As the Farm Bill deliberations move to conference in the next few weeks, Feeding Indiana’s Hungry commends the Senate’s adoption of additional funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), thanks to the leadership of Chairman Pat Roberts, Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, and Senator Joe Donnelly. Our member food banks depend on TEFAP to address the significant need for food assistance in communities, nationwide. We will continue to work with representatives from both the House and Senate, as the legislation moves to conference, to strengthen SNAP and TEFAP.
Author: EWBryant (page 1 of 15)
Proposed SNAP Cuts will Hurt Hoosiers
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.
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.”
- 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]
The Indiana State Bar Association, in coordination with the Office of the Indiana Attorney General and Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, today announced the winners for this year’s March Against Hunger virtual food drive competition. The following winners from each of the six divisions will receive the “Attorney General’s Cup” trophy at the Association’s Awards Luncheon on Aug. 30.
- Sole Proprietor – Krodel Law Office P.C., Jasper
- Small Firm (2-11 attorneys) – Jones Obenchain LLP, South Bend
- Medium Firm (12-21 attorneys) – Burke Costanza & Carberry LLP, Merrillville
- Large Firm (22-49 attorneys) – Faegre Baker Daniels, Fort Wayne
- X-Large Firm (50+ attorneys) – Barnes & Thornburg, South Bend/Elkhart offices
- Public/Non-Profit/Local Bar – Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, Indianapolis
This year’s March Against Hunger food drive competition took place March 1-31, generating $37,294.78 in monetary donations. Since 2009, the food drive has generated a total of 70,019 pounds of food and $378,730.69 in monetary donations for Indiana food banks.
More than 300,000 children in Indiana don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
Feeding America’s 2017 Map the Meal Gap report is out, and it looks at the hunger rate in every county across the country.
The report analyzes factors such as food price variations, food budget shortfalls, poverty and unemployment.
It says overall, 1 in 7 Indiana residents is food insecure.
Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, says the hunger rate for children is even higher – at 20 percent or more – in 38 counties in the state.
“You’ve got counties that are as high as almost 24 percent in Fayette, and nearly that high in Switzerland and Wayne as well,” she states. “And so, you’re talking about really closer to 1 in 4 children who are at risk of hunger. So they don’t know where that next meal is coming from.”
Weikert Bryant says about 7 in 10 Hoosier children are eligible for some sort of nutrition assistance program, but that leaves about 30 percent whose families make too much to qualify. In some cases, she says, the only places they have to turn for help are charitable organizations that distribute free food.
The report also finds shortfalls are growing in many families’ food budgets. Weikert Bryant says that means there isn’t enough to stretch from paycheck to paycheck.
“The numbers are remaining fairly steady, but the folks that are food insecure are having a much harder time,” she states. “That hole they have to dig out of is deeper than it used to be.”
Weikert Bryant adds a greater effort is needed to make sure that people who are eligible for food assistance apply for and receive it, and she says this is no time for the federal government to cut or restrict eligibility for food programs.
Marion County has the highest overall food insecurity rate in Indiana. Hamilton County has the lowest, but Weikert Bryant says there still are 26,000 people in that county at risk of hunger.
Veronica Carter, Public News Service – IN
The study also finds that people currently facing hunger are likely falling further behind as they continue to struggle to buy enough food to meet their needs. Food-insecure individuals now face, on average, a food budget shortfall of $15.44 per person each week, up from $14.92 last year.
“We have seen a consistent increase in the food budget shortfall the last several years, in spite of economic improvement,” said Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry. “This rising measure of need suggests that people facing hunger are likely falling further behind as they continue to struggle to buy enough food to meet their needs.”
Feeding Indiana’s Hungry is a Partner State Association of Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks that collectively provides food assistance to 46 million Americans struggling with hunger. The eleven member food banks of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry collectively distributed 62.6 million meals to clients across Indiana in 2016 to alleviate hunger.
“It is disheartening to realize that millions of hardworking, low-income Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to feed themselves and their families at the same time that our economy is showing many signs of improvement, including a substantial decline in the number of people who are unemployed,” said Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America. “This study underscores the need for strong federal nutrition programs as well of the importance of charitable food assistance programs, especially the food pantries and meal programs served by the Feeding America network of food banks.”
Map the Meal Gap 2017 uses data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and food price data and analysis provided by Nielsen (NYSE: NLSN), a global provider of information and insights. The study is supported by founding sponsor The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Conagra Brands Foundation and Nielsen.
Key local findings:
- 14.4% food insecurity rate in Indiana is estimated to be 950,720 Hoosiers at risk of hunger.
- Child food insecurity numbers are estimated at 301,990 at 19.1%.
- County averages range from 12.6% in Hamilton County to several counties to 38 at or above 20%, and several nearing a quarter of children in the county being food insecure, including Fayette, Switzerland, Sullivan, and Wayne Counties at over 23%.
The Indiana State Bar is teaming up with the Office of the Indiana Attorney General and Feeding Indiana’s Hungry for its ninth consecutive year to sponsor March Against Hunger, a food drive competition for lawyers to raise money for Indiana’s 11 regional food banks March 1-31. The competition is an opportunity for lawyers statewide to help put food on the tables of those struggling in our state. Since 2009, the March Against Hunger food drive has generated 70,019 pounds of food and $341,435.91 in monetary donations for Indiana food banks.
This year in order to make it easier for food drive participants to donate, the competition will be a virtual campaign. Through a virtual food drive, your donation doubles or even triples the impact of your generosity, and Feeding Indiana’s Hungry is assured it can distribute the most-needed items to food banks across the state. To clarify, this competition no longer includes the collection of non-perishable food donations.
The winner in each of the following categories will be presented with the coveted “Attorney General’s Cup” trophy:
Solo Proprietor (1 lawyer)
Small Firm (2-11 lawyers)
Medium Firm (12-21 lawyers)
Large Firm (22-49 lawyers)
X-Large Firm (50+ lawyers)
Public/Non-Profit/Local Bar/Law School
Firms can sign up anytime before the competition begins or during the collection period. Click to sign up here!
When you donate through Feeding Indiana’s Hungry online portal via the link below, please be sure to include your firm and city in the field that says, “Comment, In Memory, Tribute.”
Participating restaurants include:
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
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.