> December 2012Hunger in the News Going to Waste Question: What can fill 91 Empire State Buildings or 365 Rose Bowl Stadiums? Answer: All the foo

Enews (Read-Only)

December 2012

Hunger in the News

Going to Waste

Question: What can fill 91 Empire State Buildings or 365 Rose Bowl Stadiums?

Answer: All the food that Americans throw out in one year!

Our food makes many stops on the journey from farm to table, and a full 40% of our food goes into the garbage along the way. When we consider that 14.9% of American households are at risk for food insecurity and the negative environmental impact of food in landfills; this wastage has significant moral and economic implications.

As it should, this issue is beginning to receive more and more attention. News articles, blogs, and this site with links to studies about food waste are all bringing due attention to this subject. Face the Facts, a project of Georgetown University, combines the food wastage and food insecurity messages quite nicely in this graphic..

The media sources above don’t just shed light on the problem, they focus on solutions such as connecting restaurant leftovers to those in need and other food rescue operations.

Food for People works with businesses to collect foods that are close to their expiration date and uses it to help feed local households. These are typically food items that would have gone into the waste stream, representing an additional cost to the business. From October 2011 through September 2012, Food for People collected 402,860 pounds of food from 18 local businesses and incorporated that food into our food boxes. Businesses appreciate the opportunity to help us feed the community using foods that are still good quality while reducing their costs – a partnership that benefits us all. Our backyard garden and local farm gleaning program brought in 42,458 pounds of produce, working with farmers to glean fruits and vegetables that might otherwise have been tilled under to make way for new crops. All foods received are inspected closely and if any food we receive is unfit for human consumption, it goes to a local hog farm, which keeps it in the food chain. But citrus, onion, and meat cannot be fed to hogs and cannot be composted, thus presenting a problem for any household or business that is unable to consume each and every morsel.

Here in Humboldt County, a brilliant solution to keep some of that food waste out of the landfill is in its pilot stage. "Food Waste to Watts" is a project of the Humboldt Waste Management Authority(HWMA). With 23% of Humboldt County’s waste stream composed of food, the goal of the Food Waste to Watts project is to divert that food waste and convert it into electricity. The pilot program currently has 50 participating commercial kitchens whose left over food scraps, milk cartons, and compostable containers are picked up by HWMA and driven south to an an anaerobic food waste digester that is located in an out of area processing facility.

School Meal Participation for 2010-2011

The California Food Policy Advocates released their School Meal Analysis for the 2010-2011 school year. The report includes participation rates by county and school district.

While 70% of California’s low-income students participated in National School Lunch Program, only 30% of eligible students ate federal School Breakfast. Offering breakfast in the classroom has proven to be an effective way to improve student participation in School Breakfast and to capture the benefits of breakfast.

Beyond the 46 Million

The data and statistics regarding food insecurity and the large number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants often overshadow the stories of the people who are at risk for hunger. Thankfully, in the midst of big news stories about the 46 million SNAP participants, there are smaller stories that feature the voices of those who struggle to make ends meet.

The rising cost of living and stagnant wages have forged an economic landscape where those who aren’t typically thought of as food insecure are in fact hungry. This recent college graduate talks about how she is using SNAP to maintain a healthy diet, while acknowledging the disappointment she feels in needing assistance after all her efforts to secure her future. College graduates are a small but growing population of those in need of public assistance. The percentage of graduate-degree holders who receive food stamps or some other aid more than doubled between 2007 and 2010 according to this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Programs that offer assistance to low income families offer more security in the present, while creating the possibility of a better future. Jessica Barthalow is a legislative advocate for the Western Center on Poverty and Law. Her story is a reminder that free lunch and educational opportunities for low-income students can help to break the cycle of poverty.

Quite often nutrition assistance is available, but transportation difficulties make accessing that needed food almost impossible. Seniors and people with disabilities who have a diminished ability to drive or travel out of the home are at risk of being unable to purchase adequate groceries or receive assistance. There is a grocery delivery service for low-income seniors in Modesto that is highlighted in this Modesto Bee article. Food for People’s Homebound Delivery Program and Senior Brown Bag Program deliver needed food boxes to Humboldt County residents who are unable to leave their homes due to short or long term illness. Volunteers donate their time and fuel costs in support of the program, delivering food boxes to homebound seniors and people with disabilities on routes that have been developed with fuel efficiency in mind. The volunteers also provide valued social connections. For more information on the Senior Brown Bag and Homebound Delivery Programs, contact Argelia Munoz at 707-445-3166 ext. 303 or amunoz@foodforpeople.org.


The Big SNAP Report

There is an abundance of information available about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Studies ranging from participation growth by demographic to health patterns of participants are available from a variety of sources. A report released in the spring of 2012 draws upon a multitude of SNAP information and presents it in one neat read- Building a Healthy America: A Profile of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Some areas of study included in this diverse report are participation rates by state, participant characteristics, reasons for non-participation, food choices of participants, and ways to improve program administration. Of particular interest is the study on food choices. SNAP recipients were slightly less likely to choose whole grains and produce, yet Americans at all income levels are not eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables and there appears to be no increase in risk for obesity amongst SNAP users.

In addition, check out this fresh report from the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services on the Characteristics of SNAP Households in 2011.

Advocacy In Action!

SNAP Still in Danger!

