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Assemblymember Yamada Takes the Hunger Challenge – Day 3

Guest post by Mariko Yamada: Got home Tuesday about 8 p.m. after a fabulous event in honor of labor leader and civil rights icon, Dolores Huerta, recognizing her for 60 years of organizing workers and standing up for justice.  What an honor to be in her presence.

Food and drink were plentiful at this hosted event—one among multiple such receptions that occur morning, noon, and night around the Capitol.

Fortunately, I have had a “no eating, no drinking” rule in place for my entire tenure in the Legislature to avoid a gift reporting requirement, so am accustomed to passing up the usual delectable spreads that are always a part of such festivities.  However, because I had only eaten a small lunch, the pleasant food aromas were harder to ignore…

After downing a glass of orange juice, again to quell the low-blood sugar feeling I came home with, I made half a package of brown rice with the chicken stock I had saved from Monday night’s cooking.  Dinner was one of the chicken thighs (I now have one whole one left from the original four) over brown rice with a cut-up tomato.   Made a cup of French Vanilla coffee to top off the meal…and the sweet taste of an overripe banana was my dessert.

This morning, I made my thermos of coffee, a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, and tucked another overripe banana in for an afternoon snack.  Will likely have spaghetti and toast for dinner tonight after attending another reception—one where I will be receiving a recognition for work on helping the unemployed!—skipping the lovely spread I am sure will be there…

Day Four tomorrow!

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.

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.

Helping Put Healthy Food on the Table

Juan Orozco teamed up with Liliana Sandoval from the San Francisco and Marin Food Bank

By Juan Orozco, CalFresh Outreach Coordinator for Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano: In an effort to educate and raise public awareness about CalFresh, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is partnering with other Bay Area food banks to provide CalFresh Outreach at the San Francisco Mexican Consulate.  The goal is to increase participation in federal food assistance programs, thereby helping to reduce food insecurity for people struggling to make ends meet.  Studies have shown one of the primary reasons why low–income households who qualify for CalFresh are not participating in the program is lack of eligibility information.  In collaboration with the San Francisco Mexican Consulate we hope that we can encourage more legal immigrants to apply for the nutrition benefits of CalFresh.  CalFresh helps millions of Americans in need to put nutritious food on their table.

If you would like to learn more about CalFresh eligibility or need assistance with the application process, please visit www.foodbankccs.org/calfresh.

Food Bank Friend Joins the Farm Bill Committee

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano would like to congratulate Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA) on being appointed to serve as a Member of the House Agriculture Committee. Mr. Garamendi, a lifelong rancher and farmer, will join in bicameral negotiations on the farm bill, which could be voted on by the House in December and includes funding for nutrition programs like SNAP/CalFresh.

“One in four American children struggles with hunger. It’s just plain wrong that the wealthiest country in the world does not feed its children,” said Congressman John Garamendi, a Member of the House Agriculture Committee. “Childhood hunger holds back physical, emotional, and cognitive health. Nutrition assistance provides vital help for these children and families literally struggling to put food on the table. Everyone deserves a shot at the American Dream, and that starts with making sure no child or family in America goes to bed hungry.”

You can help! Urge your Members of Congress to stand strong against cuts to hunger-relief programs like SNAP, TEFAP, and WIC and to protect the charitable tax deduction and food donation tax extender.

Calling Congress is easy!  Here’s how:

  • Call using Feeding America’s toll-free hotline at 866-527-1087.
  • Listen to the pre-recorded message and enter your zip code when prompted. Connect to your Senators first.
  • Once you are connected to your first Senator, state that you are a constituent and give your name and the town you are calling from. Be sure to give the name of the Food Bank or local agency you are affiliated with.
  • Let them know you are calling about anti-hunger programs and deliver this important message:

I urge you to oppose cutting SNAP and other hunger-relief programs as part of any deal on the Fiscal Cliff and to continue to protect tax incentives to encourage food and fund donations to food banks.  Cutting programs that put food on the table for hungry Americans is not the way to balance our nation’s budget. 

  • Be sure to repeat the process so that you speak with your Representative and both of your Senators.

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

Call Congress Today! It’s Easy!

Today (November 28), Feeding America and other national partners are hosting a national call-in day to mobilize advocates across the country in opposition to cutting hunger-relief programs and protecting tax incentives to encourage food and fund donations as part of a deal on the Fiscal Cliff.

Call in Details:

As Congress debates how to address the looming Fiscal Cliff, we must urge them to do it the right way.  Help us show Congress that cutting programs that help feed struggling families is not the way to balance the budget.

Here’s how:

  • Call using Feeding America’s toll-free hotline at 866-527-1087.
  • Listen to the pre-recorded message and enter your zip code when prompted. Connect to your Senators first.
  • Once you are connected to your first Senator, state that you are a constituent and give your name and the town you are calling from.
  • Let them know you are calling about anti-hunger programs and deliver this important message:

I urge you to oppose cutting SNAP and other hunger-relief programs as part of any deal on the Fiscal Cliff and to continue to protect tax incentives to encourage food and fund donations to food banks.  Cutting programs that put food on the table for hungry Americans is not the way to balance our nation’s budget. 

  • Be sure to repeat the process so that you speak with your Representative and both of your Senators.

