With Congress returning November 15th, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and fellow advocates are gearing up for a final push on Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR). We are working hard to secure a compromise that will both pass the child nutrition bill and restore the cuts to SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) that were used to partially pay for the Senate bill.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S. 3307) makes a number of improvements to nutritional quality, ending childhood obesity, and takes a step forward in reaching President Obama’s goal to end childhood hunger by 2015. Part of the bill is paid for with future benefit cuts to SNAP (previously known as food stamps) participants. Though it is not a perfect bill, it is the most likely opportunity for Congress to make proactive reforms to these important programs by the end of the year. One in four children live in food insecure households. The passage of S. 3307 is paramount to putting an end to this problem.
There are a variety of steps you can take in the days leading up to the vote on S. 3307:
1. Send an email to President Obama urging him to continue supporting the child nutrition reauthorization bill and to safeguard and restore SNAP funds.
2. If you work for a national, state, or local organization consider signing on to this letter to Representative George Miller (Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee). Nearly 1,000 organizations nationwide have signed on, but we still need your support. Also be sure to send the letter to local partner agencies and ask for their support. (The deadline to sign on to the letter is November 12th).
3. Use social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, blogs) to draw attention to the issue of child hunger in America and the importance of passing the child nutrition reauthorization bill. Use the hashtags #CNR and #hunger on Twitter. You can also link to articles written about the issue, statistics and reports, or videos advocating on behalf of the legislation. (Feeding America will be releasing a great new video on November 5th that can be found here).
4. Contact your Representative. Outreach to Members of Congress is incredibly important if we are to pass S. 3307 the week of November 15th. If you can meet with your Representative before s/he returns to DC, please do so. Otherwise make sure to call and write letters. The week of November 8th the JCPA will be sending out an action alert that includes a letter to Representatives. Also on November 15th, there will be a National Call-In Day for Child Nutrition (the JCPA will send out an action alert through Insider).
5. Place an op-ed. Members of Congress pay close attention to what is printed in their local newspapers. An op-ed is a visible way to let your Representative know that this must be his/her top priority when they return during the lame duck Congress. You can find a sample op-ed here. If you can partner with another faith leader or a local direct service provider (the director of a local food bank, someone who runs an after school snack program etc), even better. If you would like help adapting this sample op-ed for your community, contact JCPA Communications Fellow Ben Suarato. The ideal time to place this op-ed is November 8th-16th.
6. The US Department of Agriculture will likely be releasing its Food Insecurity Data report for this year on November 15th. This provides the perfect opportunity to talk about hunger in America and the child nutrition bill. You can use this data for a blog entry or an action alert to your field.
For more information of the child nutrition bill and ways to get involved please contact Senior Policy Associate Elyssa Koidin.
Potentially some of the most devastating cuts come in the area of anti-hunger and nutrition programs. Representative Ryan is proposing block granting the SNAP program, a move that would devastate this critical safety net program and take away its ability to respond to changes within the economy. In addition, the Ryan plan proposes to cut $127 billion in funds from SNAP over the next 10 years . The overwhelming majority of SNAP participants are households with children, seniors, and people with disabilities. The faith community has heard anecdotal evidence that many of the people currently on SNAP never thought they would need this assistance, but because of the current recession, their resources are limited and they have been forced to find alternative ways to provide their family with food.
This is precisely the reason the JCPA held our 3rd annual National Hunger Seder on Capitol Hill this morning. The National Hunger Seder, lead by Rabbi Steve Gutow, enlightened participants on the modern day oppression of hunger faced by too many Americans. In addition, we discussed the role community members must play in advocating for our neighbors on issues relating to SNAP, WIC, and other nutrition programs.
Leading portions of the seder were United States Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon, Representatives James McGovern (MA-D) and Hansen Clarke (MI-D), advisors from the White House and faith-based offices of the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, JCPA Vice Chair Susan Turnbull, as well as leaders within the faith and anti-hunger communities and school children from the Jewish Primary Day School of Washington, D.C. Representatives McGovern and Clarke read from the specially-written hagaddah and made remarks on the need to work together and act now to put an end to hunger in America.
