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House Agriculture Committee Passes Farm Bill Proposal

Guest post by FRAC (Food Research and Action Center): The Farm Bill proposal passed early this morning by the House Agriculture Committee slashes funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $16 billion over ten years. It does this mainly by restricting states’ ability to coordinate SNAP with two other low-income programs.

Specifically, the cuts would restrict the broad-based Categorical Eligibility (Cat El) option that allows states to coordinate SNAP gross income and asset rules for participants enrolled in other programs, and limit states’ options to operate “heat and eat” policies. The cuts particularly target seniors and working poor families. The proposed cuts would have the following consequences:

  • Limiting Cat-El would result in millions of people each year losing benefits –1.8 million according to the CBO, or from 2 to 3 million, according to the Administration. The CBO also estimates that approximately 280,000 school-age children in those low-income households would no longer be deemed eligible for free school meals through their receipt of SNAP benefits.
  • Limiting “Heat and Eat” would result in an additional 500,000 SNAP participating households losing $90 a month in benefits, according to CBO.

Every cut to SNAP means less food in the refrigerators and the cupboards of the hungriest people in America – children, seniors, working families, unemployed workers, people with disabilities and others. And such cuts have been rejected by the American public. Seventy-seven percent of voters say that cutting SNAP would be the wrong way to reduce government spending.

“These cuts mean lost meals for hungry households,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “These cuts are at odds with every bipartisan deficit proposal discussed over the past year – Simpson-Bowles, Gang of Six, and others – as well as the Budget Control Act, which protected SNAP from cuts. We urge the House of Representatives to reject these cuts and pass a Farm Bill that preserves the strong structure of SNAP.”

Hunger Pangs

On Monday I found that I drank a lot of water. Not because I was hot but because I was hungry. I hadn’t had time to go to the store so all I had most of the day was water. The water did fill me up and stop the hunger pangs but I kept thinking I am doing this for 5 days. But think about the people who have to drink water many days of the month because there isn’t enough food to last for the month. Especially the children in school. How do they focus, how do they learn? Of course on day one I still had lots of energy. But not so sure how the week will last. And when I did go shopping on Monday I found that I could hardly wait to get in the car and start eating – ANYTHING! Not a good practice but I am sure it mirrors others. I just hope my food lasts the 5 days. I feel a hunger pang – on to some water…

The Hunger Challenge: Fueling Up Without Breaking Down

Guest post by Emily Henry of the Pleasant Hill Patch: Monday is the start of The Hunger Challenge, a five-day “exercise in empathy” organized by the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. Participants must live on a food budget of $4.46 per day — the amount provided to low-income individuals and families through the CalFresh food stamp program. The purpose? To discover just how challenging a nutritious lifestyle can be for the nearly 4 million Californians whose daily food allowance is about the same as the cost of a gallon of gas.

Bargain hunting is a must on The Hunger Challenge, which asks participants to eat on $4.46 per day — the food budget provided to low-income individuals and families through the CalFresh food stamp program. Credit Emily Henry

Fueling up every day on a handful of dollar bills and a stack of coupons would indeed be a feat, I thought. So I decided to embark on the journey and retrace my steps through a culinary past peppered with meals for deals.

After all, I was raised a bargain hunter. As soon as I was old enough to understand the concept of money — or rather, lack of it — and big enough to push a cart, I was scouring the shelves at the grocery store for the yellow signs reading, “buy one get one free.” I knew where the reduced-price meat section was, with its graying beef and watery chicken nearing expiration. I could locate the damaged-goods shelves stocked with bent soup cans and ripped cereal boxes. I developed a hawk’s eye for the bold stickers advertising mark-downs.

By the age of 11 or so, I was doing most of the grocery shopping for our family of three: my mother, my sister, and me. It was also around the time I started cooking the family meals, concocting great cauldrons of over-cooked pasta with tangy, tasteless tomato sauce. I was no Julia Child, but pasta was cheap and filling.

