The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is relieved congressional leaders and the administration reached a deal last week to temporarily re-open the federal government. However, we remain deeply concerned about the lasting impact this shutdown will have for federal workers and contractors, food assistance recipients, and emergency food providers like the Food Bank.
While federal workers will receive back pay, more than a million federal contract employees will not. This is a significant financial impact, as almost 10% of their yearly pay was lost during the shutdown. We anticipate that both federal workers and contractors will continue to need food assistance as they recover from this financial hurdle and brace for the possibility of another closure.
The uncertainty of the shutdown also caused an early issuance of February Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Families and individuals received February benefits on January 16. This has created a “SNAP gap” that is likely to cause significant financial strain for SNAP participants, who will go 40 to 60 days without a benefit payment. While the total amount of nutrition assistance will not change, the long gap between the availability of benefits will cause hardship for many households and further strain the emergency food assistance network.
SNAP typically provides families with about two to three weeks of food, and a third of all recipients already rely on food banks to make ends meet for the remainder of the month. In addition to creating a great amount of confusion, this prolonged gap between nutrition benefit payments will create an unprecedented strain on emergency food networks like ours.
There is also the very real concern that an agreement on a long-term spending bill may not be reached by February 15 and we could have another shutdown. If this occurs, the same budgetary provision used to pay out February benefits could be utilized to distribute April benefits early. While this may be necessary in order to ensure that people receive April benefits, it would create another straining and confusing SNAP gap. If the government were to shut down again for an extended period of time, May SNAP benefits would face an uncertain future.
The Food Bank is calling on the administration and Congress to reach a long-term compromise as soon as possible in order to allow the federal government to remain open and alleviate the stress, hunger, and hardship the partial shutdown has caused for millions of Americans.
Tell your elected officials today: the government MUST stay open. Every elected official – from the White House and halls of Congress to local and state leaders – needs to understand that nearly 40 million Americans’ food assistance is on the line if the government shuts down again.
Carly Finkle is the Policy and Advocacy Manager for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano
Last week the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that, despite the ongoing federal government shutdown, they will continue to fund federal nutrition programs through February.
The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is relieved that important benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as CalFresh), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and school meals will remain available for the time being to provide assistance to those who need it.
We are, however, deeply concerned about the fact that households in California already received their February CalFresh benefits today, January 15th. If the government does not reopen or specifically appropriate funds for nutrition assistance, there is not enough in federal reserves to cover the cost of March benefits.
If funds are available for March CalFresh benefits, families and individuals will still experience a significant gap in between their benefit payments. CalFresh typically provides families with about two to three weeks of food, and a third of all recipients already rely on food banks to make ends meet. In addition to creating a great amount of confusion, this prolonged gap between nutrition benefit payments will create an unprecedented strain on emergency food networks like ours.
For every meal our food bank provides, federal programs like CalFresh provide twelve.
Furthermore, as furloughed federal employees and contractors missed their first paycheck last week, we anticipate an increase in demand for food assistance from families and individuals who are experiencing hardship due to the shutdown. To help bridge the gap until the government reopens, furloughed workers and CalFresh households are eligible to receive food assistance from the Food Bank.
Unfortunately, during the shutdown the USDA will not be able to provide our food bank with funding to help offset the cost of distributing federally provided nonperishable goods into our community. This additional cost is not something anticipated in our budget and will be harder to cover over time.
The Food Bank is prepared to support the community through any crisis, and this shutdown is no different. However, we remain deeply concerned that demand will exceed our capacity if these critical programs do not continue to receive funds. Please call your members of Congress today and tell them to reopen the government immediately.
Take action and
- Call the Capitol switchboard and ask to be connected to your Representative or Senator (202) 224-3121
- Call the President (202) 456-1111
Submit a comment to the President: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/
As we sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, let’s think of the millions of Americans who don’t know where their next meal will come from — and the millions more who will be in the same predicament by next Thanksgiving if the president has his way.
