Feeding Indiana's Hungry

Indiana's State Association of Food Banks

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Category: advocacy (page 1 of 3)

Farm Bill Must Not Cut SNAP

Program Is Vital to Many Hoosiers

There’s so much that’s rewarding about working with Indiana’s Feeding America affiliate food banks and I am privileged to have the chance to help Hoosiers struggling to get by. It’s comforting to know that when people in our communities face hardship, they have somewhere to turn.

But the support our food banks provide can only go so far. Many of the people we see each day also use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to help put food on their families’ tables.

SNAP has a major impact on families, seniors, and communities in our state and across the country. Here in Indiana, SNAP helped 672,000 people last year. That’s one in ten Hoosiers who has been laid off, has experienced a serious illness, or who otherwise might need a little extra help to get by in hard times. Nationwide, nearly two-thirds of the people who SNAP helps are children, seniors, or people with disabilities.

New developments in Washington could put these Hoosiers at risk.

President Trump and Congress just enacted a deeply partisan, unpopular, and harmful tax bill that gives tax cuts to the wealthy and large corporations while ultimately raising taxes on millions of lower- and middle- income families and increasing the federal deficit. Now, to pay for it, some Republican leaders are saying they plan to make cuts and harmful changes to SNAP and other vital programs in the budget and Farm Bill.

As Congress works to finalize the federal budget and the Farm Bill, I hope our Indiana delegation understands how important SNAP is to our communities and fights to protect it. If SNAP is cut, food banks and pantries across the country simply won’t be able to make up the difference. SNAP cuts will mean more Hoosiers confronting poverty and hunger. SNAP cuts wouldn’t create jobs or raise anyone’s wages – they would just make it harder for struggling families to put food on the table and get back on their feet.

SNAP benefits are extremely modest, in Indiana amounting to just $1.30 per person per meal, but they make a big difference for the people who receive them. When families use SNAP to cover part of their grocery bill every month, they have more take-home pay left for rent, utilities, and other bills. SNAP is also one of the best anti-poverty programs we have, keeping 224,000 Hoosiers out of poverty every year.

Protecting SNAP isn’t just about reducing poverty now; it’s also about a better future for our children. One in four of our nation’s children uses SNAP to help get enough to eat, including 397,900 in Indiana. And research shows that people who received SNAP as young children are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to suffer from costly long-term health problems like obesity and heart disease.

SNAP also has economic benefits that extend far beyond the people the program helps directly. In fact, 5,297 businesses, including local grocery stores and retailers, see $1.07 billion pumped into our economy every year thanks to the program. A stronger economy means more jobs, higher wages, and fewer people who need to come to food banks and pantries – which is a very good thing. Cutting SNAP benefits or imposing stricter requirements on participants isn’t the way to get to these positive outcomes that we all want.

It frightens me to think that those working hard to make ends meet could face even more hardship because of decisions that our members of Congress will be making. By protecting SNAP and other critical programs, our elected officials can give our neighbors greater security and stability and a brighter future. I hope our Indiana Congressional delegation members will make the right choice.

Statement attributable to Emily Weikert Bryant, Executive Director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry and co-chair of the SNAP Works for Hoosiers campaign.

September 26 is National Voter Registration Day

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry events will register voters at Indiana food banks

Today, Americans will celebrate National Voter Registration Day with a massive 50-state effort to register voters before the next election.

With important local and state elections in 2018 only months away, every eligible American voter should exercise his or her right to be heard at the ballot box. National Voter Registration Day is the right place to start by getting registered. As a nonpartisan “holiday” for democracy, National Voter Registration Day counts on thousands of partners and volunteers across the political spectrum as well as nonpartisan nonprofits like Feeding Indiana’s Hungry.

“Although Indiana’s next election is not until 2018, it’s important for every Hoosier to register to ensure their voice is heard. As a nonprofit representing anti-hunger service providers, we feel it’s important to assist our clients so that they’re able to participate in our democratic process,” said Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry.

Partner organizations will coordinate hundreds of National Voter Registration Day events nationwide and leverage #NationalVoterRegistrationDay on all social media platforms to drive attention to voter registration. Events can be located by visiting https://nationalvoterregistrationday.org/.