Living on a tight food budget when I was kid meant not having the things other kids had in their lunch boxes. It meant mustering a meal from two or three simple, low-cost ingredients, with frequently bland results. It also meant a deep psychological connection between food and security.

Fortunately, it’s been a while since I’ve had to ask the grocery store cashier to put items back on the shelves after seeing the final tally at the register.

Now, I not only eat to satiety three times a day, but I also have the luxury of stocking my cupboards with fresh fruit and vegetables, opting for organic and farm fresh and experimenting with nutritional super foods. I am healthier than I ever was as a child, and my choices are far less limited.

But what would happen if my food budget suddenly shrunk, and I was thrust back into a time of expired meat and bland pasta? Would I be able to maintain a nutritious diet? And more than that — would I want to?

Food is comfort. At least, it is to me. The Hunger Challenge comprises two words that are distinctly uncomfortable. Bare cupboards represent lack of choice, lack of control and lack in general. And being without can breed feelings of insecurity and unhappiness, which can lead to a search for abundance — even if that abundance is artificial or unhealthy like, say, a Big Mac and fries. Healthy eating is much more difficult on a budget of a few bucks a day when a cabbage costs the same as a fast-food cheeseburger.

Over the course of the week, I plan to share my experiences and recipes while participating in The Hunger Challenge. My goal is to stay satisfied and keep away from the quick-fixes. Do you have a recipe, advice or a food bargain to share? Let me know in the comments.

Read more of Emily’s posts during the Challenge on our blog or on the Pleasant Hill Patch site.

Safety Net Needed to Keep California’s Families Afloat

Our effort to end hunger doesn’t stop with bags of groceries for our neighbors in need — we also work toward policies that will create a culture in which hunger can be eradicated. These days, stopping cuts to our safety net are our top priority. Food Bankers, pantry and soup kitchen volunteers and staff, nutritionists, food bank supporters, homelessness service providers and others from across the state concerned about the more than 7 million Californians experiencing hunger marched and spoke to legislators on May 17 for Hunger Action Day. We made known that California can do better than a budget that asks only that our children, seniors and people with disabilities sacrifice again and again.

Hunger Action Day opening remarks

This year, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano along with the Monument Crisis Center, Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church food pantry and a community advocate volunteer joined 400 other California Hunger Action Coalition (CHAC) advocates at the Capitol. We heard personal stories from people who have benefited from the very programs the governor proposes to cut. Without the safety net their families would not have been able to improve their situations and make a better life for themselves. One woman had experienced a time of homelessness and through CalWORKS was able to go back to school. It was amazing to hear how she turned her situation around with a little help and she even earned her Bachelor’s degree.

Rally around the Capitol (photo by Monument Crisis Center staff)

Our group had 7 meetings with legislative staffers and asked our representatives to protect the most vulnerable among us — the children, seniors and working families we serve each day. The response we got each time was the Assemblymember/Senator supports what you are saying but it is going to be tough.

That’s why we need your help. Even if you weren’t able to join us in Sacramento yesterday, you can get involved now! Please help us send a CLEAR message to Governor Brown to save our safety net.

Governor Brown has proposed drastic cuts to our safety net programs, particularly CalWORKS, which would instantly cut 100,000 children out of the safety net and reduce families’ grants to what they were in the 1980s if his proposal is enacted. We need to stand up for our communities and fight against policies that balance our state budget on the backs of children, seniors and working-class families.

Use the sample email below to send a message to Governor Brown. You can contact him through his website. Please let him know what you think about his budget cuts and advocate for a budget that isn’t balanced on the backs of low-income children, seniors and the disabled.

Sample letter

Governor Brown,

Over 400 advocates from across the state went to Sacramento on May 17 to stand up against hunger, and call on you and the Legislature to stand down on your attacks against California’s safety net.

