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The Weekly Food Research and Action Center News Digest highlights what's new on hunger, nutrition and poverty issues at FRAC, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, around the network of national, state and local anti-poverty and anti-hunger organizations, and in the media. The Digest will alert you to trends, reports, news items and resources and, when available, link you directly to them.
Issue #45, December 3, 2013
- White House Releases Report Critical of SNAP Cuts
- Thanksgiving 2013: Another Day of Worry for Households Struggling with Hunger
- Proposed SNAP Cuts Would Cause Huge Spike in Hunger
- New Campaign Aims Anti-Hunger Message At Congress
- Food Banks Struggle with Increased Need After SNAP Boost Ended November 1
- Editorial: Food Banks Can’t Replace SNAP Benefits
- Latinos Particularly At-Risk for Hunger Should Congressional SNAP Cuts Be Approved
- Hunger Has Negative Effect on Job Performance
- Governors Urge Congress to Increase Heating Assistance Program Funding
1. White House Releases Report Critical of SNAP Cuts
(MarketWatch, November 26, 2013; CNN Money, November 26, 2013)
As Congress left for Thanksgiving recess without passing a Farm Bill, the White House issued a report titled Supporting Families, Strengthening Communities: The Economic Importance of Nutrition Assistance (pdf) detailing economic benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The report criticizes the SNAP cuts proposed in the Farm Bill, stating the House version of the bill would remove 3.8 million low-income people from the program. “The cuts…would greatly harm families struggling to find work and those that depend on low-wage jobs as the economy continues to recover,” states the report. Households with children make up 70 percent of SNAP recipients, and children account for 45 percent of SNAP recipients, according to the White House. “It won’t be helpful if they decide to cut back on food stamps next year, which is one of our most effective anti-poverty programs,” said Ken Rogoff, a Harvard University professor and economist. The House Farm Bill proposes $40 billion in SNAP cuts, and the Senate version proposes $4 billion in cuts.
2. Thanksgiving 2013: Another Day of Worry for Households Struggling with Hunger
(Diane Rehm Show, November 26, 2013)
FRAC President Jim Weill joined representatives of anti-hunger programs across the country* to discuss the proposed billions in cuts to SNAP Congress is considering, and the skyrocketing number of requests for assistance that food banks across the country are experiencing as the holiday season approaches in the wake of the November 1 cut in benefits. Weill said “"anti-hunger activists around the country, particularly in the southern states, need to talk to their members of congress more, even if it seems like a daunting task." Celia Cole, CEO of the Texas Food Bank Network, said “[w]hat we really want right now is for people to use their voice…Charity cannot make up for the loss of SNAP benefits.”
*Jerry Hagstrom, founder and executive editor of The Hagstrom Report, columnist for National Journal; Triada Stampas, senior director of government relations, Food Bank for New York City; Terri Stangl, executive director, The Center for Civil Justice, in Flint and Saginaw, Michigan; Reverend Derrick Harkins, senior pastor, The Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.; Celia Cole, CEO, Texas Food Bank Network.
3. Proposed SNAP Cuts Would Cause Huge Spike in Hunger
(PBS News Hour, November 25, 2013)
The spike in calls for assistance that Hunger Free Colorado has experienced since the November 1 SNAP cut will pale in comparison to the need if Congress approves additional cuts to the program, according to Kathy Underhill, the organization’s executive director. “It would really change the entire landscape of America if the $40 billion cuts went through,” she said. “You would be looking at the prevalence of hunger and malnutrition spiking incredibly.” There would be a huge negative impact on the economy, as grocers would need fewer employees, in addition to fewer product purchases and “fewer trucks moving that product…it has this whole rippling effect that would be quite profound.” Since the November 1 cut, Metro CareRing in Colorado has seen a spike in requests for assistance. “Since November 1 at Metro CareRing, we have seen…longer lines at our facility,” said Lynne Butler, the organization’s director. “We’re certain it’s because of the decrease in benefits. Since November 1, lines have been down the block.”
4. New Campaign Aims Anti-Hunger Message At Congress
(The Daily Beast, November 28, 2013)
As millions of Americans on SNAP head into the holiday season with fewer program dollars to spend on food, and proposed Farm Bill changes would cut the nutrition assistance program even more, a campaign asks Members of Congress “who should go hungry?” The House and Senate are attempting to reconcile their different versions of the Farm Bill in conference committee; both versions would cut billions from SNAP. “It’s outrageous they’re still considering $4 to $8 to $10 billion in cuts in the conference committee,” said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, which launched the campaign website. The cuts “will create real hardships,” said Weill.
