Issue #20, May 26, 2015



Why the improvement in black unemployment rate will be short lived – The Washington Post, May 13, 2015
While the unemployment rate for whites over the last three months has held at 4.7 percent, the rate for blacks has improved, falling from 10.4 to 9.6 percent. African-Americans tend to see dramatic improvement in employment as the economy reaches the end stage of recovery, mainly because they fall so far in a bad economy. Unemployment for African-Americans has remained nearly twice as high as unemployment for whites since the aftermath of the civil rights movement. While education is partially responsible for the difference, lingering discrimination as well as hiring obstacles for those with criminal records also contributes.
   

Transportation Emerges as Crucial to Escaping Poverty – The New York Times, May 7, 2015
The single strongest factor in the odds of escaping poverty is commuting time, according to a large, continuing Harvard study of upward mobility. Longer commutes in a given county are associated with poorer chances of low-income families getting ahead. The study found links between poverty and long commutes in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Fla. and Birmingham, Ala. Similar conclusions in New York were found in a report from New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation.
   

Cash Crunch, for Many, Is a Monthly Woe – MSN.com, May 20, 2015
For a large, diverse share of Americans, incomes vary by more than 30 percent from month to month, according to a J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. analysis of 100,000 of the bank’s customers. The findings are mirrored in a growing body of work, as more and more Americans since the recession rely on income from multiple sources and deal with unpredictable work hours. Stagnant wages contribute to the problem, with average household income rising only two percent from 1999 to 2009, down from the rise of 22 percent from 1979 to 1999. In April, nearly 5 percent of the workforce (7.1 million people) held multiple jobs, and 6.6 million worked part-time but wanted to work full-time, down from nine million in 2009 but more than 40 percent above the pre-recession level.
   
Unemployment, Poverty and Income

Free Lunch: There IS Such a Thing – cityandstateny.com, May 16, 2015
Five cities in New York State offer free lunch to all students, but New York City does not. The city “should be leading the national conversation on improving nutrition in public schools,” writes Letitia James, the public advocate for New York City, in this op-ed. A pilot program for universal lunch in one school resulted in an eight percent increase in the number of students receiving free lunch – nearly 10,000 additional students each day. Nearly 250,000 eligible children in the city don’t receive free lunch, not because they’re hungry, but because of the stigma attached to the assistance.
   

8 in 10 Mississippi Voters Support Healthy School Food Standards – Pew Charitable Trusts, May 20, 2015
In Mississippi, 80 percent of voters and 76 percent of parents registered to vote who have children in the state’s public schools approve of USDA’s healthier national school lunch and breakfast program nutrition standards, and broadly support current requirements for fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and sodium limits in school meals. The findings are from a Mississippi statewide poll by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project. The state has the nation’s highest child obesity rate (21.7 percent of children 10 to 17) and adult obesity rate (35.1 percent). Mississippi leaders have made healthier school food a priority because of these statistics.
   

School Meals

Summer means more hungry kids in Vermont – Burlington Free Press, May 18, 2015
Only a quarter of the 40,000 Vermont children who receive free or reduced-price lunch during the school year also receive free lunch in the summer, according to Hunger Free Vermont. The need is there, as Vermont’s food insecurity rate increased from 9.1 percent in 2001 to about 13 percent today, and more than 20 percent of children are living in food insecure homes.
   

Free summer lunch program growing – Kingman Daily Miner, May 19, 2015
Arizona’s Kingman Unified School District is planning to expand its summer food program this year by serving 34,400 meals, or 800 children a day, during the program’s 43 operating days. During last year’s 39 days, summer meals went to 310 children a day, for a total of 12,067 meals served. Arizona ranks in the bottom 13 of states participating in the Summer Food Service Program. According to FRAC’s June 2013 summer meals report, only 60,303 Arizona children participated in the summer meals program in 2012; more than 460,000 children were eligible for free or reduced-price school meals that same year.
   

