutrition programs like SNAP and WIC that value both Alli and Andre's health and future. Some proposals, if enacted, would mean both programs might not be there for another family and community that need them. The automatic cuts called sequestration are chipping away at WIC funding. SNAP, a program that so many Americans have seen as a blessing during the recession and slow recovery, is at risk of being slashed by nearly $40 billion.

Alli and Andre's story reminds us that even if life throws us a few curve balls, there is always hope. Most of us have experienced hardship and can probably recall what it took to overcome difficulty, but not everyone has the same access to a helping hand. Alli insists that she can make a better life for herself and Andre. Her hard work is the essence of the American dream. This family has a chance because there is a community with the tools they need to provide an opportunity for Alli's commitment to take responsibility for her family's future.

It may be easy for members of Congress, sitting at a conference table in Washington, D.C., with reams of paper in front of them, to focus on the columns of dollar figures without seeing that a family's hope is a line item they may cut. It's might be easy for Congress to forget that programs like WIC and SNAP help communities thrive as we care for one another. But it won't be easy if the people the members of Congress represent tell them to prioritize hope. Perhaps you have a story to remind them that hardship can be overcome with the right tools and opportunities. SNAP and WIC are not just programs of hope, but ladders to move lives on and up. 

Quote of the Day: Rev. David Beckmann

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(Robin Stephenson)

"We must remind Congress that God calls our leaders to deliver the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. Gutting programs like SNAP shows a blatant disregard to this divine call."

—Rev. David Beckmann, in "Cutting Food Stamps is a Bad Way to Balance the Budget," from Soujouners' God's Politics blog.

Members of Congress are in the process of making decisions about the budget and farm bill, and faithful advocates must tell them that any final budget or farm bill must not increase hunger.

From the Negotiating Table to the Dinner Table

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In November, many struggling Americans will find it even more difficult to put food on the table as they face the expiration of a temporary increase in food stamp benefits. Congress is negotiating a farm bill that would make even deeper cuts to the vital nutrition assistance program (movie still from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media).

This week brings Halloween and the arrival of November. The fall season includes a number of holidays that center on food for Americans. But for many people, Friday will bring new hardship and worry. On Nov. 1, a temporary increase in food stamp benefits will expire, making it more difficult for 47 million people to put food on the table. A family of four could see its benefit decrease by as much as $36 per month. 

“Thirty-six dollars a month may not seem like much, but if you are a family of four with an income of $22,000 per year, $36 means several missed meals or increased difficulty in providing for one's children,” writes Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in a piece on the Huffington Post Politics Blog. “And if this $11 billion reduction isn't devastating enough, members of the House and Senate have begun to finalize a farm bill that will impact vital anti-hunger programs.”

Today, 41 lawmakers will meet with the goal of merging two versions of the farm bill—one that proposes a nearly $40 billion cut to SNAP over 10 years, and another that includes a $4.1 billion cut. If any of your members of Congress are sitting at the negotiating table, you have an opportunity to influence their decisions and urge them to protect the nation’s number-one defense against hunger from deeper cuts. As food prices increase and benefits decrease, more families will likely find themselves in need of charitable food donations earlier in the month, but any cuts to nutrition assistance will leave a hunger gap that cannot be closed by churches, pantries, or food banks.  

The staff and volunteers at Oregon Food Bank are concerned about cuts to SNAP and made sure that one member at the conference table–Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.)–knows they can’t fill the gap. In a recent op-ed, Oregon Food Bank CEO Susannah Morgan and board member Lisa Sedlar point out that deep cuts to food stamps would increase hunger for 100,000 Oregonians. "[T]he total meals lost in Oregon would be equivalent to the entire statewide food bank network shutting its doors for more than five years," they write in the article.

It's also important to remember that there are real people behind these cuts. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Floridian Robin Petersen, who works full time, can't afford to put enough food on her family’s table without nutrition benefits. “If I didn't get food stamps, we'd be at the food pantries every week," Peterson says in the piece. In the same article, hunger relief organization Second Harvest reports that food distribution in the area has already increased by 34 percent in the last six months.

In addition to debating cuts to food stamps, members of the committee must also make choices about international food aid. Beckmann says we must hold members of Congress accountable for their actions. “Any policies that create additional poverty among the working poor, or further impoverish hungry people around the world, are reprehensible,” Beckmann wrote in the Huffington Post piece.

On Friday, the first day of a month in which we celebrate bounty with a national feast, it is disheartening to think that some Americans will be have much less food on their tables when they gather to give thanks this year. 