5. Food Banks Struggle with Increased Need After SNAP Boost Ended November 1
(MSNBC.com, November 25, 2013; The New York Times, November 25, 2013)
In New York City, the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, which runs the largest food pantry in the city, has seen a 35 percent increase in clients since November 1, when the economic recovery act’s boost to SNAP benefits ended. When staff alerted Dr. Melony Samuels, the organization’s head, that the food pantry’s shelves were nearly bare because of increased demand, Dr. Samuels had to call donors and food banks to help restock the shelves. In Queens, the River Fund food pantry reported a rise in client visits from between 600 and 700 on a typical Saturday to 824 clients requesting food on a recent Saturday, according to Otto Starzmann, the pantry’s chief production officer. Before the SNAP cuts, recipients were able to stretch their benefits to the third week of the month. Now, they’re seeking help from emergency food providers sooner, as food pantries are already struggling to meet increased need before the holiday season. “Thanksgiving is always a busy time for us,” said Margarette Purvis, CEO of the Food Bank for New York City. “This year it’s a little different. I’m watching soup kitchen and pantry managers make very difficult decisions.” Many are seeing shortages of food for Thanksgiving, according to Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. Naquashia LeGrand, a New York native, said that her household may have to go without Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, as the family can’t afford the big meal. The New York Coalition Against Hunger estimates that the November 1 SNAP cut means a loss of $29 a month, or 20 individual meals for a family of three receiving SNAP in New York City.
6. Editorial: Food Banks Can’t Replace SNAP Benefits
(NJ.com, November 21, 2013)
The November 1 SNAP cut amounts to $90 million in reduced benefits a year for 873,000 people in New Jersey, or 10 percent of the state, with a large majority of those people including children, seniors and the working poor. “We can’t make up the slack for that,” said Diane Riley, advocacy director for the Community Foodbank. Food banks are in place to help people avoid hunger during emergencies, but are now being called on to provide food to people after their unemployment and SNAP benefits run out, usually before the end of the month, notes this editorial. “It’s an unsustainable demand.” SNAP, however, “is a near-perfect economic stimulus.” SNAP dollars are spent in communities, contributing to growth and creating jobs; the program also helps prevent deeper poverty. “Well-fed children perform better in school, increasing future earning power,” notes the editorial. Yet Congress is considering cutting SNAP by $40 billion (House of Representatives), or $4 billion (Senate). “In either case, they’re voting for people to go hungry,” the editorial concludes. “If Washington expect[s] its cuts will be covered by charity…they may find the food banks will collapse under the weight.”
7. Latinos Particularly At-Risk for Hunger Should Congressional SNAP Cuts Be Approved
(Bread for the World, November 26, 2013)
The Latino community is 16.9 percent of the U.S. population, but 25 percent of Latino families with children suffer from food insecurity. “This is unacceptable,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, which released its annual analysis on hunger and poverty in the Latino community. “It is unconscionable that lawmakers would consider cutting programs that are essential to helping people provide for their families at a time when so many Americans continue to suffer the ongoing impacts of the recession.” Programs such as SNAP, the earned income and child tax credits, and WIC helped decrease the number of Latinos in food-insecure households between 2012 and 2013. In a report released a day prior – Hunger Report 2014: Ending Hunger in America -- Bread for the World cites investing in human capital, job creation and strengthening the safety net as strategies for ending hunger in America by 2030. “Job creation and a focus on spurring economic growth will help many families climb out of poverty,” said Beckmann.
8. Hunger Has Negative Effect on Job Performance
(Bloomberg, November 25, 2013)
Every morning, Olivia Solis, an unemployed mother of three, asks herself how the rent will be paid, and how to make a meal with what food she has – and those questions are tougher to answer since her SNAP benefits were cut on November 1. “If people are very anxious and feeling insecure economically, their performance on the job is going to be affected,” said Isabel Sawhill, senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institute. “And if children from low-income families are not given an opportunity to climb the ladder, we are going to continue to have a lot of social problems and low productivity.” According to a 2011 report from the Center for American Progress, hunger costs at least $167.5 billion each year in lost economic productivity and earnings, as well as the health care expenses caused by poor nutrition, and charity costs in keeping families fed. Harry Holzer, public policy professor at Georgetown University, and a former Labor Department chief economist, said hunger’s effects on children could result in higher high school dropout rates or a range of behavioral problems. “The lost potential of folks is just impossible to calculate,” said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Hungry children, said Berg, are sicker more often and have higher rates of educational problems. Without SNAP, the poverty rate for children would be 21 percent instead of 18 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
9. Governors Urge Congress to Increase Heating Assistance Program Funding
(The Boston Globe, November 26, 2013)
Governors from 13 states joined Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in urging Congress to increase funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The program “is a critical bridge for Americans – many of them elderly, disabled or caring for dependent children – who otherwise may be forced to choose between paying home energy bills and paying for food, medicine, or other essentials,” wrote the governors in a letter to Senate and House funding committees. High energy costs, coupled with the lingering effects of the recession, cause millions of Americans to rely on LIHEAP to get them through the winter, wrote the governors. They asked that program funding be increased from $2.9 billion to $3.6 billion. Massachusetts will receive $121.7 million in heating assistance funds this winter, a decrease of about $20 million from last winter. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 90 percent of households will see higher heating costs this winter. Funding for heating assistance at 2010 levels would be optimal, said John Wells, vice president for energy services for Action for Boston Community Development. “Any number short of that, it’s going to be a huge struggle for families in the Northeast to heat their homes through the winter,” he said. So far, 15,000 families have applied to the organization for assistance, said Wells.