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FRAC Honors USDA Under Secretary

Thank You to Anti-Hunger Champion Kevin Concannon – FRAC Chat, January 19, 2017
FRAC President James Weill recently honored former Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services (USDA-FNS), Kevin Concannon. Weill noted his and USDA's "heroic effort," at the start of the Great Recession, to increase SNAP benefits, relax rules regarding able-bodied adults without dependents, increase outreach, and urge states to improve access and eligibility. By contrast, "hunger marches and small food riots were common throughout the nation" in the early years of the Depression. "There was great pain in the nation [during the recession], but magnitudes less than in the Depression," Weill concludes. "Much of the difference is due to FNS and to Kevin Concannon, and for that all Americans should be profoundly grateful."

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

In the Shopping Cart of a Food Stamp Household: Not What the New York Times Reported – TalkPoverty, January 16, 2017
The New York Times, in a recent article, maintained that a USDA report showed households on SNAP spent more on soda compared to other households. This “is directly contradicted by the report’s actual finding,” notes this article. The difference was a slight five percent versus four percent of a household’s grocery spending, and the article did not mention that USDA found the biggest difference in spending was on baby food. The Times article “reinforces an ‘us versus them’ narrative,” as research shows 70 percent of Americans will turn to a safety net program, such as SNAP, at some point in their lives. “Using a false and divisive narrative that suggests that such consumption is chiefly the purview of people who need to turn to nutrition assistance plays directly into harmful stereotypes, and risks undermining a critical program that protects nearly 5 million Americans from poverty each year.”
NOTE: The New York Times Public Editor ran a number of comments from readers criticizing the article in a similar fashion, including one from a former Times report: “This story is shaming food-stamp recipients for buying the same stuff all families do.” The Public Editor also wrote “I side with the readers on this one.”

Food stamps bill lesson: Find real solutions to poverty – The Tennessean, January 18, 2017
A bill in the Tennessee state legislature that banned the purchase of certain food items by SNAP recipients has been withdrawn by the legislator who introduced it. The bill’s approach “was a punitive one that was blind to the cost of fresh and healthy food, the prevalence of food deserts in impoverished areas both in urban and rural communities, transportation challenges and the lack of education on good nutrition,” notes this editorial.

Number of Nebraskans on food stamps rises for second year in a row, bucking national trend – Omaha World-Herald, January 16, 2017
Nebraska is one of 11 states with higher SNAP participation in 2016 than in 2015, due to increased outreach to eligible people, faster application processing, and sustained demand for nutrition assistance. A recent bill introduced in the state legislature would raise the gross income limit for SNAP eligibility from 130 percent of the federal poverty line to 185 percent, which would make more people eligible for benefits. SNAP recipients told the Omaha World-Herald that they need to help because of low-paying jobs and disabled family members.

Food stamp enrollment swells among elderly Minnesotans – Minneapolis Star Tribune, January 14, 2017
The fastest-growing segment of SNAP recipients in Minnesota are people 65 and over; since the end of the recession in 2009, the number of seniors on SNAP has nearly doubled in the state. Years of outreach and reforms, including a streamlined application process, have helped grow participation to 58 percent of eligible seniors. Nonprofits serving poor communities in the state report that seniors are struggling financially from high health care premiums and rent, but with smaller retirement savings.

Poverty in the U.S.

Kids Count report: Many area children living in poverty – News-Press, January 8, 2017
According to the Florida Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, more children in Collier and Lee counties live in poverty, are uninsured, and are overweight, compared to children statewide. In Florida, 49.4 percent of children are on SNAP, while 61 percent of children in Collier County, and 56 percent in Lee County, live in households relying on SNAP.

Poverty, economic inequality are big concerns for US mayors – Boston Globe, January 10, 2017
According to Boston University’s annual survey of 102 mayors from 41 states, mayors are highly concerned about economic challenges stemming from persistent wealth disparities along racial lines. The best strategy to combat poverty, according to 20 percent of mayors, is to make housing more affordable; education and job training programs are other key strategies, the mayors said.

The toll poverty takes on children’s mental health – CBS News, January 10, 2017
Children growing up poor are more likely to be at risk of antisocial and aggressive behavior, such as bullying, report researchers at Cornell University. A possible way of reducing exposure to stress in poor children is to boost family income through safety net programs, said study author Gary Evans, a professor of environmental and departmental psychology. “It’s not true you can’t do anything about poverty. It’s just whether there’s the political will, and are people willing to reframe the problem, instead of blaming the person who is poor and even more preposterous blaming their children,” said Evans.


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