Hoosiers can register at several events across Indiana and online at http://www.indianavoters.com/. Indiana residents with a valid Indiana driver’s license or Indiana state-issued identification card will be able to use this tool to submit a new voter registration application, confirm they are registered, or to update an existing voter registration record if they’ve recently moved, turned 18, or changed their name.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry will register voters at the following events today:

Voter Registration Drive at Gleaners’ Community Cupboard
10:00 AM-3:00 PM
Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Community Cupboard 3737 Waldemere Ave Indianapolis, IN 46241

Voter Registration Drive at Food Finders Food Bank’s JP Lisack Community Food Pantry
1:00 PM-5:00 PM
Food Finders Food Bank Food Resource & Education Center (FREC)
1204 Greenbush Street Lafayette, IN 47909

About National Voter Registration Day

Founded in 2012, National Voter Registration Day is designed to create an annual moment when the entire nation focuses on registering Americans to exercise their most basic right – the right to vote. More than two million Americans have registered to vote on this day since the inaugural National Voter Registration Day.

 

Hunger is an Emergency that Congress Cannot Ignore

Proposed SNAP Cuts will Hurt Hoosiers

What is an emergency? A storm? Maybe a flood or a fire? What about an act of violence or a health problem? Certainly. But it’s also an emergency when a family doesn’t have anything to eat for dinner.

Anti-hunger aid is generally called “emergency food assistance.” This includes the work done day in and day out by food banks, pantries, child hunger programs, and others around the country. They do amazing work with meager resources and donated food to keep that family from skipping meals and being hungry.

But the work of the charitable sector only accounts for about 10% of emergency hunger relief in the US. By far the largest emergency food program, providing help for more than 700,000 Hoosiers last year, comes from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP also keeps that family from skipping meals while generating local economic activity because the benefits are used to purchase food at grocery stores and markets.

Working for an organization supporting anti-hunger programs without any food assistance to offer, I still receive calls from Hoosiers who need food right now. A worried mother who knows that there is no food in the house when her kids come home from school. A grandmother struggling to feed grandchildren she is raising. A recently unemployed dad who doesn’t know how he can keep a roof over his family’s head, pay the bills, find a new job, and feed his family. These are emergencies. Many of us are fortunate to never experience this kind of crisis, but when it happens to you, it is just as critical as a flood or a fire. SNAP provides vital emergency relief for many Hoosiers.

Right now, Congress is considering massive cuts to SNAP that will have a deep impact on millions of Americans when they find they are no longer eligible to receive help feeding their families or their benefits are cut, and they’re running out of options. These cuts will leave a hole in the food budget of families that the charitable sector cannot fill. Cuts in SNAP benefits or eligibility have often been considered by some Members of Congress as a way of shrinking the deficit, reducing a real or imagined reliance, or seeking to incentivize desired behaviors. While these are not unreasonable goals, it is wholly unacceptable to not provide food to someone who is hungry in this country. I implore our Members of Congress, particularly Congressman Rokita, the vice chair of the House Budget Committee, to oppose any budget that uses the reconciliation process to cut key programs, including SNAP, that help the struggling families we serve. Hunger must not be an emergency for another Hoosier family.

Emily Weikert Bryant is the executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, the state association of food banks.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry Statement on the President’s Budget

The 2018 budget proposed by President Trump would be damaging for the nearly one million Hoosiers facing hunger. The budget makes significant cuts to programs that support millions of Americans who have fallen on hard times, including SNAP (or food stamps), which would be reduced by more than $190 billion over 10 years – a cut of more than 25 percent and resulting in at least 45 billion meals lost.

The budget also proposed cuts to the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which is federal commodity food largely distributed through America’s food banks. Any proposed cuts to TEFAP would limit the ability of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry member food banks to provide food assistance throughout the state. Estimates show 33 million meals would be lost nationwide in FY2018 due to TEFAP cuts.

“While food banks work tirelessly to provide emergency food assistance to families at risk of hunger, the problem is simply too big to fix without national government programs that are proven to lift people out of hunger and reach far more people,” said Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry. “In fact, charitable food programs provide only 10% of the meals that SNAP does. Any cuts to SNAP would increase demand on the nation’s charitable food system at a time when food banks are already stretched to meet sustained high need, and would be devastating to hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger.”

SNAP Facts:

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly referred to as “food stamps”) is the cornerstone of the nutrition safety net, providing assistance to low-income Americans to ensure that they can get the nutrition they need.
  • As of January 2017, 42.6 million people were enrolled in SNAP. [Source: USDA.]
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly “food stamps”) helps millions of low-income Americans put food on the table and provides benefits that are timely, targeted and temporary.
  • Nearly 90 percent (86.5%) of SNAP participants live in households that include a child, a senior or someone who is disabled. [Source: USDA, FY 2015 SNAP Characteristics Report, table A.14]
  • 65.9% of SNAP benefits go to households with children. [Source: USDA, FY 2015 SNAP Characteristics Report, table A.1]
  • Benefits currently average about $1.40 per person per meal. [Source: CBPP analysis of USDA data.]
  • While it is true that about 1 in 8 Americans currently receive SNAP benefits, this is generally linked to the fact that nearly the same number also live at or below the poverty level, which is $20,420 for a family of three in 2017. [Source: HHS]
  • Most SNAP recipients who can work, do work. 64% of participants are children, elderly, or disabled and not expected to work; 22% work full time, are in a training program or are caregivers; and the remaining 14% either work less than 30 hours a week or are unemployed. [Source: USDA]