After three years and $15 billion in cuts to vital social programs, it is unconscionable to allow California’s safety net to be further dismantled at a time when our families need it most. When a family’s income falls short, the first place they cut is their food budget, leading to unacceptable hunger throughout our state.
Stop allowing the California’s child poverty rate to continue to climb dangerously and keep all Californians afloat. It’s just the right thing to do.

Sincerely,

Your name

Thank you to all the amazing advocates for their passion, energy and heart on Hunger Action Day and every day. It was an amazing experience and I hope you will join us next year!

If you want to learn more about the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano’s advocacy efforts and how you can help, please contact me at lsherrill@foodbankccs.org.

Governor Proposes Harmful Cuts that Will Leave More Californians Hungry

In his 2012-13 budget proposal released yesterday, Governor Brown included $2.5 billion in cuts to safety net programs that serve low-income households at risk of hunger. These proposals come on top of difficult cuts in last year’s budget that contributed to a sobering $15 billion in cumulative cuts to health and human services made since 2008. If approved, the Governor’s cuts will increase hardship for low-income seniors and families, leading more to experience hunger and seek out already overburdened food banks for assistance. Initial analyses indicate the Governor is proposing cutting $946 million from CalWORKs, $842 million from Medi-Cal, $164 million from In-Home Supportive Services, $447 million from child care, and $87 million from various other health and human services. These cuts would mean significant reductions in vital services to the same vulnerable Californians who have been hit year after year by harsh cuts to safety net supports.

The overwhelming burden of the budget deficit cannot be carried by California’s most vulnerable, who are already suffering due to previous budget cuts. In a time of such great hardship we should not be weakening our social safety net even further. We should be pursuing more revenue solutions to balance our budget and restore essential services that will aid California’s economic recovery.

 

The Governor could hardly have proposed these cuts at a worse time. California food banks experienced a jump in demand for services of 30-50 percent with the onset of the recession, and demand has continued to climb ever since. Recent reports from the Food Research & Action Center based on extensive Gallup polling show that 20.5 percent of California residents (7.5 million), and a staggering 26.7 percent of California households with children, are struggling with food hardship as the recession lingers. Given these sobering numbers, there is little doubt that the Governor’s budget will drive demand even higher.

TAKE ACTION

Send a letter to your state representatives. To locate your State representatives, visit www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html. Tell them you are calling on the legislature to reject the Governor’s proposed cuts to essential health and human services and to move forward with a plan that restores our social safety net and protects California’s most vulnerable from worsening hardship. You can use the information above in your letter as well.

Please let me know if you send a letter and to which reps you send it to. If you have any questions, please contact me at lsherrill@foodbankccs.org.

 

Congressman Garamendi Visits the Food Bank

At a time of record need and our Food Bank and partner agencies are stretched thin, cuts to nutrition assistance would be devastating for struggling families and our community. Charity simply cannot make up the difference if programs like SNAP, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, or WIC is cut.

We appreciate the support for these programs from Congressman John Garamendi and for the time he took to visit our warehouse in Fairfield this week. After spending just  an hour with him, it is obvious that fighting for the nutritional needs of all Americans is important to him.

You can also help ensure vital nutrition programs are not cut by contacting your congressman and letting him/her know that local charities and government programs must work together to meet the need in our communities.

Find your Federal representative by visiting www.house.gov.

Governor Signs Bills to Help Fight Hunger

Governor Brown has signed a number of bills that will help improve access to the CalFresh program and reduce hunger in California. Anti-hunger advocates have much to celebrate this year, as legislation signed by the Governor will finally end fingerprint imaging in the CalFresh program — a change we have championed for almost a decade.

Governor Brown also signed AB 152, the bill the California Association of Food Banks sponsored to create a tax credit for crop donations and the framework for a state emergency food assistance program. A summary of hunger-related bills signed or vetoed by Governor Brown is listed below.

Bills Signed by Governor Brown

AB 6 (Fuentes) – ends fingerprint imaging in CalFresh; moves CalFresh and CalWORKs from quarterly to simplified semi-annual reporting; creates “heat & eat” initiative to streamline paperwork and increase benefits for a significant number of households.