Summer Meals

Hunger in a land of food abundance – Times Union, May 16, 2015
The National Commission on Hunger held a hearing recently in Albany, New York; Congress has charged the group with figuring out how to fight hunger and food insecurity without raising tax dollars. These limits placed on the Commission “speak to the mindset in Congress, which has seemed determined recently to cut federal nutrition funding, notably from SNAP[,]” notes this editorial. SNAP kept 2.8 million Americans out of “deep poverty” in 2013 – and Congress continues to target the program for cuts. “[T]he smart private sector solution is to pay everybody a living wage,” the editorial concludes.
   

Fewer Americans receiving food stamps – USA Today, May 12, 2015
Continuing to improve the economy and raising the minimum wage are the best ways “to reduce spending in the [SNAP] program,” said Kevin Concannon, undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at USDA, in a statement. In February 2015, the number of Americans on SNAP fell to 45.7 million, the first time the number has fallen below 46 million in more than three years. The improving economy has played a major role in the decrease, and the SNAP Program “responded as it was designed to, by expanding with an increase in need,” said Dorothy Rosenbaum, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
   

How The Conservative Obsession With Policing Poor People’s Shopping Carts Got Started – ThinkProgress, May 12, 2015
“We hear an awful lot in the post-welfare reform era about moving people to self-sufficiency,” said Ellen Vollinger, legal director at the Food Research and Action Center. “Telling adults they can’t make the same choices within the grocery store that others make, and then prepare the meals they want with the ingredients they want, doesn’t seem at all consistent with the argument that these changes move people to self-sufficiency.” According to USDA, the notion that nutrition assistance recipients don’t make wise food decisions is a myth, and research shows that they are smart shoppers. “It isn’t the case that SNAP clients are less interested in good nutrition than anyone else,” said Vollinger. “They’re very interested in it. They just can’t afford it.”
   

Creating Opportunity for All in Rural Communities – White House blog, May 20, 2015
High poverty rates have persisted for generations in many rural communities, yet the U.S. relies on these communities for much of its food and energy benefits. Since 1980, more than 300 rural communities have had poverty rates over 20 percent in every Census. The White House Rural Council recently released a report showing that programs like SNAP, tax credits, Social Security and housing assistance lifted nine million rural Americans out of poverty in 2013, including 1.6 million children. SNAP decreases deep child poverty by about 30 percent, and research shows that federal assistance to low-income children has long-term benefits. The president’s agenda to improve rural poverty includes preventing proposed Congressional cuts to the SNAP Program.
   

More than 84,000 Minnesota seniors are food insecure – Jordan Independent, May 15, 2015
Seniors make up the majority of callers to the Minnesota Food HelpLine at 1-888-711-1151, and the HelpLine screens seniors for SNAP eligibility. While more than 47,000 seniors in the state receive SNAP benefits, at an average benefit of $94 a month, another 40,000 are eligible but not participating. Seniors calling the HelpLine also receive assistance in navigating the SNAP enrollment process, which can be confusing. According to a recent Hunger Solutions Minnesota report, there were 263,386 emergency food shelf visits by seniors in 2014, a 13 percent increase over 2013 visits.
   

SNAP senior enrollment fair to be held June 24 at Foley City Hall – Foley Onlooker, May 19, 2015
Nationally, only two out of every five SNAP-eligible seniors are enrolled in the program, which means that more than 39,000 Alabama seniors are missing out on the assistance. The state offers an Elderly Simplified SNAP Application to seniors age 60 and over; the application does not require that they visit a Department of Human Resources office to apply. Many qualifying seniors often don’t include their medical expenses, such as Medicare premiums, doctor co-pays, medication costs and hospital bills – expenses which could qualify many seniors with incomes higher than the SNAP benefit threshold, according to Jane Mize of the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission Area Agency, which is sponsoring a senior SNAP enrollment event in June.
   

SNAP

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