Issue #15, April 20, 2015

Food Hardship and SNAP Budget Cuts

From the community: Nearly 1 in 6 in Illinois Experienced Food Hardship in 2014 – Chicago Tribune, April 15, 2015
According to FRAC’s recent food hardship report, 15.8 percent of Illinois survey respondents – nearly one in six people – said that in 2014 they struggled to afford enough food for their households. Diane Doherty, executive director of the Illinois Hunger Coalition, said that the state’s food hardship rate is unacceptable, and urged Congress to protect SNAP and other nutrition programs. “People are still struggling” with low wages, unemployment, involuntary part-time employment and inadequate assistance programs, said Jim Weill, president of FRAC. “Congress and the President must reject cuts to nutrition programs and other programs that benefit low-income people, and build a strong safety net.”

Despite Economic Upswing, An Increase in Iowans Going Hungry – KMA Land, April 11, 2015
According to a Gallup survey [released by FRAC], the number of Iowans who admit they did not have enough money to purchase food increased from 12.4 percent in 2013 to 14.6 percent in 2014. These are people “who are working and just having a hard time making ends meet, making tough choices of ‘Do I pay my utility bill or pay for food? Well, maybe if I can use the food bank I can pay my rent and pay my utilities,’” said Barbara Prather, executive director of Northeast Iowa Food Bank.

Utah’s hunger issues persist, despite economic recovery – Cache Valley Daily, April 13, 2015
According to a FRAC report, 15 percent of Utah residents (one in seven people) do not have enough money to buy food for themselves or their families at some point in the year, ranking Utah 36th among states in the report, which includes polling showing a majority of Americans oppose Congressional efforts to cut SNAP Program, and other nutrition program, funding. At the Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo, many of the clients are working families, with one or both parents holding multiple low-wage, part time jobs and still having trouble getting by, noted Myla Dutton, the food bank’s executive director.

The GOP Has A Split Personality When It Comes To Food Stamps – The Huffington Post, April 15, 2015
“Without [SNAP], I wouldn’t have been able to start my new career,” Keleigh Green-Patton recently told the House Agriculture Committee at a hearing on the SNAP Program’s effectiveness. “Many people call SNAP a safety net, but for me it was like a trampoline – bouncing my family back into work and a brighter future. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), chair of the House Ag Committee, invited Green-Patton and four other witnesses to testify in order to banish images of the “Food Stamp Surfer” who Republicans used in 2013 as an example of benefit abuse. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) asked the witnesses “Nobody here is arguing that we should cut SNAP, am I correct?” The witnesses agreed.

SNAP Challenges

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Food Stamp Experience Versus Reality – The Huffington Post, April 13, 2015
Many anti-hunger advocates encourage famous people to take the SNAP Challenge, as Gwyneth Paltrow has done, joining hundreds of celebrities and politicians who have taken the challenge since 2006, according to the Food Research and Action Center. FRAC’s website states “[w]hile living on a food stamp budget for just a week cannot come close to the struggles encountered by low-income families week after week and month after month, it does provide those who take the Challenge with a new perspective and greater understanding.” Paltrow received criticism for her purchase of kale, limes and few carbohydrates. SNAP recipients have told The Huffington Post that they’ve been criticized for buying fruits and vegetables with their benefits.

Living on a food stamp stipend: a daunting challenge – KSL, April 14, 2015
Utah’s anti-hunger advocates are saying Gwyneth Paltrow’s SNAP Challenge participation is helping to raise awareness of the struggles SNAP recipients face every day. “I did the food stamp challenge last year, and it was hard,” said Marti Woolford, nutrition initiatives director for Utahns Against Hunger. “Unfortunately, a lot of people are living on such low wages and low fixed income that they don’t have a choice but to use food stamps to supplement their entire food budget,” noted Woolford. “So this (food stamp challenge) gives a really good look at how challenging it is for people to get by and to have enough food.”

SNAP Program Limits

States Tighten Conditions for Receiving Food Stamps as the Economy Improves – The New York Times, April 12, 2015
After Maine reinstated SNAP benefit time limits for “able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWDs), the number of these individuals in the SNAP Program decreased by 80 percent. In order to continue receiving benefits, these people must work, volunteer, or be in state-sponsored job training; states don’t have to offer SNAP recipients work before stopping their payments, and searching for a job does not count. “If the job situation in the area is a really tough situation, this is an incredibly harsh provision,” said Ellen Vollinger, legal and food stamp director at FRAC. “There’s going to be harm, and it’s going to show up in greater hunger, probably in greater instances of health problems and could show up in greater instances of homelessness.”

The rush to humiliate the poor – The Washington Post, April 7, 2015
Introduced in Missouri, House Bill 813 would ban SNAP recipients from buying “cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood, or steak.” However, people on SNAP are more likely to buy foods they can afford. This “surf-and-turf bill” is one of a number of proposals across the country that demean public benefit recipients, notes this editorial. In Congress, Republicans propose turning SNAP into a block grant program, while some states are even looking into criminalizing the poor through legislative proposals.

WMass food bank urges reform at food stamp agency –, April 13, 2015
Since Massachusetts implemented SNAP anti-fraud measures, the number of program participants decreased 8.8 percent (77,000 recipients) between December 2013 and December 2014. “[F]lawed data matching, extreme verification demands, and automatic case closures without any worker review, is pushing many eligible people off the program, and is denying others access[,],” said Christina Maxwell, director of programs at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. The food bank is asking the state for more money and reforms at the SNAP agency to fix the problems; the drop in SNAP recipients means the state is losing $115 million a year in federal funds.

School Breakfast

Most Californians support serving breakfast to students during school day – LA Times, April 9, 2015
A telephone poll in California of 1,251 registered voters found that two-thirds support a bill requiring lower-income schools to offer breakfast during classroom hours, with support strong across age, gender, ethnicity and geography. At Stanley Mosk Elementary, 90 percent of the school’s 562 students eat classroom breakfast each day, a significant increase from when it was served in the cafeteria. Principal Barbara Friedrich said classroom breakfast has helped reduce the number of students complaining of headaches and stomachaches to nearly zero, and increased student focus.

Working Poor

Working, but Needing Public Assistance Anyway – The New York Times, April 12, 2015
A new study by the Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California found that nearly 75 percent of people receiving safety net benefits are members of households headed by a worker. “The low-wage business model practiced by many of the largest and most profitable employers in the country not only leaves many working families unable to afford the basics, but also imposes significant costs on the public as a whole,” said Sarah Leberstein, a senior staff lawyer with the National Employment Law Project, in testimony before Connecticut lawmakers.

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