Following Donald Trump’s unprecedented giveaway to billionaires and corporations, he lamented “a person who is not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off.”
He acted by attacking social safety-net programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the program formerly known as food stamps and now known in California as CalFresh. SNAP is the nation’s largest domestic food assistance program that gives financial support to families that cannot always afford to put food on the table.
The president and congressional Republicans are using the budget on this crusade to undermine SNAP. In his 2019 budget, President Trump proposes slashing SNAP by $17.2 billion, which would leave at least 4 million people hungry.
Republicans have also proposed funding cuts through reauthorization of the Farm Bill by trimming as much as $75 per month from monthly benefits for up to 1.1 million families.
Farm Bill negotiations are currently underway and, while we cannot predict the outcome, it is clear that House Republicans and the president are after a funding cut however they can get it. And they want to get this done before Democrats, who do not support these cuts, take over the majority in the House in January.
The administration is not leaving the cutting to Congress, though, and has proposed its own way to hinder the program. Currently, the rules of the program require all SNAP recipients who are able-bodied adults without dependents to be employed at least 20 hours a week. Recognizing regional differences in access to work, states or localities can apply for a waiver to this rule to decrease the hardship on families.
The administration proposes a rule change that would eliminate waivers altogether except in exceedingly rare circumstances. This change would go back on more than 20 years of precedent and would endanger benefits nationwide.
California had a statewide waiver for nearly a decade before it expired this year, but most counties still have individual waivers. By this time in 2019, 52 of the state’s 58 counties could still be covered by waivers. Those counties would be in danger of losing those waivers if the administration’s rule change goes into effect. Further, if the state goes through another economic downturn, it would be at risk of not qualifying for future waivers.
The administration’s proposal is still in draft form, but it is almost universally recognized that the administration will wield its power to see this through in one form or another. It could take months or longer to go into effect.
While work is the best path to self-sufficiency, threatening someone with hunger is cruel and in no way incentivizes employment. Our duty as a nation is to provide for all Americans and ensure that they can live healthy and successful lives. Federal nutrition programs reflect that commitment.
Rather than cutting funding and imposing arbitrary requirements, we should invest in job training and workforce development while also protecting successful safety-net programs like CalFresh. With additional support, we will see much more success in assisting families to enter the workforce and attain well-paying jobs, which in the long term can help them transition off CalFresh when they are ready.
The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano has already facilitated two community-wide meetings on the topic and local community colleges are poised to roll out employment and training programs on their campuses early next year.
This holiday season, I am grateful to live in a community that is already coming together to protect our most vulnerable residents. We must all continue to fight Trump’s policies and protect nutrition programs and those they serve so that everyone can enjoy a plentiful Thanksgiving — this year and all the years to come.
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, represents most of Contra Costa County.
CONCORD, September 23, 2018 — The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano strongly opposes the proposed public charge rule announced this weekend by the Department of Homeland Security. This proposal would make it extremely difficult for many immigrants to come to the U.S. or receive green cards if they are determined likely to become a “public charge,” which would include using public benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as CalFresh).
This proposed rule targets low-income immigrant families that legally access benefits to help meet their basic needs, but it has had widespread chilling effect throughout the immigrant community. Over the past month, 1 in 5 individuals approached by the Food Bank’s SNAP outreach workers have declined to apply for food assistance due to immigration fears.
Our staff have even heard from naturalized U.S. citizens – who would never be impacted by this policy – asking to terminate SNAP benefits for themselves and their citizen children out of fear that it may affect their immigration status. Whether this proposal directly targets them or not, the threat of public charge is forcing immigrants to make impossible choices between keeping their families together and accessing vital programs that safeguard their health and well-being.
Only 71.8% of eligible Californians actually use SNAP benefits, and anti-immigrant proposals like this threaten our local efforts to improve program access and participation. Every $1 in SNAP generates $1.79 in economic activity, and the program has long-term benefits for participating children’s health and economic outcomes. Public charge threatens the nutrition, health and shared prosperity of our communities.
