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The Weekly Food Research and Action Center News Digest highlights what's new on hunger, nutrition and poverty issues at FRAC, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, around the network of national, state and local anti-poverty and anti-hunger organizations, and in the media. The Digest will alert you to trends, reports, news items and resources and, when available, link you directly to them. Previous editions of the Digest are available on FRAC’s website.

Issue #42, November 13, 2013

1.     Representatives, Senators Call for SNAP/Food Stamp Boost Extension, Urge Resisting Proposed Farm Bill Cuts

2.     Op-Ed: Pending Farm Bill SNAP/Food Stamp Cuts “Devastating”

3.     Recent and Proposed SNAP/Food Stamp Budget Cuts Harmful to Economy

4.     SNAP/Food Stamp Decrease in Benefits Could Be Followed by Federal Unemployment Benefit Cuts

5.     November 1 SNAP/Food Stamp Cuts Affecting Millions, Driving More Recipients to Seek Out Emergency Food Assistance (DC, MD, VA, IA, MA, NY)

6.     Baltimore’s Temporary Food Supplement Program Boost Important for Child Development

7.     Research Finds High Number of Americans Experience Living in Poverty

1. Representatives, Senators Call for SNAP/Food Stamp Boost Extension, Urge Resisting Proposed Farm Bill Cuts
Worcester Telegram, October 29, 2013; NewsOne, November 1, 2013)

Members of the House Democratic Progressive Caucus, and representatives from non-governmental organizations across the U.S., called for a one-year extension to the SNAP/Food Stamp boost that was included in the economic recovery act and that expired on November 1. “Hunger is a political condition,” said Rep. James P. McGovern (D-MA) at a Capitol Hill press conference calling for the extension. “We have the ability here to mend it. We have the ability here to make it worse.” Rep. McGovern is on the House-Senate conference committee on the Farm Bill. In a letter to the Farm Bill conference negotiators, Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) joined 38 senators urging the conference to not cut the SNAP/Food Stamp Program in the Farm Bill. “I’m not prepared to throw poor people under the bus in order to get a bill, and…if this is the bill that makes more people hungry, people like me are going to do everything we can to try and stop it,” said Rep. McGovern after the press conference. “Even as these cuts are going into effect and families across the country are trying to figure out how to further stretch their impossibly tight food budgets, Congress is discussing even more drastic cuts to SNAP,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “The House and Senate Farm Bill conferees must put politics behind them and produce a bill that does not further hurt low-income people struggling to eat, but rather moves us toward ending hunger in our nation of plenty.”

Also see:
Cruel and Unusual Cuts in Food Stamps - Background Briefing with Ian Masters (11/4/2013)
“[W]e speak with Jim Weill, President of the Food Research and Action Center about the cruel and unusual cuts in food stamp assistance to over 47 million needy Americans with three quarters of the participants in households with children. We discuss the political momentum against helping the least among us in the name of reducing the deficit, even though the deficit [is] receding at a record rate and while food stamps are considered one of the most efficient ways to stimulate the economy as every dollar in food stamps generates a dollar seventy in economic activity."

2. Op-Ed: Pending Farm Bill SNAP/Food Stamp Cuts “Devastating”
The Washington Post, November 7, 2013)

The impact of the November 1 SNAP/Food Stamp cuts are “immediate and devastating” to program participants, and the billions in cuts proposed in the Farm Bill are “terrifying,” write Alex Ashbrook, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions and Patty Stonesifer, president of Martha’s Table, in this op-ed. In the District, which has the nation’s second-highest food hardship rate among households with children, the November 1 cut affects 140,000 residents, and amounts to $15 million in lost benefits. While Americans at this time of the year are generous with donations to emergency food providers, the SNAP/Food Stamp Program “provides about 20 times as much help as the entire charitable food network,” they write, and these organizations would have to receive double their current contributions in order to keep up with the need created by the five percent SNAP/Food Stamp cut. “[L]et us advocate change,” Ashbrook and Stonesifer note. “Americans need to remind Congress that any proposals to cut SNAP further are unacceptable,” and outreach strategies aimed at getting people the public benefits they are eligible for are strategies that should be followed, they conclude.

3. Recent and Proposed SNAP/Food Stamp Budget Cuts Harmful to Economy
LA Times, November 3, 2013)

The recent decrease in SNAP/Food Stamp benefits for the nearly 48 million Americans receiving benefits translates into $5 billion less in federal spending assisting the economy over the next 10 months. Without faster economic growth, notes this editorial, pulling food from Americans’ tables won’t help the economy. The boost to benefits in the economic recovery act was meant to stimulate the economy, with every SNAP/Food Stamp dollar generating $1.70 in economic activity. SNAP/Food Stamp participation skyrocketed during the Great Recession, and the continued high unemployment rate has kept the need for the program high. In the House and Senate, the new Farm Bill proposes cutting even more from the program. While it’s alarming that so many Americans receive SNAP/Food Stamps, Congress should not mistake “a symptom of the economy’s problems for its cause,” the editorial concludes. “The best way to cut spending on food stamps…[is] to speed up economic growth and put jobless Americans back to work. This also happens to be the most effective way to reduce the deficit.”

