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Lisa

48 Hunger-Fighters Begin Year-Long Term of Service

Last month, Berkeley Adams began her term of service as an Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps volunteer at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. She joins the largest class of hunger volunteers in the program’s history with 114 individuals in the incoming class across the country.

The Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corp program, part of AmeriCorps, has more than doubled in size in just one year, jumping from 55 to 114 participants and expanding from 16 to 30 states. Incoming VISTAs (Volunteers In Service To America) have been recruited from 43 cities in 23 states, with recruitment ongoing. The VISTAs will work across 57 cities in 30 states for a one year term. They range in age from 21 to 44. In contrast, the first volunteer class in 2011 had 47 members.

Started in 2010, the objective of the Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps is to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations nationwide to enable more eligible individuals and families to fight hunger while empowering them to achieve long-term financial security. Volunteers also work to provide technical assistance to food pantry and soup kitchen operators, assist in fundraising and volunteer recruitment efforts, and work to increase access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP) formerly called food stamps.

One of the largest barriers low-income residents face in receiving nutritional food is lack of access, both in terms of getting enrolled for CalFresh benefits and using them in the right places. Berkeley will be on the front lines of doing each across the two counties the Food Bank serves. She’ll be implementing the use of tablets for CalFresh Outreach and training volunteers and agencies on how to use the new technology so clients can fill out online applications. She will also help connect clients to Farmers Markets so they can shop for fresh, locally grown produce with their benefits.

 We are thrilled to welcome Berkeley to our organization. This program will enable us to really focus on our capacity building efforts in CalFresh and client access to fresh produce, in order to make a lasting, long-term impact in ending hunger not just in this region, but across the nation.

U.S. Senate and House Consider Cuts to Food Stamps

Original post by: Jessica Bartholow, Legislative Advocate, Western Center on Law and Poverty. Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will mark up the farm bill this week in their respective committees; the Senate on Tuesday, May 14, and the House on Wednesday, May 15.

 

In the Senate, the agriculture committee chairwoman’s farm bill draft included a $4.1 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), increasing the likelihood of hunger for millions of families.

The House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas released this first draft of the farm bill into committee on Friday. His draft would cut SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $20 billion over 10 years.  Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a member of the agriculture committee, said the bill “would make hunger worse and not better.”

During the mark-up, after the chair offers the first draft, committee members have the opportunity to propose and vote on any amendments, or changes, to the bill. Once a final version is voted out of committee, leadership then adds it to the schedule for a floor vote. Both House and Senate leadership have indicated they would like a farm bill on the summer agenda.

Any cuts to SNAP would prove devastating for vulnerable Americans, including over 4 million low-income Californians who depend on the program to prevent hunger. SNAP participants are already facing a reduction in benefits—on Nov. 1, a temporary program boost that was included in the 2009 stimulus package will expire. Even more alarming: a recent Institute of Medicine study concluded that the way in which the benefit level is calculated for SNAP is inadequate for a healthy diet. Inadequate as existing levels are, just this expiration will reduce the average benefit to about $1.40 per person per meal, reports the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities.

Cutting the program by $20 billion over 10 years would reduce the benefit even further and increase food insecurity. This is why one in seven Americans polled oppose cuts to the program.

Western Center on Law and Poverty has been working with other allies in the state to oppose the cuts. “Cutting the nutrition safetynet for our poorest families is not necessary and it is cruel, increasing the likelihood that poor Americans, most of whom are children, will experience the indignity of hunger,” says Jessica Bartholow, a legislative advocate based in Western Center’s Sacramento Office.

 

For more information about the 2013 Farm Bill, go to: www.frac.org.

SNAP Provides a Significant Economic Boost

Last year partially due to the fiscal cliff a new Farm Bill was not passed. Funding for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), run by the US Department of Agriculture, was of major concern for anti-hunger advocates across the country. Representatives in the House proposed deep cuts to SNAP: $16.5 billion over 10 years, which would cut as many as 3 million low-income Americans from the program. The Senate countered with a farm bill cutting $4.5 billion from SNAP over the same time period.

Congress couldn’t agree on a Farm Bill so it simply didn’t happen, and instead Congress passed an extension until September 30. With the new congress now in session, they have to start all over. The chair of the House Agriculture Committee, told the Capital Press this weekend that the new House Farm Bill will mandate $20 billion in SNAP cuts over the next ten years. Drew Hammill, communications director for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, told The Nation, that SNAP not only helps vulnerable Americans, but it provides a significant economic boost. Research shows that for every dollar invested in SNAP over $1.84 goes back into the economy.

SNAP usage flows with the economy. During the recession, participation in the program increased (as it should) and as the economy continues to improve, we will see spending on SNAP decrease significantly over the next ten years all by itself.