The Food Bank has joined the national Protecting Immigrant Families campaign to help mobilize the public to condemn this attack on our nation’s health and well-being. We will soon share model comments to submit to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. We urge you to join us in denouncing this mean-spirited proposal, which will undermine decades of progress in reducing hunger in this country.
La norma propuesta de Carga Pública quebrantaría los esfuerzos para combatir el hambre y la pobreza
El Banco de Comida de Contra Costa y Solano se opone fuertemente a la propuesta de ley cargo público, anunciada por el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional. Esta propuesta haría que sea extremadamente difícil para muchos inmigrantes venir a Los Estados Unidos o recibir tarjetas de residencia si se determina que se convertirán en una carga pública, lo que incluiría el uso de beneficios públicos como el programa de nutrición suplementaria (SNAP, también conocido como CalFresh.)
Esta nueva propuesta se dirige a las familias de inmigrantes de bajos ingresos que tienen acceso legalmente a los beneficios para ayudar a satisfacer sus necesidades básicas, pero tiene un efecto de escalofrió generalizado en toda la comunidad inmigrante. Durante el último mes, 1 de cada 5 individuos a los que se acercaron los trabajadores de programa SNAP del Banco de Comida se han negado a solicitar asistencia alimentaria debido a los temores de inmigración.
Nuestro personal incluso ha escuchado a ciudadanos estadounidenses naturalizados, que nunca se verán afectados por esta política, pidiendo que se terminen los beneficios de SNAP para ellos y sus hijos ciudadanos por temor a que pueda afectar a su estado migratorio. Si esta propuesta se dirige directamente a ellos o no, la amenaza de la carga publica está forzando a los inmigrantes a tomar decisiones entre mantener a sus familias unidas y tener acceso a programas vitales para proteger su salud y bienestar.
Solo 71.8% de los Californianos elegibles realmente usan los beneficios de SNAP, y las propuestas antiinmigrantes como esta amenazan nuestros esfuerzos locales para mejorar el acceso y la participación en el programa. Cada $1 en SNAP genera $1.79 en actividad económica y el programa tiene beneficios a largo plazo para la salud y los resultados económicos de los niños participantes. La carga pública amenaza la nutrición, la salud y la prosperidad de nuestras comunidades.
El Banco de Comida se ha unido a la Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign para ayudar a movilizar al público para condenar este ataque a la salud y el bienestar de nuestra nación. Pronto compartiremos los comentarios modelo para presentarlos al Departamento de Seguridad Nacional. Le invitamos a que se una a nosotros para denunciar esta propuesta, que quebrantaría décadas de progreso en la reducción del hambre en el país.
The Food Bank’s efforts to help during Northern California’s unprecedented fire season have been ongoing. The unpredictable nature of fire means things change quickly, but we have a team helping whenever and wherever we can be of assistance.
In case you missed our prior updates, you can catch up by checking our Facebook posts on August 9, August 24 and August 31. Though the CARR fire is finally 100% contained, the devastation remains and many residents remain displaced. One of our staff members deployed to the area reported back that “people are tired–VERY TIRED, the air is bad and smells of toxic chemicals.” She explained that even though the conditions are really hard–with an almost unbearable combination of heat and poor air quality–people are so very thankful that we are there for them.
Early on, we sent CalFresh outreach workers to the Redding area to help people affected by the fires apply for Disaster CalFresh. This federal program helps victims meet the temporary nutritional needs within a 30-day period following a natural disaster. Many of the people we met with were initially unclear about the benefits and assumed that they would not qualify because they aren’t eligible for traditional CalFresh. After we dispelled myths and clarified half-truths, people were surprised and relieved at the potential for benefits. Many spoke of complete loss and while CalFresh won’t replace everything in their refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, they were grateful for our outreach assistance.
Moving forward, here’s the latest update on our fire relief efforts:
- Late last week it was decided that we’d continue weekly food distributions to Dignity Health Connected Living agencies through October to assist in the CARR fire recovery AND continue weekly food distributions to two low-income schools in Shasta County.
