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.

130 Confirmed for Oct. 23-24 West Memphis Event; & Delta Hunger Gets Worse--USDA

Posted on September 17, 2012 at 11:27 AM

We have 130 RSVPs, Members of Congress, grassroots leaders from all eight Delta states and the count growing daily for the Oct. 23-24 Delta conference at Mid-South Community College in West Memphis. If this rate continues the space will run out fairly soon, so please RSVP and register ASAP–registration info is below.

Our number one concern is job creation/economic recovery. There is a related concern about deterioration of the already bleak situation in the hunger and nutrition field obviously caused by the weak economy, with USDA just announcing the annual statistics that revealed that Arkansas and Mississippi are now tied for dead last with the worst food insecurity (at 19.2 percent) in America, and most other Delta states also having unsatisfactory levels of access to affordable, nutritious food–this will be one of the major concerns addressed at the conference.

A professional poll from the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center showed strong, bipartisan support of 75 percent of Americans for nutrition programs.

Most Delta Caucus partners support nutrition funding as well and we need to convey our views to our Members of Congress.

Key Speakers: Speakers include Members of Congress and Congressional candidates in key races, Mayor A. C. Wharton of Memphis, Sen. John Boozman, Congressman Mike Ross, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, Delta Regional Authority officials, President Glenn Fenter of Mid-South Community College and grassroots leaders from all eight states. Gov. Mike Beebe, and Sen. Mark Pryor have taken part every year for many years now and are invited, although their schedules are so hectic that they confirm later.

Examples of Organizations Taking Part:

Organizations who have confirmed thus far include Delta mayors and other local elected officials, the Delta Regional Authority, Arkansas Speaker of the House Robert Moore and other state legislators, Arkansas State University, Mid-South Community College, Murray State University in Kentucky, Southern Illinois University, Ole Miss, Grambling and other colleges and universities across the region, Fed Ex, Southern Bancorp, Heifer International, Feeding America, Save the Children, Nucor Yamato Steel, Joe Quinn of Wal-Mart to discuss that company’s charitable activities for hunger and nutrition in the Delta, National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Memphis BioWorks Foundation and other renewable energy experts, and many other organizations interested in promoting community and economic development in the Greater Delta Region.

CONFERENCE BEGINS AT 4 P.M., TUESDAY, OCT. 23: Most of us will gather informally at the group hotel with Desha County Judge Mark McElroy doing his famous (or infamous?) Elvis Presley impersonation, West Memphis Holiday Inn and Convention Center at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 23 and then go over to the college at about 4:30, although if you are driving you could just go straight to the college. We will be sending out directions later.

OPENING SESSION: Tuesday evening, Oct. 23, 4:40 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. This will be at President Glenn Fenter’s presidential house at Mid-South Community College.

MAIN SESSION: Wednesday, Oct. 24, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Mid-South Community College, Marion Berry Renewable Energy Center.

REGISTRATION: You register by sending in the $100 early registration fees for each individual on or before Oct. 1. (There is a group discount down to $70 each for groups of five or more from one local area.) Please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to our office in the Washington, DC area:

Delta Caucus 5030 Purslane Place
Waldorf, Maryland 20601

GROUP HOTEL: The group hotel is the West Memphis Holiday Inn & Convention Center. To get the group rate of $109 for Tuesday evening, Oct. 23, please call the hotel at (870) 735-4055 and make your reservation as part of the Delta Caucus bloc by Oct. 9. There are also some rooms available for Oct. 24 if people want to stay that night as well.


Going east on Interstate 40:

I-40 to Exit 279-A Ingram Blvd. Service road leads right to Holiday Inn.

From Memphis:

I-55 Bridge to Exit 279-A Ingram Blvd. Stay straight on Service Road, take Ingram Blvd loop to right. Cross over interstate to Holiday Inn.

I-40 Bridge to Exit 5 Ingram Blvd. Stay straight on service road, take Ingram Blvd loop to right. Cross over interstate to Holiday Inn.

Directions to the Marion Berry Renewable Energy Center and Dr. Fenter’s home will be included with each persons room key packet upon arrival at the West Memphis Holiday Inn and Convention Center.

Please RSVP either by email or phone. We look forward to having you join us at the Delta Grassroots Caucus conference on Oct. 23-24, 2012 in West Memphis. Thanks–Lee Powell, DGC (202) 360-6347 or; Desha County Judge Mark McElroy, 870-877-2426


The USDA annual food security report released a few days ago, and professional polling commissioned by the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center demonstrated that food insecurity is getting worse in the Delta, while fully 75 percent of Americans oppose cuts now being debated in Congress to federal nutrition programs.

This should send a message to Congress to not harm the USDA nutrition programs until the economy strengthens. SNAP benefits have also proven to have a positive economic impact in addition to safeguarding the health of vulnerable families.

