Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Video: The Real Cost of SNAP Cuts

Congress is considering cutting future food stamps benefits for Texas families to fund a child nutrition bill -- robbing Peter to feed Peter's kids!

The cut will roll back a 13% increase to the program enacted in last year's stimulus bill. This short video shows the real-life impact of those cuts:

The photos show the average daily food stamps benefit for a Texas family of four ($16.65), and the effect of the cut. The final photo shows the food that will be taken away from hungry families EACH DAY following the cut.

YOU can still make a difference! Tell Congress to pass a child nutrition bill, now or in the lame duck session, that doesn't cut food stamps!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to *Really* Help End Hunger This Thanksgiving

[picture: Norman Rockwell's "Freedom from Want"]

Tomorrow, as Texans sit down to a delicious meal of turkey and trimmings, many of us will feel a familiar pang in our stomachs: guilt. Yes, there's nothing like a bountiful meal with loved ones to remind us not just how blessed we are, but how many go without.

On cue, a chorus of news media and state statistics converge to validate that gnawing feeling. Last week, the USDA revealed that more Americans are struggling with hunger than at any point since the government started measuring the problem. Even worse, we learned that Texas is now the second hungriest state, right after beleaguered, swampy Mississippi.

As if the holidays weren't stressful enough.

Faced with a pile of steaming mashed potatoes, saucy gravy and succulent bird, we find ourselves in a true ethical dilemma. What can be done about such a big problem?

Many consider volunteering at local soup line. After all, there's no greater reward than physically handing food to someone in need, and President Obama recommends it. But while food banks, soup kitchens and food pantries need volunteers all year long, at this time of year you'll probably have to take a number. Can you end hunger just by taking someone else's slot?

Fortunately, there are a number of things your family can do - right now, or even at tomorrow's dinner table:
  1. Contact your local legislators. Sound daunting? It's not. Simply click here to sign a letter asking your state legislator to make hunger a priority in Texas. Better yet, have every one at your table sign one. This one act may make more of a difference than a week of volunteering.
  2. Donate to your local food bank. Got cans? Great. Got cash? Better. Although nothing beats the warm feeling of collecting cans for the hungry, in reality your local food bank can do a lot more with your dollar.
  3. Join the movement. If you believe that hunger is unacceptable in a state as great as Texas, then sign up for Feeding America's Hunger Action Center. You'll learn a lot about the problem, and get a very occasional email asking you to lend your voice to the cause.
That's it!

Hunger truly is a massive problem in Texas, and ending it will require a massive, joint response from individuals, businesses and public institutions - but you've just taken your first step.

Enjoy your turkey.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Nutrition Programs Can Encourage Healthy Eating

As debate on Child Nutrition Reauthorization begins to heat up the halls of Congress (and the blogosphere), many questions are being raised about the role of the federal nutrition programs in fostering healthy eating.

The truth is, existing federal programs appear to have very little to do with eating habits. Years of research on the effects of SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) on diet concluded that SNAP participants eat more (as is the point of the program), but not very differently from their neighbors.

Likewise, a new USDA report released last week concludes that participation in the federal school meals programs is "not significantly related" to students' waistlines.

But just because these programs "do no harm" doesn't mean they can't be leveraged to improve public health.

For example, today's New York Times examines the growth in the use of SNAP benefits at farmers' markets across the country. And here in Texas, a new federal program is bringing farmers' market coupons to low-income elderly in Witchita Falls (1, 2) among other cities.

Child Nutrition Reauthorization gives us a chance to re-write the rules for school meals and other programs to improve our children's diets. You can get involved by learning what we think needs to change, then signing up to help us change it!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Texas Food Banks Call for Changes to Child Nutrition Programs

During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama announced a goal of ending childhood hunger in America by the year 2015. Since then, recession, health care and other issues have taken the national stage, but this goal is still achievable!