- We are receiving, processing and transporting emergency boxes from Feeding America, as well as donations of cereal and shelf-stable groceries from Kellogg’s and C&S Wholesale Grocers.
- We are donating and sending produce to the affected area.
- We are continuing to send staff to oversee these distributions in Redding.
- We are also communicating with agencies serving the Shasta and Siskiyou counties to see how we can help with the Delta fire AND with officials in Napa County to offer aid with the Snell Fire.
It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we all work together for a common goal. Whether it’s fighting chronic hunger, or responding to a natural disaster, the Food Bank is prepared to help our neighbors get the food they need.
In a historic budget agreement signed by the Governor on June 27th, the state of California is finally easing hunger for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients. This 2018-19 budget deal will allow Californians on SSI to qualify for CalFresh nutrition assistance beginning in mid-2019.
SSI is a safety net program that provides a minimal basic income to older adults and people with disabilities who have little-to-no other income and resources. Although the maximum income grant for an individual is just $910.72 a month, SSI recipients have been ineligible for CalFresh, formerly known as food stamps, since the 1970s.
During the Great Recession in 2009 and 2010, the state of California cut its contribution to SSI grants down to the minimum amount allowed by the federal government and stopped automatically adjusting for inflation. The maximum individual benefit now stands at less than 90% of the federal poverty line.
After nearly a decade without meaningful restorations to this program, the 2018-19 budget finally lifts the ban on CalFresh and reinstates annual cost-of-living adjustments. Although the base grants still need to be brought up above the poverty line, the addition of CalFresh benefits will have an enormous impact for the 1.3 million Californians on SSI.
“So many SSI recipients try to apply for CalFresh because they just can’t afford food on their fixed incomes,” says Lidia Gutierrez, CalFresh Outreach Coordinator at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. “But I always have to tell them, ‘no you aren’t eligible.’ These are our elders and people with disabilities and they are hungry.”
The state estimates that a single adult on SSI will likely qualify for $171 a month in CalFresh benefits.
“To get CalFresh means that I would have enough to actually make it through the month,” says Edward Williams, a 77-year-old Richmond resident who receives SSI. “I would have more money to buy simple things, like laundry detergent, that I normally wouldn’t have enough money for because I would need to use that money for food.”
With the current CalFresh ban still in place, most SSI recipients turn to community-based organizations like food banks just to survive. Nearly 1 in 4 households served by the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano includes an SSI recipient.
Janet Ternes, a 70-year-old SSI recipient from San Pablo, relies on the Food Bank’s Senior Food Program to stretch her limited budget. “They give me vegetables and canned foods and dried foods [at the Food Bank,] and I can only afford to go to Grocery Outlet for the rest. If it wasn’t for the Food Bank, I don’t know what I’d do,” she says.
The new state budget also provides food banks with $8 million to purchase California-grown foods and another $5.5 million to support distribution capacity by investing in trucks, refrigerators, and other infrastructure. Because CalFresh benefits won’t be available to SSI recipients for about a year, due to necessary administrative preparations, the $13.5 million designated for California food banks will help meet SSI recipients’ food needs in the meantime. Food bank distributions are open to anyone in need, but SSI recipients in particular will benefit from this investment since so many rely on food banks as their primary source of food.
Finally, because a monthly income of $910.72 doesn’t even come close to the cost of a market-rate studio apartment in the Bay Area, this budget will provide additional relief to some SSI recipients through $500 million in grants for California cities to address homelessness.
On the whole, this budget takes significant steps to address the urgent poverty SSI recipients experience in California. The state still needs to restore the cuts to the base grant so people can meet their basic needs, like housing and medicine, but at least hunger will be less of a constant threat. We commend the legislature and Governor Brown for passing a budget that both saves for a future rainy day and offers an umbrella to those for whom it is already raining.
