Doritos and Pepsi? Or Local Produce? What Do Food Insecure People Really Want to Eat?

February 12, 2013

By: Amber Jekot, Food Planning Task Force Organizer

The Food Planning Task Force of McLennan County is currently finalizing its strategic plan for alleviating hunger in Waco and McLennan County.  We are a well-intentioned group that recognizes that we don’t have all of the answers, so in order to ensure that the wide-ranging voices of the community are being heard, we’ve begun using Community Input Boards to collect feedback from community members and those who are experiencing food insecurity.

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I had the unique opportunity to take these boards to Waco’s Project Homeless Connect on January 31st and ask attendees their advice on how the Waco community could better serve them.

Project Homeless Connect is an annual event that allows individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness and/or poverty to come to one location and receive a variety of local services.  Haircuts, dental care, veteran’s services, and federal benefits outreach were among the many services offered this year.  The feedback the Food Planning Task Force received from participants was invaluable.

Since the prevailing image of SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) seems to be a grocery cart spilling over with sodas, sugary processed foods, candy, and Doritos, I was elated to collect anecdotal evidence that highlights that those who receive federal assistance and who are homeless actually do desire to eat healthy foods.

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I was floored by the responses.  Every attendee I spoke with about the food they received from pantries and other aid programs shared that they wanted more vegetables and fresh food. One participant remarked: “We want real vegetables, not those canned ones.”

Another woman approached me and self-identified as morbidly obese, explaining that she knew she needed to eat better but was constrained by her financial situation. She explained: “I have two children, a bum leg, and all I can afford are processed foods and carbs.” 

Research shows that obesity is a growing trend among America’s poor. It would appear that much of the food that’s available to low-income people contribute to this phenomenon. 

What I gathered from conversations I had with participants at Project Homeless Connect was that obesity was a result of the high cost of food not simply a person’s desire to consume unhealthy food.

Relatedly, the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market recently installed an EBT machine that accepts SNAP dollars. Many scoffed at the idea that SNAP recipients would want fresh fruit and vegetables. Yet, naysayers may be surprised to learn that there are SNAP recipients who actually let their SNAP dollars roll over in order to save up for fresh, local produce.

Attendees of Project Homeless Connect were excited about the opportunity to use SNAP at the farmer’s market as well, and I was pleased to have heard so many incredible stories that debunked the stereotype of Waco’s food insecure.

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Summer Meals Reaching Fewer Low-Income Children

June 20, 2012

FRAC Report Finds Varied Performance among States and Recommends Steps to Make a Difference this Summer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Contact: Jennifer Adach, 202.986.2200 x3018

Washington, D.C. – June 8, 2012 – Fewer low-income children participated in the nation’s summer nutrition programs in July 2011 than a year earlier, according to Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation (pdf), an analysis by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). Only one in seven of the low-income students who depended on the National School Lunch Program during the regular 2010-2011 school year received summer meals in July 2011.

View a map with state rankings, participation numbers and participation percentages.

The continuing fallout of the recession has not only led to lost jobs and wages and more need for nutrition support for children, but also to major cuts in summer schools and youth programs. Fewer programs for kids have meant in many states fewer sites serving summer meals. In July 2011, FRAC found that only 14.6 children received summer meals for every 100 low-income children who ate school meals during the 2010-2011 school year – a significant drop from the July 2008 ratio of 17.3:100. Put in other terms, total participation nationwide in the Summer Nutrition Programs has dropped by 112,000 children since July 2008.

“FRAC’s report shows that the recession has meant that more children are using the regular school year food programs, but budget cuts are causing school districts and youth services providers in many states to eliminate or reduce their -summer programs. And that means fewer children are getting the summer meals they need to stay healthy and hunger-free,” explained FRAC President Jim Weill. “Participation in virtually every other federal nutrition program, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and school meals, has grown in recent years to meet the increased need for such help. States, cities, and schools must redouble their efforts to ensure that children don’t pay the price of missed summer meals.”

To read more, please visit http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5118/p/salsa/web/common/public/content?content_item_KEY=10188

Can your church or local group help spread the word about Summer Meals in McLennan County this summer? E-mail Shamethia TODAY at Shamethia_Webb@baylor.edu or call (254) 757-5638.

Help us increase participation in the summer meals. Together we can tackle childhood hunger.


Lobby Day 2012 is Tuesday, June 12th!

June 11, 2012

Posted by www.bread.org

Lobby Day is a unique opportunity to use your voice to communicate personally with members of Congress and their staff.

Join us on Tuesday, June 12 to make a real difference in the lives of hungry people.

Last year, more than 320 Bread for the World members and friends from 37 states came to Washington, DC, to participate in Bread’s annual Lobby Day. They met with members and staff in 230 congressional offices.

In these meetings, they urged their senators and representatives to create a Circle of Protection around funding for programs for hungry and poor people in the United States and abroad.

On June 12, our Lobby Day message to members of Congress will be to create a circle of protection around funding for programs that are vital to hungry and poor people in the U.S. and around the world.

