Protecting Safety Net Programs in 2017
CalFresh (SNAP at the federal level) reduced hunger in every California county, but potential changes at the federal level could lead to a cut in benefits. An estimated 4.3 million Californians of all ages, on average, will receive CalFresh food assistance each month during the 2016-2017 fiscal year, helping families to put food on the table. SNAP lifts families out of poverty and has been shown to improve children’s health and well being. Cutting federal funding for SNAP would plunge families into poverty, and children could be deprived of the nutrition necessary to stay healthy and reach their full potential. Click here to read more from the California Budget & Policy Center.
Click here to view/download our informational flyer on the impacts of potential federal SNAP cuts in Humboldt County. This includes information for who to contact to voice your opinion.
Click here to view/download our informational flyer on the impacts of potential federal cuts to the Affordable Care Act in Humboldt County and California. This includes information for who to contact to voice your opinion.
Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2016
This bill amends the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to revise the requirements for calculating Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The bill increases the minimum SNAP benefit and requires benefits to be calculated using the more realistic "Low-Cost Food Plan," rather than the traditional "Thrifty Food Plan," which has been the national standard the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) uses for a nutritious diet at a minimal cost. The USDA must determine the requirements for the Low-Cost Food Plan, which is the diet required to feed a family of four, consisting of:
- 2 adults 19-50 years of age,
- a child 6-8 years of age, and
- a child 9-11 years of age.
USDA must make adjustments to the plan to account for household size, changes in the cost of the diet, and the costs of food in specified areas. The bill modifies the requirements for calculating household income to determine SNAP eligibility by: (1) authorizing a standard medical expense deduction for households containing an elderly or disabled member, and (2) eliminating the cap on the deduction for excess shelter expenses (housing costs that are more than half of the household's income after other deductions calculated in the eligibility process.) The bill would also raise the minimum SNAP benefit from $16 to $25 per month. More info available at Food Research & Action Center.
How to take action? Call or send letters to your elected representatives. To find contact info for your representative on this issue, visit http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
The Summer Meals Act of 2015
This bill would significantly improve the reach of the Summer Nutrition Programs (which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program) to more low-income children, so they could eat healthy meals in supportive, recreational, and other programs. It would also simplify the administration of the program for sponsors. The program currently reaches only one in seven children who need summer food, so this bill would help close the hunger gap that many children face when schools close for the summer, and they lose access to school breakfast, lunch, and afterschool snacks. Many schools, parks, public agencies, and nonprofits serve as Summer Food Service Program sites for participating children under age 18. What does the bill propose specifically?
- It would improve the area eligibility test to allow community-based organizations to participate if 40% of the children in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. (The current threshold is 50%, which keeps many communities in need from participating.) Click here to see how many more areas would be served.
- It would allow local government agencies and private nonprofit organizations to feed children year-round, after school and in the summer, through a single Summer Food Service Program process. This would remove duplicative paperwork and confusing administrative rules that discourage participation.
- Provide funding for transportation grants, innovative approaches, and mobile meal trucks. Transportation is one of the biggest barriers to participation, especially in rural areas.
- Allow all sites to serve a third meal. Many summer meal sites provide child care to working parents and run all day and for extended hours, but are only able to serve a maximum of two meals with federal funds.
For more information on how to take action and communicate priorities to your legislators, visit the Food Research and Action Center's page.
Raising SSI payments: Take Action to Lift California Seniors and Persons with Disabilities out of Poverty
In California, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), combined with the State Supplemental Payment (SSP) for food, is a program funded jointly by the Federal and State governments to provide income support to seniors and people with disabilities. Low SSI/SSP grant levels leave many California seniors and people with disabilities struggling to meet their basic needs. Many find that after paying rent they have little, if anything, left for food, medical expenses, transportation and clothing, and can't afford to take care of basic needs like doing laundry or buying personal hygeine items. SSI/SSP has experienced cuts over the years, and the maximum grant for individuals is currently $889 per month, which is 90 percent of the federal poverty line. These cuts remain in place today and cause a great deal of hardship for approximately 6,000 Humboldt County seniors and people with disabilities, and a total of 1.5 million people across the state.