Act Now: SNAP and Food Aid at Risk

Families that receives food stamps (SNAP) will see their benefits reduced starting this Friday. Email or call 1-800-826-3688 and tell your members of Congress to protect SNAP and improve international food aid. Photo: DeEtte Peck uses her EBT card to purchase food in Portland, Ore. (Brian Duss)

By Eric Mitchell

This week, every family that receives food stamp benefits will see its grocery budget shrink! In 2010, Congress voted twice to cut food stamps (also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) in order to pay for other priorities.  As a result, $11 billion in SNAP cuts will go into effect this Friday. For a family of four, this means a loss of up to $36 a month.

As millions of families are bracing for these automatic benefit cuts, members of the House and Senate meet today to finalize a farm bill that will impact vital anti-hunger programs—specifically SNAP and international food aid. 

We need your help. The voices of your members of Congress are critical in our efforts to end hunger by protecting and strengthening SNAP and improving international food aid.

Call or email your members of Congress today! Ask them to:

  1. Oppose cuts and harmful changes to SNAP. The House-passed farm bill cut SNAP by $39 billion, which could kick nearly 4 million people off the program and reduce benefits for thousands more. SNAP has already been cut by $11 billion, reducing every household’s monthly benefit and resulting in millions of lost meals. SNAP families cannot afford any cuts in the farm bill.
  2. Support the Senate-passed farm bill’s (S.954) international food aid provisions. These provisions will increase the flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and efficiency of food aid so that we can respond better to the complex challenges of global hunger and malnutrition today.

Forty-nine million Americans live at risk of hunger, and more than 1 billion people around the world live in extreme poverty. SNAP and international food aid programs must be protected in the farm bill. Email or call your member of Congress at 800-826-3688 today!

 Thank you for your advocacy.

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

SNAP, Non-Profit Supermarket Work in Tandem to Combat Hunger

 

Last month, residents of Chester, Pa., welcomed Fare & Square, the nation's first nonprofit grocery store. Fare & Square also has the distinction of being the city's only grocery store. Chester, a city about 20 miles southwest of Philadelphia, is a U.S. Department of Agriculture-designated food desert that lost its last supermarket more than 12 years ago.

Proximity to a grocery store can force shoppers to make food purchases based on ease of transport rather than taste, nutritional value, or cost. "To bring a gallon of milk is a hardship if you have to use two buses to get home," says Bill Clark, executive director of Philabundance, in the Moyers and Company video above. Philabundance is the anti-hunger non-profit organization behind the non-profit market model.

So far, as the report explains, sixty percent of the families in Chester have signed up for a Fare & Square membership, which allows those with annual incomes equal to or less than twice the federal poverty level to receive store credit each time they shop. And sixty percent of the store's shoppers are using SNAP benefits to pay for their food. Fare & Square recognizes the importance of SNAP and similar programs in feeding the people of Chester—city residents can receive help signing up for benefits at the store.

Bread for the World activist Tara Marks once said that she didn't live in a food desert, but a "food mirage"—she was surrounded by plenty, but didn't have enough money to buy food. SNAP changed that for her. Putting a grocery store in a food desert is a huge step toward improving food accessibility, but nutrition assistance programs are critical in connecting hungry people with that food.

To learn more about food deserts, and the Fare & Square model, watch the video below, or read the full Moyers & Company report here. To find out more about what you can do to help protect SNAP, which is being debated as part of congressional farm bill negotiations that begin this week, click here or contact your Bread for the World regional organizer.

Charting the Importance of SNAP

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On Friday, all households receiving SNAP (formerly food stamps) will see a reduction in their benefits, as a temporary SNAP increase included in American Recover and Reinvestment Act of 2009, more commonly known as the stimulus act, ends. Some families will see their benefits drop by as much as $36 per month.

On Wednesday, the House and Senate began negotiations around the farm bill. The two chambers must reconcile their respective versions of the legislation, including a huge difference in proposed cuts to SNAP: the Senate version of the bill cuts $4 billion from the program over 10 years, while the House version cuts $39 billion.

It's a critical time for SNAP and the 47 million Americans who rely on this vital program.

SNAP is the our nation's first line of defense against hunger. We know that any cuts to SNAP would make it more difficult for struggling families to put food on the table. Churches and charities, for all they do, can't make up the difference: one in 24 bags of food assistance comes from a charitable organization, and federal nutrition programs provide the rest, as the above graphic shows. 

If you'd like more visual proof of SNAP's importance, check out this series of infographics, from the Food and Environmental Reporting Network and Mother Jones, that illustrate the program's broad economic and public health benefits. If you have a member of Congress on the committee that is negotiating the farm bill, please ask him or her to work to protect SNAP and ensure that hungry people aren’t harmed in any final legislation. Find out if either of your senators or your representative is on the committee here.

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