As our nation faces a serious budget battle and the need to protect human needs programs becomes greater, the Hunger Seder mobilization, with more than 40 community Hunger Seder events organized by JCRCs in 22 states across the country , couldn’t come at a better time. For more information on the Hunger Seder mobilization (including copies of the Hunger Seder hagaddah), please visit this website. To find a seder in your community, please go here.
For more information on anti-hunger advocacy opportunitie, please contact Elyssa Koidin.
At the end of last year the JCPA and other anti-hunger advocacy leaders achieved a major victory with the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.This bill made major nutritional improvements and expanded access to the school lunch, breakfast, and afterschool meal program. Experts in the anti-hunger community believe this child nutrition bill will be a positive step forward in putting an end to childhood hunger. Still, a major sacrifice was made in the final days of the legislative negotiations: it was agreed that in order to fund the bill, a cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) would be made. The JCPA was deeply disappointed in this cut to SNAP, and we vowed in 2011 to work to restore and strengthen this important anti-poverty, anti-hunger program.
In recent weeks we have learned that securing future funding for SNAP will be an uphill battle. Members of the House of Representatives have made drastic proposals that will considerably cut funding to SNAP and make major structural changes, including potentially block granting the program. These moves could not come at a worst time. In 2009 alone, SNAP lifted 4.6 million Americans above the poverty line, including 2.1 million children and 200,000 seniors. SNAP reduces hunger and food insecurity by providing very low-income people desperately needed, targeted assistance to purchase food through an effective and efficient electronic benefit transfer system. Many economists, including Mark Zandi, believe at times of economic struggle, like our current recession, SNAP provides one of the most reliable “bangs for our buck” and is one of the most stimulative federal programs.
The 2012 budget proposal passed by the House of Representatives on April 15th fails to recognize the significance of SNAP in low-income families’ lives and instead proposes major changes to this successful program. According to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report, the House Budget Committee’s proposal would “cut the SNAP program by $127 billion—almost 20 percent—over the next ten years (2012-2021), which could throw millions of low-income families off the rolls, cut benefits by thousands of dollars a year, or some combination of the two.” Chairman of the House Budget Committee Representative Paul Ryan (WI-R) also has proposed to block grant the program beginning in 2015, a move that could lead to cuts in eligibility or deep reductions in benefits. The JCPA has advocated tirelessly for this program because we believe it is one of the key initiatives that works effectively and has the potential to make real changes in people’s lives. Each month many families who are struggling to make ends meet have to make tough decisions between putting food on the table, paying their mortgage, or deciding whether or not to purchase important medicine. SNAP provides assistance in the tough decisions low-income people have to make and allows relief when it is most needed.
The CBPP report goes on to state that “unlike most means-tested benefit programs, which are restricted to particular categories of low-income individuals, SNAP is broadly available to almost all households with very low incomes. As a result, cutting SNAP would affect broad swaths of the low-income population. Three-quarters of SNAP participants are in families with children; one-third are in households that include seniors citizens or people with disabilities.” As people of faith, we cannot allow such changes to take place to such an important human needs program. At a time of great need in our country, we should stand up for the most vulnerable among us and advocate for a truly righteous and effective program. As scripture tells us “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9.
What YOU can do:
1. Sign your national, state, and community-based organization on to this letter being circulated by our friends at the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and the National Anti-Hunger Organizations (NAHO). The JCPA has already signed on as a national organization. Also feel free to forward this request to all of your partners.
2. Attend a district event. Members of Congress are still on recess until May 2nd. Many are holding town hall meetings or conference calls with constituents. Call the offices of your Members (House or Senate) and see when their next public meetings are scheduled. Then attend and ask your Representative or Senator a question on the proposed cuts to SNAP.
