The Farm Bill is up for reauthorization. Every five to seven years, agricultural policies are evaluated and reauthorized through the federal Farm Bill. The last bill was passed in 2007. The Farm Bill affects not just American farmers and farmers around the world, but also rural communities, the environment, health, hunger and even immigration. Almost everyone has a stake in the Farm Bill.
More than one (1) in five (5) children lives in poverty and nearly one (1) in four (4) is at risk of hunger. Often, I write about pending legislation which impacts indigent children, youth, and families with the goal of encouraging the reader to act to protect vulnerable families. In April, anti-hunger advocates across the country called their Members of Congress and urged them to protect and strengthen vital nutrition and hunger relief programs in the Farm Bill.
The National Call-In Day in April was a success, thanks to the diligent efforts of anti-hunger advocates and other concerned citizens. Now is the time for all of us to speak up for children, youth, and families in crisis. Please join me in telling the members of Congress to safeguard anti-hunger programs that the most vulnerable members of our society depend on particularly, in this very challenging economic period.
Our nation’s poorest children and youth depend on are on the line. It has been reported that more than forty-nine (49) million Americans lack reliable access to the food. Childhood hunger is a growing reality in America. In one of the wealthiest nations in the world, the prevalence of childhood hunger is a national travesty and for many a well-kept secret. According to the USDA, over seventeen (17) million children lived in food insecure (low food security and very low food security) households in 2009. ii Twenty (20) percent or more of the child population in sixteen (16) states and D.C. are living in food insecure households. The states of Arkansas twenty-four point four (24.4) percent and Texas twenty-three point three (24.3) percent have the highest rates of children in households without consistent access to food. (Cook, John, Child Food Insecurity in the United States: 2006-2008. iii
In 2009, households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children twenty-one point three (21.3) percent, especially households with children headed by single women thirty-six point six (36.6) percent or single men twenty-seven point eight (27.8) percent, Black non-Hispanic households twenty-four point nine (24.9) percent and Hispanic households twenty-six point nine (26.9) percent. v
These heartbreaking facts about the prevalence and the face of hunger in America and the proposed cuts to very necessary anti-hunger programs has drawn the attention of thousands of Christians, people of other faiths, heads of denominations, corporations, and nonprofit organizations and compelled them to take action in the month of April 2012. They helped to raise awareness of the need to protect our nation’s hunger safety net. Will you join them and urge our elected officials in Washington DC to protect the programs poor children need[i] to succeed?
As you know, the Farm Bill funds critical hunger relief programs, like TEFAP and SNAP (food stamps), that help put food on the table for America’s vulnerable children, seniors, and low-income families. With 46.2 million residents, Poverty, USA, is the largest state in America. Today, the unemployment rate stands at 8.6 percent and despite recent economic growth more than 43 million Americans -including 14.7 million children – live in poverty, the highest in the more than 50 years that the data has been tracked. Yet a recent Gallup poll found that only 5% of Americans believe poverty and homelessness are important problems for the country. So let’s look at some facts and make our own determination:
Over 25 percent of the children in the US under the age of six live in poverty. The poverty rate among women climbed to 14.5 percent in 2010 from 13.9 percent in 2009, the highest in 17 years. As poverty surged last year to its highest level since 1993, median household income declined, leaving the typical American household earning less in inflation-adjusted dollars than it did in 1997. One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program. Child homelessness in the United States is now 33 percent higher than it was back in 2007. More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid, the U.S. government health care program designed principally to help the poor.
According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, 1.6 million American children “were living on the street, in homeless shelters or motels, or doubled up with other families last year”. The percentage of children living in poverty in the United States increased from 16.9 percent in 2006 to nearly 22 percent in 2010. One out of every seven mortgages in the United States was either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010.
The number of children living in poverty in the U.S. has risen for four years in a row. There are 10 different U.S. states where at least one out of every four babies is born to a family living in poverty. 28 percent of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job. There are seven million children in the United States today that are not covered by health insurance at all.
Here’s Where We Stand with the Farm Bill:
On April 26, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved its draft version of the Farm Bill. Some highlights from the draft Senate Farm Bill include:
SNAP: The Senate version of the Farm Bill contains a proposal to cut approximately $4.5 billion in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Many SNAP beneficiaries—including seniors and disabled individuals living in subsidized housing—would likely see an immediate reduction in their monthly SNAP benefits.
TEFAP: The Senate’s Farm Bill provides an increase of $150 million in mandatory funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) over the next 10 years. It also reauthorizes the TEFAP Infrastructure Grant Program at $15 million per year.
While anti-hunger advocates support the increased funding for TEFAP, the proposed cuts to SNAP are simply too much for our nation’s hungry to bear, especially considering the fact that the need for food assistance remains at unprecedented levels. In addition, recent budget recommendations put forth by the House Agriculture Committee to slash SNAP funding by nearly $36 billion clearly demonstrate the risks facing struggling families, children and seniors and the uphill road we face. While these recommendations are not final, we must continue fighting to protect these much-needed programs.
The Farm Bill is still very much a work in progress in Washington, D.C., with the hearings in the House Agriculture Committee beginning and the Committee planning to mark up the bill beginning in June.
We still have more to do to help protect SNAP, TEFAP, and other hunger-relief programs and we’ll keep you updated as the legislation moves forward. We can only make a difference when we take action.
You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result. ~ Gandhi
Source(s): www.congress.org. Feeding America. Action Alert Voices for Americas Children. Action Alert Bread for the World. St. Vincent de Paul Society. National Center on Family Homelessness.
Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art
[i] Very necessary programs such as TEFAP, Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, Head Start, child care, and more need your assistance.
iBread for the World Action Alert.
ii Rhoda Cohen, J. Mabli, F., Potter,Z., Zhoa. Hunger in America 2010. Feeding America.
iii Nord, Mark, M. Andrews, S. Carlson. United States Department of Agriculture-Economic Research Service, Household Food Security in the United States, 2008.
iv Cook, John. Feeding America. Child Food Insecurity in the United States:2006-2008.
vNord, Mark, M. Andrews, S. Carlson. United States Department of Agriculture/Economic Research Service, Household Food Security in the United States, 2009.