The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Delta Caucus Endorses New Orleans food bank Call to Oppose Cuts in Nutrition Funding

Posted on June 14, 2011 at 01:16 PM

Please Contact Your Members of Congress & Urge Support for Vital Nutrition Funding

The Delta Grassroots Caucus enthusiastically endorses the message below from the Greater New Orleans and Acadiana Second Harvest Food Bank in urging Congress and the Obama administration to fully fund vital nutrition programs like SNAP, WIC, TEFAP and other initiatives that aid the neediest of the needy throughout the Delta. The message is timely today because the national Bread for the World organization has gathered literally hundreds of nutrition advocates in Washington, DC for a conference and “Lobby Day” to advocate for maintenance of America’s nutrition safety net.

Natalie Jayroe, CEO of the Greater New Orleans food bank, gave an excellent presentation on these issues at our May, 2011 conference at the Clinton Library. With unemployment stuck around 9 percent, and the floods and storms that devastated so much of the Delta region from southeast Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and down to Louisiana, the timing could not be worse for those misguided legislators who would try to balance the budget on the backs of the poorest people in the Delta and throughout America. Congratulations to the New Orleans food bank on such a thoughtful message about both the national nutrition programs and an update on the situation along the Louisiana coast that has suffered from Hurricane Katrina, the oil spill, as well as the recession in the last five years.

You can call Members of Congress through Bread for the World’s special toll-free number at 1-800-826-3688, or the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. The Obama administration must also stand its ground in defense of these vital programs.

The message below deals with federal nutrition programs that are valid throughout the eight-state Delta region from southern Missouri and Illinois to the Louisiana coast. The information on Louisiana is typical of our region’s plight. Kudos to Natalie Jayroe, Mike Kantor and the Second Harvest organization throughout the Delta and the nation. Thanks–Lee Powell, MDGC

As Hunger Rates Grow, So Does the Need for Food Assistance–Call Congress Today

As Congress crafts a budget that addresses our nation’s long-term fiscal health, the Mississippi River Delta Grassroots Caucus wholeheartedly joins Second Harvest, Bread for the World and other hunger and nutrition organizations across the country in urging Congress and the Obama administration to safeguard nutrition assistance and other safety-net programs. The number of families struggling to make ends meet increased significantly during the recession. With unemployment still hovering near 9 percent, the need for food assistance continues to grow and food banks are pressed to meet need in their communities.

We urge Congress to protect essential nutrition safety net programs:

FY2012 Budget: Proposed cuts to nutrition assistance programs – as well as cuts to housing, child care, and other safety-net programs – would make it harder for families to recover from the recession and add demand to already over-strapped food banks. While it is important to balance the budget, we should be cutting programs and policies that don’t work, not those for which there is both significant demonstrated need and which also have been shown to be highly effective.

In addition to specific funding cuts and programmatic changes, we are concerned about the impact of budget mechanisms intended to ensure fiscal responsibility. Measures such as an across-the-board discretionary freeze, global spending cap, or balanced budget amendment would place arbitrary caps on nutrition and other safety-net programs intended to grow in times of rising need. These mechanisms would inevitably lead to draconian cuts and harmful structural changes to programs designed to support low-income families. We urge a more balanced approach to controlling our nation’s financial future that supports programs that are needed and effective, protects programs that support low-income families, ensures adequate revenues, and eliminates unnecessary or inefficient spending.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): SNAP is the cornerstone of the nutrition safety net, providing a monthly grocery debit card to over 44 million low-income participants. SNAP has proven itself to be one of the most highly responsive, efficient safety-net programs.

The SNAP program expands quickly to meet rising need, as demonstrated in the recent recession, and provides an efficient benefit transfer that results in $1.73 in increased economic activity for each additional $1 in benefits. Converting SNAP to a block grant, capping funding, and imposing additional work requirements would weaken the program significantly and eliminate its ability to adjust and meet increased need when our economy fluctuates and unemployment rises.

Oppose proposals to block grant SNAP, cap funding, impose restrictive work requirements or otherwise reduce benefits or restrict participation.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP): TEFAP helps food banks meet the need in their communities. TEFAP commodities provide nutritious food to low-income Americans in need of short-term hunger relief through food banks, pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters. TEFAP administrative funding supports storage and distribution within the emergency food system, a resource even more critical when gas prices are up 33% from last year. TEFAP infrastructure grants help food banks improve and expand their capacity, a much-needed resource as demand has grown 46% since 2006.

TEFAP commodities account for about 25% of the food moved through Feeding America food banks. In order to meet need in their communities, local food banks must augment TEFAP benefits beyond their budgeted amount through a combination of private donations and bonus commodities, purchases made by USDA in response to market conditions. Unfortunately, the level of bonus commodities is projected to drop by $300 million in FY2011 due to strong agricultural markets. The combination of higher commodity prices and reduced bonus commodities will significantly impact the ability of our network members to meet demand at a time when the need for emergency food assistance remains at record levels.

Urge the Secretary of Agriculture to use his administrative authorities to increase the availability of TEFAP commodities in FY2011 by redirecting funding. In the long-term, providing a steady supply of commodities will require Congress to increase mandatory funding for TEFAP commodities during consideration of the 2012 Farm Bill.