3. Get the word out to the press/public. The JCPA can work with you on drafting a Letter to the Editor, Op-Ed, or blog post on SNAP. In addition, if you have a Twitter or Facebook account, start a discussion on the importance of SNAP using recent data about food hardship levels in your town. Invite the local news team over to view your senior feeding site or food bank. Displaying how successful anti-hunger programs are will help build the case against future cuts.
The most important thing to do is to take action now before major decisions are made about this vital program.
If you have questions about SNAP or ways to get involved please contactElyssa Koidin.
Over the years, the JCPA has advocated on behalf of vulnerable populations to expand upon and strengthen nutrition and anti-hunger programs. We believe strongly that those in this country who are unable to provide nutritious meals for themselves and their families deserve to be provided with assistance. As it says in Isaiah 58:10, “If you offer your compassion to the hungry and satisfy the famished creature, then shall your light shine in darkness.” This is why it is with growing concern that we have watched Congress cut anti-hunger and nutrition programs in order to create a more balanced budget.
This past Tuesday, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee passed an FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill that makes billions of dollars in cuts to vital nutrition programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
These cuts come at a particularly troubling time for many Americans. The most recent USDA data show that the number of food insecure households increased 33% from 2007 to 2009, and according to Feeding America, the number of clients being served by the emergency food system increased 46% since 2006, before the recession began. With unemployment still hovering around 9% nationally, need is expected to remain high throughout 2012. The proposed cuts to WIC, CSFP, and other nutrition programs are severe enough to affect hundreds of thousands of people according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities—especially vulnerable citizens like pregnant and nursing women, infants, children, and seniors.
WIC currently serves over 8.9 million mothers and young children—approximately one out of four pregnant women and roughly 50% of all infants born in the United States. The FY2012 Agriculture Appropriation bill includes a proposed cut of $833 million from current funding levels, causing 325,000 to 475,000 low-income mothers and young children to be dropped from the program. If these proposed cuts are approved, it would end a 15-year commitment by Administrations and Congresses of both parties to provide enough WIC funding to serve all eligible women, infants, and children. Fortunately on Tuesday, Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT-D) was able to restore some funding back to the program. Still, many needs will likely remain unmet, especially if food prices increase over the course of the year. That is why the JCPA urges Congress to fund WIC at $6.83 billion and continue to closely monitor WIC caseload and food cost inflation to assure sufficient funding to maintain current caseload, keep pace with rising food prices, and ensure WIC is able to serve all eligible mothers and young children who apply to the program.
We are also deeply concerned about proposed cuts to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). CFSP provides nutritious food packages to approximately 604,000 low-income people each month, 96% of whom are low-income seniors. The House FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill would fund CSFP at $138.5 million, which represents a 22% cut from current funding levels and would result in loss of food for well over 100,000 low-income seniors. The JCPA strongly urges Congress to provide $181.8 million for CSFP to maintain assistance provided to the current caseloads and allow CSFP to expand to six additional states with USDA-approved state plans (Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island).
The JCPA recognizes that the U.S. is facing serious fiscal challenges and that there is a strong desire to cut spending and balance the budget. But we cannot resolve our fiscal challenges on the backs of the most vulnerable in our society with severe cuts to proven, successful, and critical programs that help those in need put food on the table. There is still an opportunity for Congress to make improvements to the Agriculture Appropriations bill and support those programs that assist struggling children, women, and seniors.
Our partners at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism have an action alert on this issue up on their website. We encourage you to reach out to your Members of Congress and ask them to support anti-hunger programs in the appropriations and budget process.
This morning Alliance member Feeding America released its quadrennial nationwide study—Hunger in America 2010—of who is in need, where they live, why they are in need and what services they are accessing.
Today the White House and USDA launched a new United We Serve initiative – Feed a Neighbor – to raise awareness of hunger and encourage Americans to get involved in reducing hunger.
The administration developed a volunteer toolkit to describe the many ways to help feed a neighbor, such as sponsoring a summer food program (p.3), volunteering at food banks (p.4), and developing a community plan to end hunger (p.10). You can access the range of documents online: