Issue #18, May 9, 2016

It’s Older Americans Month. In case you missed it, head to the FRAC Chat blog to read our interview with Secretary Vilsack on connecting seniors to SNAP and more. 

Child Nutrition Reauthorization

House Republican proposal would make it harder for poor schools to feed their students – The Washington Post, May 2, 2016
Congressional conservatives on the Education and the Workforce Committee may soon vote to restrict community eligibility, which would “substantially [increase] administrative burdens in more than 7,000 schools and [threaten] 3.4 million students’ access to school meals,” write Jared Bernstein and Ben Speilberg of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in this op-ed. “[T]he overall savings…over 10 years wouldn’t come close to offsetting the administrative burden, increased social stigma for low-income students, and negative health and academic effects[.]” Proposing unnecessary modifications to community eligibility in the bill, Republicans are also arguing that they want to reduce administrative burden. “If [they] really mean what they say, they should oppose this harsh proposal,” conclude Bernstein and Speilberg. 

House Republicans Want to Diminish Number of Free and Reduced Lunches for Millions of Low-income Students – Atlanta Black Star, April 28, 2016
House Republicans introduced on April 20 the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016. If enacted, the bill could leave millions of students who rely on the free and reduced-price school lunch programs as their only source of nutrition without a daily meal. Food Research & Action Center President Jim Weill said in a news release, “We will continue to urge the House Education and Workforce Committee and Congress to put our nation’s children first and legislate improvements to the child nutrition programs, not changes that will hurt children by reducing their access to nutritious meals, leaving them hungrier and less ready to learn.”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP

State opens center to assist with benefind troubles – The Gleaner, April 29, 2016
Kentucky launched a computer system – “benefind” – on February 29 as a one-stop shop for public benefits like SNAP, but the system created errors, with many SNAP recipients reporting loss of benefits. To deal with the problems and a backlog of claims, the state set up a temporary phone center staffed by 100 state workers, working eight hours a day processing cases and speeding up the system. Telephone wait times in the hours left many clients frustrated, but the state now reports that wait times are down as the call volume has dropped from 900 per day to 200 per day.

AT&T access now available to area SNAP participants – Tahlequah Daily Press, May 1, 2016
Households with at least one member receiving SNAP benefits can now get home internet service from AT&T at a discounted rate, with installation and equipment fees waived. SNAP households in the 21 states where AT&T offers home internet service are eligible for the discounts and waived fees. More information is available online at att.com/access, or by calling 1-855-220-5211.

Summer Food Service Program

To Your Health: Summer meals program provides important service –News-Gazette, May 3, 2016
Free summer meals through the Summer Food Service Program provide nutrition to children when school is out and help low-income families who find their budgets stretched during the summer. In Illinois, 38 percent of food-insecure individuals are children less than 18 years old, yet only 15 percent of children receiving subsidized school meals also receive free summer meals, according to FRAC. The Illinois Hunger Coalition Hunger Hotline (1-800-359-2163) provides information on local summer meal sites, and USDA’s website fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks has a mapping tool indicating sites in the state and across the country.

Hunger in the U.S.

Report shows more Missourians experiencing hunger, biggest increase in country – St. Louis Today, April 27, 2016
“Missouri households are the hungriest they have been in decades,” said Sandy Rikoon, director of the MU Interdisciplinary Center for Food Insecurity and co-author of a new report showing that eight percent of households in the state were hungry at some point during the last year. In addition, one in five children in the state live in food-insecure households. “It’s not people making poor decisions, it’s people making hard decisions and facing trade-offs between medicine and meat or between rent and red beans,” said Rikoon.

Store hours an obstacle to fresh foods in low-income area – Medical News Today, April 29, 2016
New research from The Ohio State University has found that stores with more likelihood to sell fresh produce are not open as long in areas with more socioeconomic struggles, and that problem is more pronounced in neighborhoods where many African-Americans live. In affluent neighborhoods, 24-7 access to a wide array of foods is far more common. “It’s just another burden that we are placing on families that already have so many burdens,” said Jill Clark, an assistant professor in Ohio State’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs.

Economic Recovery

Where Did the Government Jobs Go? – The New York Times, May 1, 2016
The government lost 323,000 since the beginning of the recession, compared to the five million jobs the private sector added; while the country is recovering, public employment has not recovered from the recession. Decreases in state tax revenues led to thousands of layoffs for public sector employees, a burden felt disproportionately by blacks, and especially women. Public sector jobs have long been associated with lifting people into, and keeping them in, the middle class, much as the blue-collar jobs did during the postwar years. 

How to Prepare for the Next Recession – New York Times, April 29, 2016
The Federal Reserve Board has often been relied upon to act as the principal recession fighter, but due to already low interest rates, when the next downturn rolls around, the Fed’s ability to further decrease rates will unlikely get much traction. To mitigate hardship, it would be prudent to strengthen programs such as SNAP, which can expand when the economy is weak and contract when the economy is on its way to recovery, and do so without congressional action. Congress should enhance SNAP to ensure that such an expansion kicks in automatically when certain economic indicators are breached. What drives the long-term deficit are not the automatic responders, which get into and out of the system relatively quickly; it’s permanent tax cuts, or new spending that isn’t paid for.

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