Issue #19, May 18, 2015

SNAP Program

Every American should have to live for a week on a food budget of just $29 – Quartz, May 7, 2015
The SNAP Challenge exists in order to help people “with enough food to eat to understand what it feels like to not have a consistent source of nutritious meals,” writes FRAC President Jim Weill in this blog post. Current SNAP benefits are too low because they are based on an outdated emergency food plan. Benefits were increased 13.6 percent during the recession through the economic recovery act, and while research shows the boost resulted in improved health and well-being, the increase has since been phased out. To help protect and strengthen the SNAP Program, Weill urges people to sign a SNAP support petition, in addition to contacting their members of Congress to share SNAP facts and urging more people to speak out in support of these benefits.

New fight for food stamps for thousands who were dropped – WGME, May 7, 2015
More than 9,000 Maine residents have had their SNAP benefits cancelled since January. The state joined eight other states this year in dropping a waiver allowing adults without children and who are not working, volunteering, or part of a job training program to receive assistance; Maine implemented the waiver during the recession. “We should really be extending these benefits again,” said State Senator Anne Haskell (D-Portland). Haskell supported a bill eliminating the work requirements and reinstating benefits in areas of high unemployment. “People are actively looking for work…if the jobs aren’t there should they go hungry?” she said.

Senate Select Committee Hears Strategies To End Child Poverty in California – California Healthline, May 8, 2015
California’s Senate Select Committee on Women and Inequality recently held a hearing on ending poverty – more than two million children, or one in four, in the state live in poverty, and child poverty rates have increased steadily since 2001. Improving SNAP (CalFresh) participation can help reduce those numbers, said Michelle Stillwell-Parvensky, senior policy and government affairs manager for the Children’s Defense Fund in California. The state has one of the lowest SNAP participation rates, and poverty costs $66 billion a year in lost productivity, health, crime and other factors, said Stillwell-Parvensky.

School Meals

Lessons Learned from a Food Service Director: Kids Like Healthy Foods – USDA Blog, May 12, 2015
A decade ago, Whitley County schools in Kentucky began improving the nutritional quality of its school meals in response to rising obesity rate – the state is currently the seventh most obese state in the U.S. USDA’s Smart Snacks in Schools standards helped the school system further improve its meals, writes the district’s food service director, Sharon Foley, in this blog post. Talking to students about their food preferences has helped make healthier foods a success. For example, the district found that students were more likely to select fruit on the cafeteria line if it was sliced and placed in small cups. Staff and parents were also more critical of the move to whole grain versions of bread and pasta than were the students.

Senior Hunger

Hunger among elderly presents more problems – Columbus Dispatch, May 10, 2015
“Reducing hunger and increasing access to quality nutrition and healthy food is a sound policy for Ohio’s seniors, and is the right medicine for Ohio’s future,” writes Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, in this letter to the editor. Hamler-Fugitt is responding to a recent article noting that the state’s elderly are being forced to choose between food and medicine. Hunger among Ohio’s seniors increased “from 12.92 percent in 2012 to 16.32 percent in 2013, an alarming increase of 26.3 percent,” she writes, and one in four Ohio residents will be over the age of 60 in 2020. Senior food insecurity directly impacts the health, nutrition and overall well-being of seniors.

Working Poor

‘Band-Aid’ solutions for a homeless Senate worker – The Washington Post, May 7, 2015
Since Charles Gladden, a U.S. Senate cafeteria worker, publicly revealed in the Post that he was homeless, he’s told his story on MSNBC and CNN, his managers have been inquiring how he’s doing, and co-workers, Senate staffers and the public lent him support. These gifts are a “band-aid” he stated. They don’t address the widespread problem of insufficient pay and unstable hours – which can’t be solved by charity on a case-by-case basis, through a GoFundMe campaign, or even through SNAP benefits. A decent wage is the remedy.

Public Assistance and Voter Registration

Voter Registrations Drop Sharply at N.C. Public Assistance Agencies –, May 8, 2015
Two North Carolina advocacy groups have sent a pre-litigation letter to the state’s Board of Elections and Department of Health and Human Services, giving the state 90 days to comply with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 or face litigation. Since Gov. Pat McCrory took office, the number of voter applications at public assistance agencies fell 50 percent, from a yearly average of 38,400 between 2007 and 2012 to an average of 16,000 in the last two years. The law requires public assistance and disability agencies provide voter registration services when a client applies for, renews or recertifies benefits, or changes address with the agency, unless the client declines the service in writing.

Poverty and Income

The US payday loans crisis: borrow $100 to make ends meet, owe 36 times that sum – The Guardian, May 9, 2015
The number of payday lenders in the U.S. increased from 2,000 in 1996 to an estimate 22,000 in 2008 according to the Better Business Bureau. “You only see them in poor neighborhoods,” said Tishaura Jones, the treasurer of St. Louis, Missouri and an advocate to regulate the industry. “They target people who don’t have access to normal banking services or who have low credit scores.” Interest rates for the loans range between 200 and 500 percent, sometimes going as high as 1,900 percent. While some borrowers use the loans for emergencies, many seek loans to buy food or pay rent. Many of the borrowers no longer live paycheck to paycheck, but from loan to loan, indefinitely.

In the land of dollars: Deep poverty and its consequences – Brookings Social Mobility Memo, May 7, 2015
Recent research shows that 1.5 million families live on less than $2 or less in cash income per person per day – termed “extreme poverty” – and more than six percent of Americans, including 7.1 million children, live in households with cash income below half the federal poverty level – termed “deep poverty.” Deep poverty income thresholds in 2015 include less than $5,885 a year for an individual, $7,965 for single parents with one child, and $12,125 for a married couple with two children; median US income in 2013 was nearly $52,000. Deep and extreme poverty rates have been increasing, possibly because of the 1996 welfare reforms, say scholars. This Brookings memo states that research also shows that people born in deep poverty suffer consequences from it throughout their lives.

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