 

Hunger is Closer Than You Think

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: Americans don’t always recognize how pervasive hunger is, or that it is a problem where they live. In our communities, it is often hidden by families that don’t want to share their economic struggles. Sometimes it hides behind doors of nice houses with mortgages in default or the heat turned off. Often it goes unseen by those not looking for it.

But we know that Americans in every community are hungry. According to the Food Research and Action Center, 1 in 6 people living in Contra Costa and Solano counties struggle with hunger.

We know that hunger is a challenge, but we also know there is a solution. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP, or what we used to call food stamps — has been there to help families in need.

As jobs disappeared and wages shrank, SNAP was helped struggling Americans put food on the table. Its responsiveness to unemployment proved it to be one of the most effective safety-net programs during the recent recession.

This program also is working for millions of low-income Americans. The Census Bureau found that SNAP lifted 3.9 million Americans above the poverty line in 2010, including 1.7 million children and 280,000 seniors. SNAP not only lifts millions above the poverty line but, according to this new research, SNAP lessens economic hardships for many other Americans who have the lowest incomes in our nation.

SNAP is a lifeline for families like Henry’s. Henry lost his factory job more than a year ago and with three kids, preschool-age and younger, he hasn’t been able to make ends meet, even with his fiancé working full-time at a bank. With the Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the help of SNAP, Henry is better able to provide for his family until he can find work again.

Yet recent legislation and proposals in Congress, including the upcoming Farm Bill, would cut this program.

Let’s be clear that any cut to SNAP is a cut to benefits. For example, the Senate plan for the Farm Bill includes a cut of $4.4 billion over 10 years to SNAP. Put in real terms, that proposal could trigger sizable reductions in monthly SNAP benefits for many households — an estimated 500,000 households a year would lose $90 per month in SNAP benefits.

That’s not an accounting fix. That’s less money for struggling households to purchase food. Congress must reject attempts to balance the budget by taking from those who have the least.

Join our online advocate community at www.foodbankccs.org/advocate to get involved.

Hunger Speaks to a Global Audience

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is a member of Feeding America, a national network of food banks. Our service is local in Solano and Contra Costa counties, but we are also part of a national effort dedicated to bringing an end to hunger. Through this national work we find connections that are inspiring.

We were recently contacted by representatives of Elanco, a Greenfield, Ind.-based business that develops products to improve the health and food productivity of farm animals. A group of their international leadership was at a symposium in Napa, and Elanco’s corporate culture meant that a breakout session included a trip to the Food Bank so they could learn about the CalFresh (food stamp) program.

We discussed our overall work at the food bank and specifically the outreach we do trying to enroll more people in the CalFresh program.

The Elanco folks were given a WalMart gift card and went to the local store to try to buy food for their family for a week on a CalFresh budget. Although they shopped for values to stretch their dollars, they realized the challenges people face when they are using the CalFresh program.

The Elanco folks are scientists, well-educated, intelligent and knowledgeable about food and nutrition. It was a transformation for them to realize they could not have the food they wanted, but had to make tough choices about the food they needed and the nutritional value they wanted to reach.

Part of the work of both our Food Bank and Feeding America is to help people understand why hunger exists.

Because of the culture Elanco has, we now have 40 knowledgeable people talking to their friends about what the food stamp program means and the challenges people at risk of hunger face every day.

 

Hungry to finish the CalFresh Challenge

Originally posted in The Vacaville Reporter: As part of Hunger Action Month at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, I am now finishing my week of living on a CalFresh (formerly food stamp) budget.

I began living on $34.31 worth of groceries last Sunday, and am so looking forward to this coming Sunday, when every meal will no longer be a major decision in my life. For the people we serve, it is not a decision they can make as easily.

I learned from the CalFresh challenge that I am a terrible planner. I’m not good at grocery shopping anyway and am worse when I have to strictly pay attention to costs. Shopping on a budget is all about planning, so this was a challenge.

Couple that with a lack of imagination, and you have breakfast every day this week being a slice of toast and a piece of fruit. As part of the CalFresh Challenge, I agreed to not eat food served at events, to truly feel the limits of the budget. When I was the agency speaker at a United Way event with Wells Fargo leadership, I could have had a bagel and cream cheese with a nice plate of expensive fruit and, truly, if I were on food assistance, I would have.

Lunch has been yogurt, fruit, a carrot and a piece of cheese. Every day. Forget variety when the budget is tight.

Fried eggs with toasted bread was a filling Sunday night dinner. Bean burritos Monday night (with some greens). Chicken on Tuesday, with a salad. Home late from a meeting on Wednesday, so scrambled eggs (tortillas instead of bread). Black beans and toast on Thursday night because I had to hustle to an evening meeting.

So, my pattern seems to be lots of carbs and some protein. Good thing I’m getting fruit, because vegetables are not working into my limited cooking and food dollars.

I also wonder how a diet heavy on eggs and dairy products would work long-term, since I’m trying to limit cholesterol, but they are an affordable source of protein. I also realize that living on a CalFresh diet would require me to be more deliberate about grocery shopping. I’m sure I could find different options than the breakfast and lunch treadmill I am on, but it requires much more thought.

I am grateful to be able to stop making these tough food choices after a short week. I have gained empathy for the people who rely on CalFresh to help them access fresh, healthy food every month because, without it, many would go hungry.

If you are someone you know are in need of food assistance including CalFresh, please call the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano at 855-309-FOOD or visit us at www.foodbankccs.org/get-help.html.

The author is executive director of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, based in Concord.