March 2013 Hunger in the News The Reason for the Food Stamp Challenge Food Stamp Challenges are a growing trend in which the participant has only

Enews (Read-Only)

March 2013

Hunger in the News

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The Reason for the Food Stamp Challenge

Food Stamp Challenges are a growing trend in which the participant has only about $35 for seven days worth of food and beverage, which is the average amount of money that participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, receive. Common themes of the week for participants in the challenge include lack of food variety, increased time preparing foods, inability to afford fresh produce, thinking constantly about food, and fatigue from decreased nutrient intake.

Criticisms of the Food Stamp Challenge also follow common themes; most often it is that the challenge taker has the comfort of returning to their usual food budget at the end of the week. Another common criticism is that the terms of the challenge defy the intention of the SNAP program as a “supplement” to an existing food budget (that is assumed by the critic). Challenges undertaken by celebrities like Mario Batali are often targets of such accusations.

A recent Twitter debate between the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker, and one of his Twitter followers about the responsibility the government has to provide free or reduced-price school meals to low-income children resulted in one of the most publicized Food Stamp Challenges to date. Mayor Booker blogged about his experience and was featured on National Public Radio, the Daily Show, and Face the Nation.

In January 2013 the CEO of the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, Erik Talkin, embarked on a month long Food Security Challenge. This challenge follows the same guidelines as the traditional Food Stamp Challenge, except Erik Talkin committed to live within the budget for four weeks. Because he “quickly discovered that (SNAP) by itself is not enough to prevent a person from sliding into ill health”, this challenge also included visits to the food bank and hot meal sites to supplement his budget, and a night sleeping in his car. His month was covered by the Santa Barbara Indpendent and his blog on the Foodbank of Santa Barbara's webpage.

In August of 2012, staff members from Food for People and the Eureka Times-Standard participated in a seven day CalFresh (SNAP in California) Challenge. We all noted the same feelings of fatigue, the increased time spent preparing meals, regrets for not planning better, and the absence of fresh produce that other Food Stamp Challenges have produced. We also received a similar mix of compliments and criticisms for our efforts. It matters not if people view the Food Stamp Challenge positively or negatively, because the whole point of the exercise is to increase awareness of food insecurity and the vital role of programs like CalFresh in reducing hunger and poverty. The person who laments that challenge participants have the security of returning to an increased food budget at the week’s end has grasped the hard reality of food insecurity; it can be endless. Cory Booker’s challenge captured the attention of the nation. Every person who encountered a news story, televised interview, blog post or Tweet about his challenge was somehow engaged in the conversation about hunger and the importance of nutrition assistance. Many of those people were likely inspired to apply for SNAP, volunteer in their community, and advocate for the policy changes that are needed to put an end to hunger.

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Disability Linked to Food Insecurity

Here at Food for People we listen to the stories of those in need of our services. The root causes of food insecurity such as absence of living wages, unemployment, high costs of living, and difficulties accessing nutritious foods are part of the stories that we hear every day. But there is another theme we encounter frequently that is sometimes overlooked as a common risk factor for hunger; disability.

According to this report from the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, 27% of all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) participants are in households with an elderly or disabled member. In California, where SNAP is called CalFresh, only 3% of participants are in households with elderly or disabled members. Why does California have such a low percentage compared to the nation as a whole? There are two reasons. First, it is estimated that less than 10% of eligible seniors are participating in CalFresh. The second reason is Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.

SSI is a Federal income supplement program for people over 65 and disabled people of any age who have little or no income. In California SSI recipients also qualify for the State Supplementary Payment (SSP) that is intended to augment their SSI payments. Because of this additional payment, recipients of SSI/SSP are not eligible for CalFresh.
There were 6,679 recipients of SSI in Humboldt County in 2011, according to the Social Security Administration.