To support grassroots solutions to hunger, the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano has piloted the Speaker Series. This advocacy-training program for community members with lived experiences of hunger is designed to lift up the voices of real people facing hunger issues so they can become agents for change in their community.
The Food Bank‘s inaugural Speaker Series kicked off in 2017 with the Vallejo-based food pantry Faith Food Fridays and Toastmasters International. This year the Food Bank and Toastmasters co-hosted the Speaker Series with the financial services nonprofit SparkPoint Contra Costa in Bay Point.
The 3-month program consists of weekly workshops on public speaking, advocacy, and civic engagement. The participants come together to share their stories of hunger and build a community of hunger fighters.
Patricia Romero-Aguasvivas, a graduate from the first Speaker Series class, returned as a facilitator and encouraged others to speak out against hunger. “I decided to come back because after participating in last year’s series, I had a real feeling of empowerment,” she said. “I felt confident in talking about something that is so personal to me…and advocating towards ending hunger.”
Graduates from both Speaker Series attended Hunger Action Day in May in Sacramento to put their advocacy skills to work. Participants met face-to-face with their state elected officials, shared their personal stories of hunger and called for the passage of public policies that support food access and economic security.
Community members and elected officials attending June’s release of the Food Bank’s Hunger Study results also heard from some of the graduates of the Speaker Series as they described what it’s really like to be food insecure.
“It’s more powerful for an elected official to hear directly from those who are personally affected by hunger and poverty,” said Mary Ann Buggs, Advocacy & Community Engagement Coordinator at the Food Bank. “It puts a face on the issues. That’s what these graduates are able to accomplish.”
This year’s graduating class more than tripled in size, growing from 4 to 14! Jesse Alvarez, a senior and disabled veteran from Antioch who graduated from this year’s Speaker Series wants to see the program continue to grow. “It helped me to be confident in myself, fine tune my speaking skills, and become a positive influence in all aspects of life,” he said. “I am a proud advocate against hunger.”
Did you know that 1 in 8 members of our community turns to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano each month? The Food Bank supports neighbors from all walks of life and in all corners of our community.
Emergency food assistance is essential, but it isn’t enough. The Food Bank can’t solve the issue of hunger alone. We need YOU to join us in speaking out against hunger and advocating for policies to help eradicate it.
Each year the Food Bank participates in Hunger Action Day, a statewide day of organizing to raise awareness of the issue of hunger and work toward real solutions. We join hundreds of passionate Californians in calling on our elected officials to partner with us to end hunger and poverty.
This year Hunger Action Day will take place on Wednesday, May 16th. The Food Bank will rent a bus to Sacramento and fill it with Food Bank staff, volunteers, Board Members, food assistance recipients, community partners, and concerned neighbors just like you.
On a daily basis, the Food Bank provides free nutritious groceries to seniors struggling to get by on fixed incomes, college students working toward their degrees, families trying to keep up with rising rents, and individuals who have lost their housing. We work with community partners including senior centers, soup kitchens, school pantries, and churches to meet people where they are at, but we know that we still aren’t reaching everyone in need.
That’s why we gather with anti-hunger advocates on Hunger Action Day in front of the capitol for a rally in the morning where we hear from community leaders, elected officials, and food assistance recipients about the urgency of ending hunger. We will finish the day by having meetings directly with the state elected officials that represent us in Contra Costa County to ask them to use their power to pass anti-hunger policies.
Hunger Action Day on Wednesday, May 16th will be a full day of action – we typically leave the Food Bank in Concord at 7:00am and return by 5:00pm. In 2016, we brought a crowd of 15; in 2017, we doubled that to a group of 30…could you help us double in size again to reach 60 this year?
Mark the date in your calendar and RSVP this month to reserve your seat on the bus and guarantee a free lunch, snacks, and Hunger Action Day t-shirt! Please reach out to Carly Finkle, Advocacy Manager at the Food Bank, with any questions you may have or to confirm your attendance: [email protected] or 925-849-8361. See you there!