AB 69 (Beall) – allows counties to utilize Social Security information to facilitate and streamline senior enrollment in CalFresh.

AB 152 (Fuentes) – creates a tax credit for fresh fruits and vegetables donated by California growers to California food banks; creates the framework for a state emergency food assistance program.

AB 402 (Skinner) – authorizes school districts to work with county social services agencies to develop a fast track from a free or reduced-price school meal program application to a CalFresh program application.

AB 581 (Pérez) – creates the California Healthy Food Financing Initiative to expand access to healthy foods in underserved communities.

AB 959 (Jones) – aligns CalWORKs reporting requirements with CalFresh and Medi-Cal by allowing aid to be reinstated if a report is submitted within 30 days of the due date.

SB 43 (Liu) – removes mandatory employment and training requirements in the CalFresh program when the state or sub-region is federally determined to have a work surplus (high unemployment).

Bills Vetoed by Governor Brown

AB 1182 (Hernández) – would have excluded the value of a vehicle when determining eligibility for the CalWORKs program, a procedure already implemented in the CalFresh program.

For more information about these bills or how you can help take action against hunger, please contact me (Lisa Sherrill) at (925) 676-7543 extension 206 or lsherrill@foodbankccs.org.

The Capitol Goes Orange for Hunger Awareness

Anti-hunger advocates from across the state, Food Bank staff, the offices of Assemblymembers Yamada, Fuentes, Weickowski and Mitchell, and others participated in “The Capitol Goes Orange for Hunger Awareness” day on Wednesday in Sacramento.

The participants wore orange – the official color of hunger awareness – to bring attention to hunger issues across the state and highlight anti-hunger bills currently before the Governor (AB 6, AB 69, AB 152, AB402, AB581, and SB 43). Visit our state advocacy page and learn more about the bills mentioned above and how you can take action.

hunger aciton group

Capitol Goes Orange

Let’s go orange for Hunger Action Month!  Join anti-hunger advocates from across the state, Food Bank staff, the offices of Assemblymembers Yamada, Fuentes, Beall, Skinner and others to participate in “The Capitol Goes Orange for Hunger Awareness”  day TODAY (Wednesday, September 21st) in Sacramento.  They are asking that staff members wear orange – the official color of hunger awareness – to bring attention to hunger issues across the state and highlight anti-hunger bills currently before the Governor (AB 6, AB 69, AB 152, AB402, AB581, and SB 43).  There will be a Capitol Community photo op at 12:15p.m. on the West Steps of the State Capitol.  We ask that you also please bring a canned food donation with you to the photo-shoot.

Learn more about the bills mentioned above on the California Association of Food Banks website.

capitol orange flyer

California One Step Closer to Eliminating Fingerprint Imaging

Guest post by David Lee, Director of Government Relations & Advocacy for Feeding America: After a lot of legislative activity over the last two weeks, August 31 the California Senate passed an amended version of AB 6, the bill that would remove the fingerprint imaging requirement for CalFresh (the state name for SNAP) applicants and also move the state from a quarterly reporting to semi-annual reporting.

Due to opposition from the County of Los Angeles, the bill was amended to eliminate fingerprint imaging for CalFresh only applicants, but keep the requirement for CalWorks (TANF) and for those who receive both CalFresh and CalWorks.  Since of the entire California nutrition caseload, 78% received CalFresh only and 22% received both CalFresh and CalWorks, this is still a major win in the battle to fully eliminate fingerprint imaging in CalFresh.  More importantly, the bill eliminates federal funding for the state to maintain the system.

After achieving concurrence in the Assembly, the bill will head to the Governor’s desk for his signature.  If signed, California will follow Texas in eliminating fingerprint imaging, leaving only Arizona and New York as the last two states in the union to use it.

To learn more about the Food Bank’s advocacy efforts visit www.foodbankccs.org/advocate.