Provide $100 million for TEFAP administrative funding in FY2012 to ensure timely, efficient distribution of emergency food.

Provide $15 million for TEFAP infrastructure grants in FY2012 to help food banks improve outdated facilities and expand capacity, particularly in hard-to-serve rural and geographically remote areas.

Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP): CSFP is a critical commodity program that leverages government buying power to provide nutritious food packages to approximately 604,000 low income people each month. Approximately 96% of all participants in this program are low-income seniors with incomes of less than 130% of the Federal Poverty Line (approximately $14,000 for a senior living alone). The $20 cost to USDA of providing commodities results in a monthly food package with an average retail value of $50.

Provide $181.8 million for CSFP in FY2012 to maintain current caseloads and allow CSFP to expand into six additional states with USDA approved state plans (Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts and Rhode Island).

Over 609,000 Louisiana residents receive emergency food assistance each year and Feeding America’s network of over 200 food banks has seen a 46% increase in demand nationally since 2006.

Federal nutrition programs provide support not only to struggling working Americans and their families but also to America’s farmers and the agricultural industry.

Second Harvest Food Bank could not provide current levels of food assistance without support from TEFAP and CSFP, nor could we meet added demand if the current funding levels and structure of SNAP and other federal nutrition programs were eroded.

Second Harvest Impact: Every year, Second Harvest Food Bank feeds more than 263,000 people, providing 19 million meals annually through a network of 240 nonprofit member agencies stretching from the Sabine River to the Pearl River – in our biggest cities, smallest towns, and all points between. Nearly 82,000 of our children – more than enough to fill the Superdome – and 40,000 of our seniors go hungry each year.

While the scale of our work is already significant – we have distributed more than 136 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 105 million meals, since hurricanes Katrina and Rita – fighting hunger all along the Louisiana Gulf Coast requires that we double the food we provide, to 38 million meals annually by 2013. The reality is we can afford no less than the very best food distribution center in the nation.

Hunger in Louisiana

As Congress crafts a budget that addresses our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana and our network partners – 240 food pantries, meal sites, shelters, senior centers and after-school programs – are urging our elected officials to safeguard nutrition assistance and other safety net programs. The number of families struggling to make ends meet increased significantly during the recession. With unemployment still hovering near 9 percent, the need for food assistance remains high and the food bank and our network are already pressed to meet the need in our communities.

Congress is now proposing cuts that would eliminate federal food assistance for hundreds of thousands of low-income seniors, women, infants, and children, pushing more people to local charities for food assistance. At the same time, Congress would reduce support for local emergency food providers, like Second Harvest Food Bank. Not only will our food bank be unable to meet the increased demand for food assistance if these cuts to nutrition programs go through, we will have to reduce current levels of support for existing clients.

Programs like the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which primarily aids low-income seniors and the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) make sure that the most vulnerable Louisianans have enough to eat. CSFP is an efficient and effective use of federal resources, providing over 68,000 seniors in Louisiana with a monthly box of nutritious food tailored specifically to combat the ill effects of senior hunger by providing nutrients typically lacking in their diets.

TEFAP is an income-based federal program that provides food at no cost to low-income Americans in need of short-term hunger relief through organizations such as Second Harvest. While we rely on generous donations from individual donors and community and business partners, the healthy and nutritious foods provided through TEFAP are the backbone of the charitable food system, providing 28% percent of the food that flows through our local hunger-relief agencies.

Last year, Second Harvest distributed over 7 million pounds of TEFAP commodities. Without support from TEFAP, our food bank and network partners could not provide even the current levels of food, nor could we meet added demand if the funding levels and structure of SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp Program) and other federal nutrition programs are eroded as has been proposed by Congress.

More than 263,000 Louisianans rely upon the food bank and our partner agencies to help feed their families. Last year, there were over 1.3 million visits and nearly 20 million pounds of food distributed at 240 agencies. Nationally, there has been a 46 percent increase in clients served at Feeding America food banks since 2006. This year, many agencies are seeing double-digit increases. TEFAP provides the agencies with foods that are high in protein, fruits, vegetables and staple food items such as cereals, pastas, and special foods for vulnerable populations including children and seniors. The proposed cuts to TEFAP would devastate operations like Second Harvest, which are already struggling to meet the rising demand for their services.

If TEFAP food purchases drop as expected by 50 percent, Second Harvest and our network partners will likely face empty pantries, beginning this summer and continuing into the holiday season and beyond. With one in seven of our neighbors struggling with hunger, demand for charitable food remains high across Louisiana. We must keep TEFAP and all of the nutritional safety net programs strong – the health of our communities depends on it.

While we agree that Congress and the President need to make tough choices to get our nation’s fiscal house in order, deficit reduction shouldn’t come at the expense of the most vulnerable among us. We urge you to contact Senators Landrieu and Vitter and your Congressman to let them know that you support the federal government doing its part to feed our hungry neighbors here in Louisiana and across the country during these trying times. Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and they will direct your call.