4. SNAP/Food Stamp Decrease in Benefits Could Be Followed by Federal Unemployment Benefit Cuts
The New York Times, November 1, 2013)

In addition to the recent significant cuts to the SNAP/Food Stamp Program as the economic recovery act boost ended, the House and Senate are proposing billions more be cut from the program. And unless Congress acts by the end of 2013, federal unemployment benefits will expire. Federal benefits kick in when state benefits expire after about 26 weeks, and provide 14 to 37 additional weeks of unemployment insurance. Although the federal benefits have been renewed many times, these funds “have been cut far more deeply than is warranted by continued high unemployment,” notes this editorial. Of the nation’s 11.3 million unemployed, nearly 37 percent have been without a job for more than six months, a figure higher than any time before the recent recession. “It is useful to recall that premature cuts to food stamps and unemployment benefits hurt everyone because they reduce consumer spending and, with it, economic growth,” the editorial concludes. “There are…no good reasons at this time for cutting either program, but there are plenty of bad ones.”

5. November 1 SNAP/Food Stamp Cuts Affecting Millions, Driving More Recipients to Seek Out Emergency Food Assistance

Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia
NBC4, November 6, 2013)
Alex Ashbrook of D.C. Hunger Solutions estimates that the recent SNAP/Food Stamp cut means that a family of four in the city could lose as much as $36 a month. “We’re talking about a family of four losing [their ability to pay for] 21 meals a month,” said Ashbrook. The SNAP/Food Stamp cut affects 144,000 D.C. residents. It also affects 774,000 Maryland residents and 941,000 Virginia residents. “We see more people call into the food bank for assistance, we see more people come into our partner agencies, and they’re requesting more and more food every day,” said Brian Banks of the Capital Area Food Bank.

Des Moines Register, November 5, 2013)
For the 421,000 Iowa residents (13 percent of the state population) projected to receive SNAP/Food Stamps over the next year, the recent cuts mean $43 million fewer benefits to program participants, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. “That money has to be replaced by money coming from somewhere else” and means these individuals will have to make some very tough choices, said Chad Hart, an Iowa State University professor of economics. “These are tough times,” said Ellen Vollinger, legal director at the Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger group. “There is already a lot of food insecurity, and this is just going to exacerbate that.”

Boston Herald, November 3, 2013)
Emergency food assistance lines “are already long,” said Jarrett Barrios, CEO of the American Red Cross of Massachusetts, which runs food pantries in Boston and New Bedford. The recent SNAP/Food Stamp cut will make demand go up even more. About 480,000 Massachusetts households are affected by the cut.

New York
Journal News, November 2, 2013)
The recent SNAP/Food Stamp cut translates into 20.6 million fewer meals for the 3.19 million New Yorkers receiving benefits, according to Linda Bopp, executive director of Hunger Solutions of New York. “There’s a whole lot of negative implications here,” for those on SNAP/Food Stamps, said Bopp. “They purchase even less healthy food or they end up at the soup kitchen or food pantry earlier in the month.”

6. Baltimore’s Temporary Food Supplement Program Boost Important for Child Development
Baltimore Sun, November 6, 2013)

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake proposes using $10,000 in private foundation funding to give SNAP/Food Stamp participants an extra $10 a week for use at city farmers’ markets. The extra benefits are not a replacement for the $40 cut from benefits on November 1 when the economic recovery act boost ended. “But at a time when many parents are struggling to put food on the table, every little bit helps,” notes this editorial. According to a recent Annie E. Casey Foundation report titled “The First Eight Years,”  policies focusing on the crucial years when a child’s brain is developing, and “relatively small investments of public funds” can be vitally important for positive educational and social outcomes in children. The Mayor’s initiative is a small part of a comprehensive system working to give children the best start in life. “The food stamp subsidy is a temporary stopgap,” concludes the editorial, “[b]ut it is an encouraging sign that the city’s government and non-profit community recognize the importance of making sure poor families aren’t left behind.”

7. Research Finds High Number of Americans Experience Living in Poverty
The Atlantic, November 6, 2013)

“The percentage of the population that directly encounters poverty is exceedingly high,” said St. Louis professor Mark Rank, co-author of an upcoming book which analyzes decades of data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Almost 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60, Rank found, will live below the poverty line for at least one year. While most of these adults will not stay in poverty, the figures mean many will cycle in and out of poverty and will be financially insecure. As a result, 44.8 percent of Americans, by age 60, will receive SNAP/Food Stamp or TANF benefits, with only a relatively small percentage of Americans using these safety net programs for more than a couple of years. These numbers show that most of the poor are not different from the average American – they’re often victims of circumstance, notes the article. Even though they may cycle out of poverty, being in poverty remains bad for the mental and physical health of adults and children, and affects a child’s performance later in life.

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 13 November 2013 )
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