In the meantime, there are still many Americans who need the help of SNAP to put food on their tables. We can’t allow a Farm Bill to pass that cuts one of our most effective stimulus programs.

As the House AG Committee takes up the Farm Bill later this month, we need to be clear that these steep cuts to SNAP are unacceptable. So what can you do? Follow our blog and join our advocacy email alerts to stay informed during the process. And tell your friends.

Sources include: http://www.thenation.com/blog/174094/house-gop-plans-even-deeper-food-stamp-cuts and http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2010/04/14/USDA-Will-Spend-63-billion-On-Food-Stamps-This-Year.aspx#page1.

Hunger-Fighter Finishes Year of Service

 This month, Heidi Kleiner completed her term of service as an Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps volunteer at Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

 Heidi made a significant contribution to Food Bank by recruiting, training, and organizing a specialized group of volunteers to help low-income individuals and families sign up for CalFresh, also known as SNAP nationwide.  She undertook the training of volunteers as well as partner agencies on how they could help their clients apply for benefits.  She has connected CalFresh clients with local farmer’s markets and helped them understand how they can utilize their EBT cards to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.  Heidi is part of a class of 36 Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps volunteers spanning 14 states and 18 regions with volunteers collectively completing nearly 75,000 hours of service.

The Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps is an AmeriCorps VISTA project, sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Walmart Foundation, the ConAgra Foundation and managed by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. The VISTA volunteers work in both rural and urban areas.

An Update from the Capitol

Where can you find nearly 800 passionate anti-hunger fighters all in one place? At the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference of course! The conference presented by Feeding America and Food Research and Action Center draws anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocates; federal, state and local government officials; child advocates; representatives of food banks and food rescue organizations; and nutrition and anti-obesity groups, for three days of training, networking and Capitol Hill advocacy.

Participants share information and learn how to strengthen the quality and reach of federal nutrition programs, learn best outreach and program practices from other states and localities, fill in the gaps in food service for millions of low-income children, and identify creative ideas for new and innovative approaches to ending hunger.

Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano staff met with offices of our local Congressmen to tell the story of poverty and hunger in our community. What did we ask of our representatives? For Congress to protect and strengthen SNAP/CalFresh and TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program), two of our most important resources. 1 in 4 people living in Contra Costa and Solano counties are at risk of hunger. The Food Bank is now feeding approximately 149,000 people each month but it is not enough. We can’t do it alone. With the high cost of living in the Bay Area, a family would need three full-time jobs at minimum wage just to make ends meet. Without important nutrition programs like TEFAP and SNAP the need in our community could not be met and families like Millicent’s would go hungry.

Single mother Millicent worked as a sales manager for four years until she was laid off. She was able to receive unemployment and then worked eight weeks at a temp job before she was in a car accident. Now her unemployment is only for ten weeks instead of the two years it would have been if she never worked those eight weeks. All of her cash is going to pay her bills and there is no money for food or medical expenses. She has two children ages ten and five and lost her child care. She has been coming to Food for Children for four months now and receives CalFresh/SNAP, which allows her to buy groceries.

Congress must oppose any cuts to SNAP and continue to support additional resources to purchase TEFAP commodities on which so many food banks rely on heavily. Please call your representatives today at (202) 224-3121 and ask them to protect SNAP and TEFAP.

Sequester Impact

Over 600,000 low-income women and young children will lose WIC benefits that enable them to buy basic grocery items like milk and bread, because of the government sequester on Friday.

The sequester scheduled to go into effect this Friday will cut critical funding for nutrition assistance programs – programs that protect our most vulnerable children and seniors and that support our nation’s food banks. About 600,000 low-income women, infants, and children would be kicked off of the WIC program; programs like Meals on Wheels would have to cut as many as 19 million meals to seniors; and charities like the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano would lose TEFAP funding for the storage and distribution of food at a time when the demand for food assistance is higher than ever and food banks are stretched thin meeting that demand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sequestration Update and Call for Immediate Action

This Friday, March 1, unless the Congress acts, automatic federal budget cuts under “sequestration” will go into effect. These cuts will impact a number of vital services critically-important to low-income people.

Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on the American Family Economic Protection Act (pdf), the Senate Democrats’ bill to avoid sequestration. The proposal would prevent cuts to education, public health, nutrition and other vital services by replacing them with more gradual cuts to the Pentagon, setting a minimum tax for millionaires and closing some corporate tax loopholes.

Take Action: Contact your Senators immediately and urge them to vote for the American Family Economic Act when the bill comes up for a vote tomorrow afternoon (Feb. 28).

dc-capitol

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Phone:(202) 224-3841

 

Sen. Barbara Boxer

Phone:(202) 224-3553

 

Here is a sample of what could happen if these budget cuts go into effect:

  • 600,000 low-income women and young children could be cut from the WIC program
  • 19 million fewer meals for seniors from programs like Meals on Wheels
  • 5,000,000 fewer low-income families receiving prenatal health care and other services that help decrease infant mortality and improve maternal health
  • 112,190 fewer victims of domestic violence receiving services
  • 750,000 Americans losing their jobs
  • $2.4 million cut from funding food banks need to store and distribute food at a time of increased demand and tightened resources.