The Presidential election has come and gone but one thing remains the same; Congress is yet to approve a Farm Bill. Essentially, the same challenge remains for the passage of the Farm Bill that existed before November 6th, 2012. The Senate’s version, with its $4.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), passed in July. The House of Representatives is yet to approve its version, primarily because of disagreements on cuts to SNAP. The version proposed in August by the House Agricultural Subcommittee contained $16 billion in cuts to SNAP. That number was unacceptable to representatives wanting to protect the food safety net, as well as to representatives who did not feel the cuts went far enough.

With the election over, Congress still faces the same battle under the same balance of power with regard to the Farm Bill, and SNAP remains at the heart of this battle. What also remains unchanged by the election results are high rates of food insecurity and the climbing number of Americans who depend on SNAP to put food on the table. Census Bureau data reveals Humboldt County's poverty rate had risen to 18.4% in 2011, compared to a statewide poverty rate of 14.4%. When counted as income, SNAP keeps participants from falling even deeper into poverty or lifts them out of poverty.

Also at stake is the negative impact that SNAP cuts would have on the economy as shown in this article and interactive map from the Center for American Progress. CalFresh (SNAP in California) brings $2.5 million into Humboldt County each month. For these reasons, it is critical to ensure that SNAP does not suffer devastating cuts in the Farm Bill. Contact your Representative and Senator to ensure that they will fight for the nutrition safety net in the Farm Bill.

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The Supplemental Poverty Measure

New estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that even more Americans are living in poverty than previously thought. The Census Bureau has applied a new measurement of poverty that offers a more pragmatic picture of poverty levels than the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) that has been used to measure poverty since 1964. The FPL bases the threshold level for poverty on the costs of a “minimum diet”. Using these new estimates, the Census Bureau Reports that 16.1% of people in the U.S. are poor, one percentage point more than the FPL. For those age 65 and older, the poverty level jumped from 8.7% to 15.1% with the new estimates, in large part because of high medical expenses.

Unlike the FPL, the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), takes into account the effects of fluctuating medical costs, regional differences in the cost of living, costs of transportation, and the cost of childcare. The SPM also includes the effects of government policies that lift people above the poverty line with programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Using the SPM poverty levels fell among children from the FPL rate of 22.3% to 18.1%, because SNAP and EITC are utilized by families with children.

Advocates for the poor have been pushing to change how poverty is measured for decades. In the 1990's a new tool was developed to determine how much income is needed to be truly self sufficient, the Self Sufficiency Standard. The Self Sufficiency Standard uses current costs of food, housing, transportation, and healthcare to offer a more realistic benchmark of what is required to be economically independent in today's world. The differences between FPL and Self Sufficiency Standard are vast: FPL for one adult with a toddler and school-aged child is set at an annual income of $19,090 . That parent would bring home $16,640 working full time earning California's $8 per hour minimum wage. Using the Self Sufficiency Standard Calculator for California, that family needs to earn $51,800 annually just to cover basic needs.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service 14.9% of U.S. households were food insecure in 2011 . The SPM could be used as a tool in determining the best use of public policy to reduce the risk of hunger.

How Can I Help? Contact Your Representatives

U.S. House of Representatives

Mike Thompson
231 Cannon Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-3311
Fax: (202) 225-4335

317 3rd Street, Suite 1
Eureka, CA 95501
Phone: (707) 269-9595
Fax: (707) 269-9598

U.S. Senate
Barbara Boxer
Email at www.Boxer.senate.gov
District Office: (415)403-0100

Dianne Feinstein
Email at www.Feinstein.senate.gov
D.C. Office: (202)224-3841
District Office: (415)393-0707

California Governor
Jerry Brown
State Capitol
Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916)445-2841

State Senator
Noreen Evans
State Capitol
1303 10th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916)651-4002
Fax: (916)319-2101

State Assembly
Wesley Chesbro
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0001
Phone: (916)319-2001
Fax: (916)319-2101

Calendar of Events & Local Happenings


Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

The Redwood Community Action Agency’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program is recruiting volunteers for the 2013 tax season which operates from January 14th – April 15th. The VITA Program offers free tax preparation services for low-to-moderate income individuals and families throughout Humboldt and Del Norte counties. They are currently seeking both greeters (to welcome clients) and tax preparers. Volunteer today to help families receive the tax refunds they deserve, and put money back into our local economy! Build your resume, and be part of a rewarding and educational opportunity! There is no experience necessary to apply, and free training will be provided. For more information, please contact the VITA Program Coordinator, Lindsay Helms, at (707) 269-2016.

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Food for People's Monthly Cooking Class

Each month, Food for People organizes a free cooking class for low-income households in Humboldt County. Taught by volunteer chef and College of the Redwoods instructor, Anne Harris, this class teaches basic culinary skills, food and kitchen safety, and how to make nutritious and delicious dishes using commodity foods and fresh produce.

For more information, please contact Megan Westersund at Food for People (contact information below).


For more information on Food for People, to refer someone for assistance with CalFresh, to schedule a CalFresh training or application clinic, Hunger 101 presentation, or nutrition education activity for your organization, please contact:
Heidi McHugh
Community Education & Outreach Coordinator
(707) 445-3166 ext. 308 / hmchugh@foodforpeople.org
Megan Westersund
Nutrition Education Coordinator
ext. 305 / mwestersund@foodforpeople.org

*Images in this issue are provided by: Food for People, Chris Wisner, the USDA, Yes on Prop 30.com, Stuart Miles, Paul, Danilo Rizzuti, Ambro, healingdream, Master isolated images, Salvatore Vuono, stuffflypeoplelike.com, www.freegraphics.org, Michelle Meiklejohn, and chawalitpix of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.