Click here to learn more from the California Budget & Policy Center about the potential impact on SSI/SSP if federal cuts are made to this program.
Please consider supporting a proposal to help seniors and people with disabilities experiencing poverty in California by signing a petition asking state legislators and policymakers to increase SSI/SSP grant levels. Click here to do so. (This is a statewide campaign, with the petition hosted by St. Anthony's in San Francisco.)
The status quo--keeping SSI/SSP grant levels the way they are--means keeping recipients in poverty with high risk of becoming houseless, hungry and in poor health. If legislation were enacted to raise SSI/SSP benefit amounts above the poverty line, it would lift 1.5 million California seniors and persons with disabilities out of poverty
California Budget Bites submitted this blog on the topic to the Sacramento Bee.
The California Budget and Policy Center published this fact sheet in March 2015 comparing current SSI/SSP grant levels to each California county's fair market rent for a studio apartment. The county-by-county list shows how little money is left for SSI recipients after paying rent. In addition, they published this fact sheet in March 2016, showing how SSI/SSP benefit levels are inadequate to cover the cost of rent and food for seniors and people with disabilities in California.
Share Their Stories: Visit the website of the advocacy group CA4SSI to learn about the advocacy group's work, read, watch, and listen to stories about SSI recipients living on insufficient SSI benefits, and find out how to take action. Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB) put together a powerful series of "SSI Listening Sessions" #IfOnlyYouKnew videos, in which food bank clients talk about what it's like to be a senior or person with a disability in California, living on insufficient SSI benefits. Their personal stories are powerful and shared amongst SSI recipients all over the state. Learn more by viewing the clips below and visit ACCFB's webpage for their #IfOnlyYouKnew campaign for Hunger Action Month.
The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act
The Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) Act authorizes all of the federal child nutrition programs, including the School Breakfast, National School Lunch, Child and Adult Care Food, Summer Food Service, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs and WIC. These programs provide funding to ensure that low-income children have access to healthy and nutritious foods where they live, play, and learn. Reauthorization provides an opportunity to improve and strengthen programs. Research demonstrates the ability of the child nutrition programs to improve educational achievement, economic security, nutrition and health.
The law is reauthorized by Congress every five years. It was last reauthorized as the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, and is up again for reauthorization in 2015. The Senate Agriculture Committee and the House Education and Workforce Committee will both take the lead in the reauthorization process. The Committees will each work on the legislation, taking input from other members of the Senate and House of Representatives. They then will merge their bills to develop one final bill.
Learn more at Food Research & Action Center's CNR page and at No Kid Hungry (Share Our Strength). As Reathorization approaches, another great place to keep up is California Food Policy Advocates' CNR page.
Hunger, Nutrition, and Poverty on the State Policy Agenda
California Association of Food Banks (CAFB) share their State Policy Agenda. You can also follow the progress and status of proposed legislation on hunger, nutrition and poverty by visiting their Hunger Legislation Tracker.
CalFresh Advocacy Partners at the State and National Levels:
The Alliance to Transform CalFresh contains a wealth of information about improving CalFresh participation in California, with resources and information on opportunities for advocating for improvements state-wide.
California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA) has a great website if you're interested in legislative advocacy. Their CalFresh page will tell you everything you need to know about upcoming legislative advocacy priorities, recommendations for improving the applicant experience and links to their reports and data.
The Food Research and Action Center has a ton of advocacy-oriented imformation about SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program--or what CalFresh is known as at the federal level), including data, resources and publications.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a leading resource for data on SNAP and how legislative actions affect the program's participants and potential participants. Learn about some of the policy basics and introductory statistics, such as that nearly 72 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children, and more than one-quarter of participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities, and go further with their many interesting analyses and reports.
Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger is a national nonprofit organization working to end hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds. Join any of their specific campaigns to end hunger for children, seniors, military families, and beyond, and learn more about hunger policy and advocacy work.
As hunger-related legislative advocacy opportunities arise, we will post simple instructions on how to get involved and make your voice heard.