SSI participation rates are only one measure of who is low-income and disabled. The U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement data has been used by the United States Department of Agriculture to report on the prevalence of food insecurity among disabled households. The findings show that 33.5% of households with a disabled adult who cannot work were food insecure and that 24.8% of households with “other reported disabilities” were food insecure. Households with a disabled adult were also more at risk for very low food security compared to households without a disabled adult. People with physical, visual, and mental disabilities are more likely to be food insecure.

The report has the data to back up what people who work at food banks, family resource centers, and local Departments of Social Services see every day; people with disabilities are often struggling to afford and access enough food to eat. Here at the food bank we are privy to the dire financial situations that often accompany a disability. There are many people, with and without disabilities, who live with an income less than $900 month and rents of $400 to $600, before utilities. Transportation can eat up as much as $300 per month. Sadly, when all the “basics” are paid for there is often nothing left for food. They can access the services of Food for People, and those who do not receive SSI/SSP may qualify for CalFresh. Despite the report’s grim nature, it can serve as an advocacy tool to encourage lawmakers at the Federal, State, and local levels to make decisions that can reduce food insecurity for people with disabilities.

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Advocacy In Action!

California Food Policy Advocates 20th Anniversary

The California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA) formed in 1992 with a platform to ensure access to nutritious foods for low-income Californians. CFPA's hard work and collaborative efforts have strengthened vital programs like free or reduced price school meals and CalFresh (formerly Food Stamps) through expansion of program access and dissolving barriers to enrollment. Please watch this inspiring 20th Anniversary micro-documentary for the CFPA story and check out this timeline of their history.

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Food Day, Hunger Action Day & "Pour One Out"

Food Day will be on October 24, 2013, and now you can stay connected to Food Day related events and advocacy opportunities with the new Eat Real News.

On May 22, 2013 advocates from all over California will converge upon the state Capitol to rally for support of legislation that will protect the safety net and address the root causes of food insecurity. Check out Hunger Action LA's Food Justice News for more information.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest announced the winners of the 2012 Pour One Out Video Contest. Contestants created a short video that conveys the positive effects of reducing or eliminating the consumption of sugary beverages. Check out the winners and other entries here.

Calendar of Events & Local Happenings

Ending Hunger in California: Many Voices, One Vision

The California Association of Food Banks (CAFB) is sponsoring a conference entitled “Ending Hunger in California: Many Voices, One Vision” on April 22nd and 23rd in Sacramento. CAFB's Conference only happens once every two years. Register by Friday, 4/12, so you can benefit from this unique opportunity. Anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocates will have access to great information and networking opportunities through the variety of workshop tracks offered during the two day conference, which will be followed by CAFB’s Legislative Advocacy Day on April 24th.

Keynote speakers will include Jim Weill, President of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) in Washington D.C.; Judi Larsen, Program Manager for Community Health at the California Endowment; and Buzz Blick from Change Forward, whose keynote will be followed by two intensive workshops focused on Breaking the Overlapping Cycles of Poverty, Addiction and Family Dysfunction. The conference offers six tracks including Operations, Development, Policy, Health & Nutrition, New Thought and Hunger & Poverty.

For more information, please click here. You can also follow the links at the California Association of Food Banks web site.

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Don't Miss Out on the Earned Income Tax Credit!

There is no better time than tax season to talk about the benefits of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The American Tax Pay Relief Act of 2012 ensured that the 2009 expansions of the EITC will continue. The EITC is an effective tool that lifts families out of poverty and benefits the economy. This handy info-graphic from the Center for American Progress illustrates the positive impact of this policy.

The EITC has the potential to benefit more people, as only 1 in 5 eligible tax filers are claiming this credit.

In Humboldt County the Redwood Community Action Agency's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program helps eligible individuals and families to file their taxes and access the EITC. Call the Humboldt Switchboard at 441-1001 or 211 to schedule an appointment or find out more about VITA.

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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 Ciel Hoyt at Food for People (contact information below).

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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
OR
Ciel Hoyt
Nutrition Education Coordinator
ext. 305 / choyt@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.

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