This information is based on the recent publication of USDA’s annual food insecurity report, as well as polling and other information from our colleagues at the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) based in Washington, DC.

Arkansas and Mississippi are tied for dead last in having the worst food insecurity rate in the country at 19.2 percent. In Arkansas very low food security was 7.6 percent.

Nationwide, one in six Americans live in households struggling against hunger.

Most Delta areas of the eight states have much higher food insecurity even than the rest of each state does. Louisiana’s food insecurity rate was 14.1 percent; Alabama was at 18.2 percent, Missouri at 16 percent, and Tennessee was at 15.2 percent.

Statewide statistics are much less significant for the Delta areas of the states of Illinois (13.7 percent), Kentucky (16.4 percent), and Alabama because their DRA areas are such relatively small percentages of their state’s populations.

The USDA is widely regarded by experts as giving a conservative estimate of how bad the hunger situation is.

In another study by the Gallup organization, nationwide statistics showed slight improvement in 2012 but are still too high.

New data released yesterday by the Gallup organization show the food hardship rate for the nation was 18.2 percent during the first six months of 2012. While a slight dip from the 2011 rate of 18.6 percent reported in a Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) analysis of previous Gallup data, FRAC noted this shows far too many Americans continue to report that there were times during the past 12 months when they did not have enough money to buy the food they or their families needed.

A poll released on Sept. 5 by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) shows overwhelming majorities opposing SNAP cuts.

The majorities are as strong as other polls in 2010 and early 2012, despite several intervening months of inaccurate criticism of the program by some Members of Congress.

Nonpartisan result: We would emphasize that the poll showed high support for federal nutrition programs among Republicans, Independents and Democrats.

In particular, when asked “[t]his year, Congress will consider cutting billions of dollars from the food stamp program in an effort to reduce federal spending. Do you favor cutting food assistance to low-income families and seniors, or do you think that is the wrong way to reduce government spending,” 75 percent say that to cut food stamps is the wrong way to reduce spending. That number was 77 percent in January 2012 and 71 percent in November 2010.

With most of the Delta suffering from the lowest food insecurity in the country, we especially need to let our voices be heard and avoid cutting nutrition programs, including school meals, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program, aid to food banks, the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition program, and other essential parts of the nutrition safety net.

This poll comes on the same day as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released new data showing more than 50.1 million Americans lived in households struggling against hunger in 2011.

Previously, in 2010, 48.8 million Americans were in food insecure households.

The number of people in households “with very low food security” - households with the deepest struggles, regularly skipping meals, or cutting the amounts eaten below what is needed - also increased, rising from 16 million in 2010 to more than 16.8 million in 2011.

As FRAC observed, these increases leave far too many hungry Americans, even while some in Congress propose billions in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).

Other noteworthy findings in the USDA study were:

  • The percentage of children with very low food security declined from 2010 to 2011. This was one of the few areas of improvement in the report.

  • Very low food security increased in households with no children and with elderly residents.

  • Arkansas joined Mississippi as the state with the highest food insecurity rate.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents to the FRAC poll support spending more (55 percent) federal money or about the same amount (24 percent) to address the problem of hunger, compared to only 17 percent who say the federal government should be spending less.

Support for the SNAP program specifically and opposition to SNAP cuts are high among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents; higher among women than men; high in all major geographic regions; and high among all age groups, especially among those aged 18 to 34.

The poll of 1,011 adults was conducted by Hart Research Associates from August 23-26, 2012.

FRAC President Jim Weill said “Today’s food insecurity data and polling data show that proposals for SNAP cuts are a ‘two-fer’ of wrong thinking - a bad policy idea and a very unpopular idea. Americans oppose cuts to SNAP, and they believe government should - and must - do more to address hunger.”

Both the Senate and House Agriculture Committee versions of the Farm Bill contain cuts to SNAP.

The Senate plan for the Farm Bill includes a cut of more than $4 billion over 10 years to the program, achieved largely by reducing SNAP benefits for an estimated 500,000 households by $90/month.

The House Agriculture Committee bill would make these same cuts plus end benefits totally for a minimum of 1.8 million people, cutting the program by $16 billion.

About the USDA Report

Since 1995, the United States Department of Agriculture, using data from surveys conducted annually by the Census Bureau, has released estimates of the number of people in households that are food insecure.

Food insecure households are those that are not able to afford an adequate diet at all times in the past 12 months.

The report also includes food insecurity rates for each state, but for states it uses three-year averages to give a better estimate of the number of households experiencing food insecurity.

Experts agree that the Census/USDA measure of food insecurity is a conservative one, with the result that only households experiencing substantial food insecurity are so classified.