Texas has the highest rate of children facing hunger in the nation – 22%. This year, Congress is scheduled to rewrite some of the key programs affecting the nutrition of Texas children. The Texas Food Bank Network has agreed on a set of detailed policy changes to achieve this goal:

National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
After SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), school lunch is the largest anti-hunger program in the country, and a potent lever for changing the way children learn about food and healthy habits. Unfortunately, school lunch in Texas doesn’t reach all the children who need it due to stigma and difficulty enrolling eligible families. Food quality also suffers due to low reimbursement rates, competitive junk foods outside the cafeteria, a thicket of conflicting nutrition rules and a general feeling that school lunch is “welfare food.” Congress can improve the NSLP by:
  • Forcing competitive foods to meet the same science-based standards as cafeteria food (S.934 / H.R.1324)
  • Eliminating the "reduced price" lunch category to cut red tape and feed more children
  • Making the successful Philadelphia "Universal Free" model a national option (S. 1226 / H.R. 2803)
  • Improving direct certification through other programs to save paperwork & enroll more eligible families (S. 1343)
  • Simplifying nutrition standards to allow for local food sourcing & more commonsense rules
School Breakfast
School breakfast provides nutrition early in the day, when it is needed most for learning, and contributes to better behavior in the classroom. Unfortunately, participation in school breakfast in Texas is low due to stigma, and the difficulty in getting to school early before buses run. Congress can improve school breakfast participation by:
Supplemental Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC)
WIC provides new & expectant mothers with nutritionist-approved food vital for early childhood development. Unfortunately, WIC is a discretionary program, and so annual funding routinely falls behind rising food prices and expanding caseloads in tough economic times. This makes it difficult for caseworkers to advertise slots that may not exist in the next fiscal year. Congress can improve WIC by:
  • Appropriating enough funding in the FY 2010 budget to meet the growing need
  • Excluding combat pay from income for the purposes of determining eligibility (S.581)
Child and Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP)
CACFP reimburses community organizations like food banks for providing after-school meals in settings that include tutoring, physical activity & nutrition education. Unfortunately, smaller organizations have difficulty meeting the program requirements using the small “snack” reimbursement, which is the highest reimbursement available in 44 states. Congress can improve CACFP by:
  • Bringing the higher "supper" reimbursement option nationwide (S.990/H.R. 3321)
  • Encouraging data-sharing between CACFP sponsors and local school districts
Summer Nutrition Programs
The summer nutrition programs recognize that hunger doesn’t take a vacation, and hungry children are missing school meals when school is out. Unfortunately, participation is very low in Texas, due to inconsistent outreach and a lack of organizations willing to sponsor sites. Congress can help more organizations sponsor sites by:
  • Increasing reimbursement levels and and assisting in rural transportation costs
  • Reducing sponsor paperwork where possible
  • Decreasing area eligibility from 50% of the poverty line to 40% (H.R. 540)
These programs are the front-line in the fight against child hunger in Texas, and changing them will be vital to its elimination. Sign up now to find out how you can help!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Need For Summer Meals Soaring in East Texas

Video - Summer Meals sites funded by the USDA and provided by the East Texas Food Bank have had to expand to accomodate all the children in families hit hard by the recession.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Three New Reports Focus Attention on Child Hunger

Three national organizations released reports focused on child hunger today, detailing the extent, economic costs, and potential solutions to the problem. Texas has the highest rate of child hunger of all states, according to Census data, with one in five children facing food insecurity.

Feeding America, the national network of food banks, released a report detailing the costs of child hunger to the economy. Arguing that the direct and indirect effect of child hunger in the U.S. is a contributing factor to the nation’s economic woes and puts America at a competitive disadvantage, the paper articulates the lifelong consequences child food insecurity has on individuals and families.

“While one in five Texas children remain at risk of hunger, a significant portion of Texans will face lowered academic achievement, reduced productivity, and escalating health care costs for years to come,” said Texas Food Bank Network State Director Barbara Anderson. “This will hinder economic growth and affect all Texans, not just the neediest.”

Two other reports were also released today. One, from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) contained a blueprint for achieving President Obama’s campaign goal of ending domestic child hunger by 2015. The other, a report by the California Food Policy Advocates, details that state’s experience with the federal Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which also provides meals in Texas, as a well as a national perspective on the importance of SFSP.

The FRAC report boldly calls on the nation to end childhood hunger through a mix of economic growth focused on lower-income workers, strengthening proven anti-hunger programs, and making sure all families have convenient access to reasonably priced, healthy food. The Federal Child Nutrition Programs central to this strategy will be reauthorized by Congress this year.

The Texas Food Bank Network, whose members serve every Texas county, estimated serving over 900,000 hungry children in the last year.

“As long as there are hungry children in Texas, our state will not be able to achieve its full potential,” said Texas Food Bank Network Policy Coordinator JC Dwyer. “These reports show us the terrible consequences of continuing to allow this problem to exist, but also provide us a way to stop it. With the help of Congress and state and local leaders, we can end child hunger in Texas.”