Hoosier Lawmakers Could Remove SNAP Ban

Indiana's food banks provide meals to more than 1 million people each year. (feedingindianashungry.org)

INDIANAPOLIS – Lawmakers are considering several bills this legislative session dealing with hunger issues in Indiana.

Thursday, the Senate is expected to vote on SB 9, which would remove a lifetime SNAP benefit ban on anyone who’s been convicted on felony drug charges.

Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, says it was put into place as part of welfare reform legislation in the 90s but it really hurts those who make a mistake and end up in prison, because once they’re released they can’t always find a job, and aren’t able to receive help buying food.

Weikert Bryant says Indiana is one of the few states that has not removed the ban.

“Within the last two years, the states of Alaska, Texas, Alabama and Georgia have changed their policies away from that lifetime ban, and we’ve seen most other states do that as well because it doesn’t serve the purpose that it was intended,” she points out.

Weikert Bryant says people just getting out of prison make around $10,000 a year, but in Indiana the minimum amount needed for a single person to be considered self sufficient is more than $18,000 annually.

A bill heard recently in committee is SB 154, which would eliminate the asset test that a SNAP recipient must pass to be eligible for benefits.

Weikert Bryant says that regulation makes it nearly impossible for people to put anything aside so they can pull themselves out of poverty.

“If you have any sort of savings or some retirement account, some other types of savings, if you have a pre-paid burial plot, you have to sell or get rid of those assets, or spend them down, in order to be eligible for SNAP benefits, even if you have no income at all,” she points out.

Weikert Bryant calls the SNAP program one of the most well run, efficient and effective anti-hunger programs in the country.

She says food banks are providing meals to 1.1 million Hoosiers and they’re still having trouble meeting everyone’s needs.

Other bills she and other advocates are keeping an eye on this legislative session have to do with healthy food financing programs to help get fruits and vegetables to areas known as food deserts in the state, and a program to help food banks to buy Indiana-grown products.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service – IN

2017 State Legislative Agenda Gaining Momentum

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry is committed to enhancing the quality of life for our clients through access to safe, nutritious food and other vital necessities. One in six Hoosiers is food insecure. Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports legislation and administrative policies which recognize the needs of the more than 1.1 million Hoosiers Indiana food banks serve and increase the accessibility of nutritious food options to promote health, educational attainment, and workforce success for those in need.


Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports investment in healthy, Hoosier grown food through the Farms to Food Banks program funded through the ISDA.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry asks for $300,000 in year one of the biennial budget and $500,000 in year two, to be spent on Indiana grown and produced food to help Hoosiers at risk of hunger through the food bank network.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports removing barriers to public assistance enrollment and administration to ensure that programs that assist food bank clients are provided to those eligible for the assistance in the most efficient and cost effective way possible. We oppose establishing any additional barriers to public assistance eligibility or access or utilization.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports the removal of a ban on receiving SNAP benefits by individuals with a past felony drug conviction.

Since welfare reform in 1996, individuals convicted of a felony which has as an element the possession, use, or distribution of a controlled substance are ineligible for SNAP benefits under federal law unless a state opts out of this requirement. Indiana is one of only 7 states still operating under a lifetime ban, since Texas and Alabama altered state public policies in 2015 and Georgia and Alaska followed in 2016.

Additionally, SNAP bans do not apply to any other types of felony convictions. Because women are the primary recipients of SNAP and women of color are more likely to get caught up in the racial disparities of the criminal justice system, the bans disproportionally affect children of color and their mothers.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports the elimination of state SNAP asset limits through the enforcement of broad-based categorical eligibility.

In Indiana, a SNAP applicant household must have less than $2250 in assets ($3250 if the household contains a senior or individual with a disability) to be eligible. Assets include bank accounts, cash, real estate, personal property, vehicles not used for household transportation, retirement accounts, health savings accounts, education savings accounts, and individual development accounts. The household’s home and surrounding lot, household goods and personal belongings, defined benefit pensions and life insurance policies are not counted as assets in the SNAP program. Personal savings and assets pull families out of poverty and move them toward self-sufficiency. Asset limits adversely affect the recently unemployed who retain assets that must be spent down and seniors on fixed incomes.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports legislative review on successes of job connection for unemployed SNAP recipients with arbitrary time limits for nutrition benefits.

