Congressman George Miller visits Food Bank Distribution

What do you get when you put Congressman George Miller and a group of anti-hunger advocates in a room? A meaningful discussion about child nutrition programs!

With the Child Nutrition Reauthorization expiring at the end of September, Mr. Miller came to a Food For Children distribution to see what is happening on the ground. Did you know that one in nine children in Contra Costa and Solano counties live below the federal poverty level? That is just $18,000 per year for a family of three (US Census Bureau, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, November 2009). Or that the Food Bank is serving 35% more people than just two years ago? These are the kinds of facts that the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano executive director, Larry Sly, shared with Mr. Miller.

Once the congressman observed the distribution and had a chance to speak with some clients, he sat down with the group of advocates to talk about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Eric Manke (California Association of Food Banks), Sophie Milam (Feeding America), Paula James (Contra Costa Child Care Council), Ken Hecht (California Food Policy Advocates), Beverly Clark (WIC), and Lisa Sherrill and Larry Sly (Food Bank), all praised the congressman for his bill – HR.5504. This bill really addresses the access issues such as streamlining paperwork and expanding afterschool suppers which S.3307 does not do as well. (For a full comparison, download this one page fact sheet.) The concern of the group was where the funding for Mr. Miller’s bill is going to come from. The Senate version of the bill includes a $2.2 billion cut to benefits in the Food Stamp Program. Money should not come from one nutrition program to pay for another.

Larry Sly and Congressman Miller discuss the need in our community.

People in our community like first time food recipient, Brandon, are still very much in need. He says he is having trouble finding another position in customer service and the food from the Food Bank will help him stretch his limited dollars and feed his child. It takes all of these programs working together to make a difference in the lives of families in our community. You can help. Take a moment today to call your congressional representative (202 224-3121), let them know how great HR.5504 is and ask them to fully fund the bill without stealing from the Food Stamp Program.

On August 5, just hours before leaving town for summer recess, the Senate passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (S.3307).  The large portion of the bill was “paid for” when Senate leadership agreed to a $2.2 billion cut to benefits in the Food Stamp Program. The Senate bill also includes a $1.3 billion cut in the food stamp nutrition education program to offset the bill’s cost.

The House version of Child Nutrition Reauthorization, H.R. 5504, was passed out of committee on July 14.  The bill invests $8.5 billion in new spending for child nutrition programs and currently has not used any food stamp cuts to offset the cost. The Food Bank strongly supports the House bill and we are working with hunger advocates to get the House bill to be passed as soon as possible.

September will be an especially critical time for Child Nutrition Reauthorization, and it is likely that events will unfold at a rapid pace. For more information on how you can help, sign up for our e-news and be sure to check the Hunger Fighters (advocacy) box.

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