In light of proposed deep cuts to programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP formerly food stamps), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and poverty-focused foreign assistance, we will raise our collective Christian voice on behalf of the children and families who will suffer the consequences of these cuts.

You can make a difference! To read more and to see how you can participant, visit http://www.bread.org/event/lobby-day/2012/


Senate Committee Farm Bill Cuts SNAP Fruit and Vegetable Purchases by $862 Million

June 4, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Contact: Jennifer Adach, 202.986.2200 x3018

Washington, D.C. – June 4, 2012 – Less food in the refrigerator for struggling families. That’s what the Senate SNAP proposal in the Farm Bill means. The bill, which is anticipated to hit the Senate floor this week, contains a $4.49 billion/10 years cut to SNAP that would limit states’ ability to acknowledge families’ shelter costs, through a “Heat and Eat” policy, when computing how much money families actually have from wages, Social Security, or other sources to spend on food.

What this means for struggling households:

  • Hungry people will see their benefits fall. An estimated 500,000 households a year would lose $90 per month in SNAP benefits.
  • People will have less money to spend on healthier food. The most recent USDA data show that vegetables and fruits account for 19.6 percent of the money value of food used by SNAP households. A $4.49 billion SNAP cut means the bill cuts $862 million in purchases of fruits and vegetables.

Federal Consumer Expenditure Survey data show that low-income households’ food purchases by category, percentage-wise, resemble those of households with more resources, albeit low-income households’ expenditures are smaller.

Read the rest of the article at frac.org.


USDA Grants to Increase Farmers Market Participation in SNAP

May 9, 2012

USDA Grants to Increase Farmers Market Participation in SNAP.


Cuts to SNAP Will Hurt Texas Families Struggling to Afford Food

April 19, 2012

One in six Texas families are at risk of going hungry

(AUSTIN, Texas) ─ The Center for Public Policy Priorities released the following statement today regarding yesterday’s vote by the U.S. House of Representative’s Agriculture Committee to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps).

“Yesterday’s vote by the U.S. House of Representative’s Agriculture Committee to cut SNAP by $33 billion will hurt the families struggling to afford food in this time of high unemployment and economic distress. A cut of this magnitude would affect over 300,000 Texas families who will struggle to put food on the table without the support SNAP provides. SNAP was designed to expand when unemployment is high and contract as economic conditions improve. In this way the program assures that Texans stay healthy during period of job loss and stimulates our struggling economy. Cuts to this program will only weaken our nation’s ability to weather these rough economic times and return to prosperity.

“We are particularly concerned that some Texas’ members of Congress—who represent a state where one in six families struggle to afford food—voted to cut SNAP so deeply.

“Instead of weakening America’s safety net, our members of Congress should look for ways to lower unemployment and increase the economic stability of our nation and state.”

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The Center for Public Policy Priorities is a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy institute committed to improving public policies to make a better Texas.

Learn more about the Center at http://www.cppp.org. Read this article online by visiting http://cppp.org/files/3/2012_04_19_SNAP_CUTS.pdf

Twitter: @CPPP_TX

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bettertexas

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/CPPPvideo


FRAC Decries House Agriculture Committee Vote to Slash SNAP

April 18, 2012

This article can be found online at http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5118/p/salsa/web/common/public/content?content_item_KEY=10037

Washington, D.C. – April 18, 2012 — The House Agriculture Committee voted today to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by more than $33 billion – a cut that spares no household from seeing its benefits reduced and that would result in millions of low-income people being forced out of the program.

Low-income people will have less money for food.

  • Ending the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s boost to SNAP benefits this summer will mean reduced benefits for recipients – the maximum benefit for a household of four would fall by $57 per month through the remainder of 2012.
  • The proposal to limit the state option known as “Heat and Eat” will reduce SNAP benefits for households eligible for but receiving the smallest, least adequate LIHEAP benefits. This cut would impact 4.7 million SNAP recipients.

SNAP recipients will be pushed out of the program.

  • By limiting states’ ability to administer the categorical eligibility option, an estimated three million SNAP recipients would lose eligibility. This cut also will take free school breakfast and lunch away from more than 280,000 low-income children, and will vastly increase state administrative costs and red tape.

“SNAP works, and today’s vote to slash funding for this program is misguided, harmful, and shows complete indifference to the basic needs of 46 million Americans. When jobs disappeared and wages shrank, SNAP was there to help struggling Americans put food on the table. Today’s vote places the burden of deficit reduction on the most vulnerable among us, and means less food in the refrigerator for already hungry families,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “Attempts to dismiss such cuts as ‘accounting’ fixes ignore the real impact such proposals have on people and their ability to purchase food.”

FRAC recently released an analysis of food hardship in the mostly rural districts of members of the House Agriculture Committee, and found that food hardship is as prevalent in these districts as it is in the rest of the nation.

“Hunger is prevalent in every community in America, but SNAP has played an essential role in helping to alleviate that hunger,” said Weill. “Americans also reject such cuts and recognize the importance of SNAP. Seventy-seven percent of voters said that cutting SNAP would be the wrong way to reduce government spending. Congress must oppose attempts to shred our safety net, and instead tackle hunger with the zeal that the situation – and that the public – demand.”