Questions? Please contact me (Lisa Sherrill) at (925) 676-7543 extension 206 or lsherrill@foodbankccs.org.

 

Tell the Senate Your Ideas for a Fair Budget

Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee is encouraging you to share your ideas for how our elected officials can address our country’s budget challenges responsibly. MyBudget is an online platform for members of the public to weigh in as our nation works to tackle our budget and economic challenges.

Go to http://budget.senate.gov/democratic/index.cfm/mybudget  to share your stories about how federal budget decisions have impacted your family, your community, and your job, and let the senate know what issues they should be focused on.

Here’s what Chairman Murray is asking you to do:

Share your story

Budget decisions aren’t just about numbers and charts—they have real impacts on real people and communities. Your stories should be heard so we can help members of Congress understand what’s at stake for the families and communities they represent.

What are your budget priorities?

Budgets are all about setting priorities, and Chairman Murray is asking to hear about yours. Share what federal investments and programs you value in the federal budget (ex: safe roads and bridges, affordable college education, a strong national security, etc.) and if there are programs, policies, or tax loopholes that the federal government spends money on that you think it shouldn’t.

Tell us your ideas

The federal government needs to strengthen programs like Medicare so they will be there for the next generation. What are your ideas?

Kraft Rolls Out a ‘Farmers’-Market-On-Wheels’ for the Food Bank

Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is fighting hunger one mile at a time with the gift of a new Kraft Mobile Pantry truck.  The refrigerated vehicle will hit the road to bring a fresh produce to low-income areas in the community, expanding the reach of the Food Bank while delivering fresh fruit and vegetables.

 This truck is part of a nationwide fleet being rolled out by Kraft Foods Foundation (now known as Mondelēz International Foundation) and Feeding America, to reach those hardest hit with food insecurity. The mobile pantry will be used as part of the Food Bank’s Community Produce Program to expand the service area to West Contra Costa and Solano county to bring approximately 20 pounds per person of four to seven types of produce to three distribution sites per day serving 50-200 people, depending upon the site and location, at a time when the need has never been greater.

 Here in Contra Costa and Solano counties, 1 in 4 of our neighbors face food insecurity.  We’re seeing more residents reaching out for food assistance than ever before.   The Kraft Mobile Pantry could not come at a better time to help us increase the number of clients and areas we are able to reach.

 Fighting hunger is not new for Kraft.  The company has partnered with Feeding America for decades to do just that.  The mobile pantry program is one of many programs making a difference in communities where the company’s employees live and work.

Governor Proposes Balanced Budget

Governor Proposes Balanced Budget

A balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year was projected by Governor Brown on Thursday when he released his proposed budget plan. The big budget news is increased spending on k-12 schools. We want to focus on two areas we feel will have the most impact on the people that rely on the Food Bank.

California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Program.

CalWORKS provides cash assistance for 1.1 million low-income children as their parents find jobs. Significant cuts have been made to this program over the recent years including reducing General Fund spending on CalWORKS by $469 million in the current fiscal year. In the governor’s proposal, there is an increase of $142.8 million in state support for CalWORKS. This is to support counties as that implement programmatic changes. Otherwise the proposed budget maintains the curs that were made without reducing spending further.

Medi-Cal Program.

California’s version of Medicaid is called Medi-Cal and is a health coverage program serving approximately 8 million low-income children, parents, seniors and people with disabilities. Several cuts have been made to this program in recent years as well.

Governor Brown proposes two options for implementing the Medi-Cal expansion envisioned by the federal health care reform:

  1. A state-based approach that would build upon the existing state-administered program and a managed care delivery system, or
  2. a county-based approach that builds on the existing Low Income Health Program with the counties being the lead for the expansion.

Other proposals to Medi-Cal include:

  • Extend a current fee on hospitals that is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2013, resulting in General Fund savings of $310 million. The fee provides funding for children’s health coverage as well as supplemental payments for hospitals.
  • Implement unspecified “efficiencies” in Medi-Cal managed care in order to reduce General Fund spending by $135 million.
  • Require Medi-Cal enrollees to select their health plans during an annual open enrollment period and remain in that plan for a full year. This proposal would reduce General Fund spending by $1 million in 2013-14 and each year thereafter.

We will keep you posted on how the budget will impact low-income people in our community as the budget process continues.

The information in this article was adapted from the California Budget Project brief on the Governor’s proposal. You can read the full report here: http://cbp.org/pdfs/2013/130110_Gov_Budget_Release.pdf.