At a time of year associated with holiday cheer and sharing, we know there are too many families and individuals in our community who struggle with proper nutrition; not just with getting enough to eat, but lack of access to good healthy choices. It’s an issue of food insecurity that affects far more people than you might expect, ranging from those who are low income or unemployed to college students.
That is why John Muir Health, the John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund and Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano believe it is so important to commit time and resources to both encourage and enable healthy lifestyles centered on proper nutrition. Improving nutritional choices and habits are not only humane endeavors, they improve the overall health of our communities.
This month, John Muir Health made a $35,000 holiday contribution to the Food Bank, and has contributed nearly $300,000 since our partnership began. This commitment stems from the direct relationship between fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables and good health.
Our partnership centers on the Food Bank’s Community Produce Program, which gives local residents in underserved communities the opportunity to incorporate fresh fruit and vegetables into their daily diets. Together, we’re working to replace meals loaded with fat and salt with healthy food that will help counter chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease.
Through John Muir Health’s funding support, the John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund awarded a series of grants, totaling $725,000, to support the Food Bank that allowed for the hiring of a nutrition educator and the purchase of a customized truck that serves as a rolling produce market for the Community Produce Program. This support has helped to expand and improve the Food Bank’s produce distribution to more than 50 sites every month, and has developed greater access to, and acceptance and understanding of the value of eating fresh fruits and vegetables.
With one in eight Contra Costa and Solano County residents relying on emergency and supplemental meals from the Food Bank, we must do even more. About half of the individuals who are eligible for CalFresh, a federal nutrition assistance program that effectively pulls families out of poverty, do not apply for benefits. Thus, we are working with Contra Costa County and other agencies to help increase enrollment in CalFresh. Together, we are increasing both the number of applications and approval of those applications, which is significantly increasing access to basic food supplies for those who need it.
We’re also acutely aware that many college students, especially those who must provide for their families, face food insecurity. That’s why we are actively collaborating to expand and improve food pantries that operate on the California State University, East Bay campus in Concord and on the Los Medanos Community College campus in Pittsburg. With high housing costs and the cost of education, there are far too many reports of students going hungry. We need this to change, and this pilot initiative is making a difference.
The holiday season is a time to gather with family and friends. It’s also a time of great generosity and giving to those most in need. The Community Produce Program, the College Food Pantry Initiative and many other Food Bank programs contribute to a healthy community not just during the holidays, but year-round. Together, we are encouraging healthier eating habits and better overall health. Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!
Larry Sly, executive director of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano
Stephanie, Merrell, director of Community Health Improvement, John Muir Health
Lillian Roselin, executive director of the John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund
Food assistance needed without fear
As part of the response plan for Hurricane Harvey, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published a joint press release encouraging community members to seek emergency assistance without the fear of immigration action. The statement clarified that, “routine non-criminal immigration enforcement operations will not be conducted at evacuation sites, or assistance centers such as shelters or food banks.”
Assurances like this are essential to calm fears and maintain access to critical services.
Unfortunately, confusion and fear around the issue of immigration have caused some local families to feel that it is no longer safe to use needed services available in our community.
The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano believes the Department of Homeland Security can prevent unnecessary hunger by expanding the scope of this commitment. We urge them to issue guidance that includes food distribution sites on the list of sensitive locations protected from routine immigration enforcement actions. Everyone should feel safe receiving nutrition assistance, not just those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
The Department of Homeland Security established that its emergency response priorities are “to promote life-saving and life-sustaining activities,” but not all emergencies are caused by natural disasters. Food banks across the country provide life-saving and life-sustaining services every single day for families coping with personal emergencies, like a sudden illness or the loss of a job.
The Food Bank and our partner agencies provide food to anyone in need. As a private nonprofit, we do not ask and are not required to report the legal status of anyone we serve. However widespread worries and misconceptions about new immigration policies have led some families to avoid our services.