Since welfare reform in 1996, SNAP requires all recipients who are able to work to by government definition (despite existing physical and mental impediments) do so unless there is an exemption. So-called able bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) who are financially eligible to receive SNAP benefits must meet special work requirements in addition to the general requirement to maintain eligibility.

ABAWDs can only receive SNAP nutrition assistance for 3 months in 3 years if the special requirements are not met. Outcome reporting from the IMPACT program would enable legislators to review the efficacy of the employment training and job placement program, whether it has assisted recipients to come off the program, and the impact on the charitable sector to provide services for individuals who have become ineligible for nutrition assistance and remain unemployed or underemployed.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports public policy proposals that will bring healthy food options to food insecure Hoosiers.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry supports healthy food financing programs that empower food banks and pantries to build capacity for perishable items.

Food bank clients struggle to afford and access food. 85 percent of food bank client households purchase inexpensive, unhealthy food because they cannot afford healthier options. About a third of households report watering down food or drinks to make what they have last longer, including infant formula. Some grow produce. About two-thirds of client households have received help from family and friends, and more than 40 percent have sold or pawned personal property to do what they can to provide enough food for their families.

Hoosier food bank clients make trade-offs regularly:
• 77% choose between paying for food or utilities;
• 79% between food and transportation;
• 63% between food and housing.

Notably, nearly half of client households have incorporated charitable food assistance into their monthly food budgets. Emergency food assistance programs allow clients to address core food expenses so that limited income can be allocated elsewhere.

Food deserts are a part of the larger problems of hunger and healthy food access.

Food banks have developed innovative strategies to bring fresh produce and other nutritious foods into food deserts which include mobile pantries, trucks that drive out to communities that lack access to traditional food pantries or retail and distribute food. Additionally, there are roughly 1,800 charities already operating around the state that, with a modest grant or loan, could increase cold storage space or purchase mobile refrigeration to provide additional produce to assist Hoosier families.

New Leaders Urged to Make Hunger a Priority

grview-55123-1While many of us attend holiday parties that center around food this time of the year, and maybe worry about eating too much – it can be easy to overlook the fact that people around us may not have enough to eat.

One in six Hoosiers doesn’t always know where their next meal will come from. According to Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, this is a year-round problem, but it’s at the forefront during the holidays.

“We see the holidays as an opportunity to start that conversation with the public and with newly-elected officials, to say, ‘Here’s what’s going on in our communities and here’s who’s in need, and there are people experiencing hunger, and that’s unacceptable,'” she said.

Bryant said everyone can help, either through food or cash donations or by volunteering at a local food pantry.

Now that the election is over, it’s time to let lawmakers know that hunger should be a top priority, she added.

“We’re asking our newly-elected officials, both in Washington, D.C., and in Indianapolis, who will be sworn in in the next few weeks to recommit to our state and to our country that nobody in our nation should go hungry,” she explained.

When it comes to food insecurity, the Food Research and Action Center ranks Indiana 23rd in the nation, with nearly 20 percent of households with children reporting they are unable to afford enough food.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service – IN

Join the Conversation During Older Americans Month to #SolveSeniorHunger

May is OldSenior SNAP_USAer Americans Month! The appreciation month for seniors is an annual event dating back to
1963 when President John F. Kennedy designated May as Senior Citizens Month. It was later renamed Older Americans Month (OAM) and every president since Kennedy has issued a formal proclamation that the entire nation pay tribute to older persons and their contributions to our communities.

The 2016 OAM theme is Blaze a Trail. The Administration for Community Living is raising awareness about important issues facing older adults and highlight the ways that older Americans are advocating for themselves, their peers and their communities.

The Feeding America nationwide network of food banks serves seven million seniors, the 1 in 12 seniors who face hunger in our country. Additionally, nearly 750,000 seniors volunteer each month at Feeding America network food pantries and meal programs across the country.

Food insecurity is particularly detrimental to seniors because of their unique nutritional needs related to aging and medical conditions. As such, we know seniors facing hunger are at increased risk for chronic health conditions like depression (60%), heart attack (53%), asthma (52%) and congestive heart failure (40%).

Through thoughtful and innovative programs designed to address the special and unique challenges that seniors face, the Feeding America network provides 563 million meals to seniors (age 60+) each year.

Charitable food assistance alone cannot solve senior hunger. The federal nutrition programs that reach seniors, including SNAP, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), and senior congregate and home-delivered meals are critical supports for low-income seniors facing hunger.