The number of clients at Food Bank distributions has decreased since November, with the sharpest decline in January. Caitlin Sly, Program Director at the Food Bank, explains that, “immigration fears undoubtedly play a role in the drop we’re seeing at distributions and in applications for federal nutrition assistance. People are afraid to seek out the help they need.”
We recently met a woman at a distribution in Fairfield who was picking up food for herself and another family. She explained that her neighbors stopped coming to that site because of their immigration status; the parents were afraid and barely left their home at all. Worried that her neighbor’s children were going without food, she offered to bring home an extra bag for them. Not everyone is lucky enough to have such concerned neighbors.
Another woman in Concord shared with our staff that she decided to homeschool her 18 year-old son during his senior year of high school. Although he had protected status under the DREAM Act at that time, his mother was afraid that going to public school in this political climate was too risky. She said she would rather her son miss out on the free lunches he got at school than risk deportation.
The Food Bank encourages all public leaders, from local city council members to the Director of Homeland Security, to help fight hunger. We urge them to address barriers to food access created by the climate of fear and uncertainty. Everyone deserves the reassurance that the victims of Hurricane Harvey have received – that there will be no repercussions for seeking out food assistance.
No one should be hungry, especially when resources like the Food Bank are available.
The president released his proposed FY 2018 budget this month that calls for $193 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next decade. These deep cuts represent a 25 percent reduction in funding, a move that would increase hunger and deepen poverty for millions of Americans already struggling to make ends meet. About 67,000 individuals in Contra Costa County and 40,000 in Solano County relied on federally-funded SNAP benefits each month of 2016 – about half of whom were children.
In an effort to reduce federal spending on SNAP, the budget both cuts vital nutrition funding and pushes costs onto states—an historic shift that would permanently alter SNAP’s entitlement structure and abandon our nation’s long-standing bi-partisan commitment to combat hunger. The current structure of SNAP allows the program to flexibly expand and contract its caseload based on need, ensuring that benefits are available to anyone who qualifies. The proposed changes, however, would require states to pay for 25 percent of benefits that are currently fully funded by the federal government.
Restructuring SNAP’s program structure would require California to absorb $1.8 billion annually in SNAP benefit costs. Such cost-shifting measures would undermine SNAP’s efficiency, flexibility, and reach—particularly in times of economic recession.
The budget proposal also targets low-income seniors and the working poor by proposing to eliminate the minimum monthly SNAP benefit of $16. This would result in 110,000 individuals in California being kicked off the program, the vast majority of whom are seniors living on Social Security and low-income workers who use SNAP to supplement their earnings. Eliminating the minimum benefit would also cause the state to lose $14 million each month in SNAP benefits that currently flow into local economies and support food retailers and farmers.
The president’s budget contains a number of other harmful proposals that would increase hunger, restrict eligibility and reduce benefits for California’s low-income families. These threats including time limiting SNAP benefits for childless workers in areas of high unemployment, benefit caps for large SNAP households, and prohibiting California and other states with high costs of living from assisting families with incomes over 130 percent of the federal poverty line.
These proposed cuts to SNAP would force even more Americans to rely on emergency food assistance providers like food banks, but the president’s budget proposes $27 million in cuts to these charitable organizations. The federal Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) provides local organizations with dried and canned food items, representing more than 13% of all pounds distributed by the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano last year.
“There is no way that food banks and other charities could replace the proposed billions in cuts to SNAP benefits,” says Caitlin Sly, Program Director at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. “Food banks are a complement, not a substitute, to the safety net.” Only 1 in 20 emergency assistance meals are provided by nonprofits, the rest flow through federal nutrition programs like SNAP.
The budget proposal also includes cuts of $627 billion from Medicaid, $21 billion from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, also known as Welfare-to-Work), and $72 billion from Social Security programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) that support low-income seniors and people with disabilities.
The president’s budget sends the message that hunger is an acceptable outcome in America. The Food Bank is urging Congress to oppose any budget proposal that goes back on our decades-long commitment to eradicate hunger and support a bi-partisan budget deal that invests in the health and nutrition of nation’s most vulnerable residents.