This year, Feeding America and partner organizations have come together to shine a light on the fact that seniors, more than any other age group, do not take advantage of SNAP benefits. Nationally, only 41 percent of seniors who are eligible to receive SNAP are actually enrolled in the program, compared to the larger population where 83 percent of individuals who are eligible are taking advantage of benefits. In Indiana it’s even lower; only 33 percent of eligible seniors are participating in SNAP. During Older Americans Month 2016, we’re joining together to help #SolveSeniorHunger by closing the Senior SNAP Gap. Senior SNAP gap state-level information is available thanks to the National Council on Aging (NCOA).

Together, we can give back to those who have given us so much of their time, hard work and wisdom. Join us in raising awareness for older Americans who struggle with hunger, so we can work toward solving senior hunger.

You can get involved in Older Americans Month in four key ways:

  • Join the #SolveSeniorHunger conversation by sharing stories of senior hunger
  • Share your state’s Senior SNAP Gap data to spread the word
  • Tweet or message your Members of Congress to help close the Senior SNAP Gap
  • Take a Solve Senior Hunger selfie and post it to social media with #SolveSeniorHunger to show your support

Visit org/SolveSeniorHunger to learn more about the issue and find resources to help raise awareness.

BILLS TO HELP HUNGRY HOOSIERS BEING HEARD THIS MONTH

 

Thousands of Hoosiers aren't getting enough to eat because they can't qualify for SNAP benefits.

Thousands of Hoosiers aren’t getting enough to eat because they can’t qualify for SNAP benefit. Indiana lawmakers are tackling a couple of bills this short legislative session that have to do with the access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, says there are thousands of Hoosiers without enough food because they can’t get help.

Indiana law says anyone convicted of a drug offense is not eligible to collect SNAP benefits regardless of how little money they have. Bryant says many of them are mothers just being released from jail.

“They may be taking custody of their children, they may be trying to keep their families together, but they can’t get access to enough food to feed their families and it has a definite impact of family stability,” she says.

House Bill 1078 would remove the stipulation that anyone convicted of drug offenses would not be allowed to receive SNAP benefits. Another bill that may come up next week is Senate Bill 377. It would remove some of the restrictions placed on people about how much money they can have saved up in order to qualify for the SNAP program.

Bryant says right now a family can’t have more than $2,250 in assets. That excludes their home, pension benefits or life insurance policies.

“Problem with that is it discourages families from saving,” she says. “And helping them move themselves out of poverty and into self sufficiency.”

Bryant says food banks and pantries across Indiana feed 1.1 million people a year. She says providing food to the needy means they don’t have to make a choice of using what little money they have to eat, or to keep the heat on in their homes.

“If a family has access to SNAP benefits, which are spent only on food, it frees up some of their other income to be able to pay that utility bill or to pay that rent,” Bryant says.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service – IN

 

Effort Under Way to Rid Indiana of “Food Deserts”

More than 23 million Americans don't have quick access to healthy food, but legislation in Indiana aims to change that. (Veronica Carter)

More than 23 million Americans don’t have quick access to healthy food, but legislation in Indiana aims to change that. (Veronica Carter)

January 13, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana has many areas where residents live 10 or more miles from a supermarket that sells fresh food and Indianapolis has been named the worst in the nation for these so-called “food deserts.”

Logansport Sen. Randy Head has authored a bill to give grants to businesses that want to sell healthier choices. He says it will help eliminate food deserts.

“For instance, if a convenience store wants to get coolers to offer fresh produce, this kind of thing would help them buy the coolers,” says Head. “They’ll be evaluated annually to make sure they’re doing what they say they’re going to do with the money and it’s got a claw-back in it, so if they’re not doing what they say they’re going to be doing or what they should be doing with it, they owe all that money back to the state.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says more than 23 million Americans live at least 10 miles away from supermarkets that offer fresh meat, dairy and produce, and more than half of those people are low-income.

Head says food deserts can be found all over the state, and they’re not just in the cities.

“You know, when people hear the term ‘food desert’ they automatically think of urban, but in Indiana and Illinois as well, a lot of food deserts are rural,” he says. “We’ve got them all over the state of Indiana, in many different types of communities.”

Senate Bill 15 requires the funds be used for equipment, infrastructure or property. Head says it’s based on a program in Pennsylvania where for every dollar invested, the grants resulted in $1.50 of economic development and improved quality of life in communities.

University of Arkansas Professor Randy Nayga is doing research in his state on children who live in food deserts. He says their average Body Mass Index is higher than kids from homes closer to stores that offer fresh food. He says researchers are looking at which stores children lived near, and also whether they have a chance to play outdoors and get exercise, because that matters, too.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service – IN