There are a number of programs designed to reduce hunger and food insecurity. These programs are generally a partnership between the federal and state governments and cooperating organizations. They provide children and needy families access to food, a healthful diet and nutrition education in a manner that also supports American agriculture. Unfortunately there continue to be millions of children and adults in our country who go to bed and wake up hungry every day.
Food Stamps: This program serves as the first line of defense against hunger. It enables low-income families to buy nutritious food with coupons and Electronic Benefits Transfer [EBT] cards. State public assistance agencies run the program through their local offices. The amount of food stamps given is based on an estimate of how much it costs to buy food to prepare nutritious, low-cost meals for a household. Food stamps are expected to be only a part of a family's food budget. Both U.S. citizens and some non-citizens may be eligible for food stamps. Family resource and income determine eligibility. Adults between 18 and 50 who do not have any dependent children can get food stamps only for 3 months in a 36 month period if they do not work or participate in a workfare or employment and training program other than job search. This requirement can be waived in some locations.
Child and Adult Care Food Program: This program provides support for children through nutritious school meals and provides nutrition assistance for day care, after school and summer programs, and homeless shelters. Charitable and non-profit community organizations feeding children in these programs can receive reimbursement for food and meal preparation, as well as training in the nutritional needs of children. The program is administered at the national level by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and at the state level through the State Department of Education or Child Nutrition. Across the country, nearly 40,000 child care centers and over 175,000 family child care home providers working with 1,200 sponsors use the Child and Adult Care Food Program to provide high quality nutrition and learning experiences for over 2.5 million preschool children.
WIC Program: The Women, Infants, and Children [WIC] program improves the health of mothers and their children by providing supplemental foods, nutrition and breast-feeding education, nutrition screening and referrals to other health, welfare and social services. It serves low-income, nutritionally at risk pregnant women; breast-feeding women; mothers for up to 6 months after the birth of an infant; infants up to their 1st birthday; and children up to their 5th birthday. WIC is not an entitlement therefore Congress does not set aside funds to allow every eligible individual to participate in the program. WIC is a Federal grant program for which Congress authorizes a specific amount of funds each year. WIC operates through 2,000 local agencies in 10,000 clinic sites in 50 states, 33 Indian Tribal Organization, American Samoa, DC, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
Food Distribution: This program strengthens the nutrition safety net through commodity distribution and other nutrition assistance to low-income families, emergency feeding programs, Indian Reservations, and the elderly.
In Economic Justice for All, the bishops stated that the problem of hunger has a special significance for those who read the Scriptures and profess the Christian faith. From the Lord's command to feed the hungry, to the Eucharist, we celebrate as the Bread of Life, the fabric of our faith demands that we be creatively engaged in sharing the food that sustains life. There is no more basic human need. [no. 282] In Food Policy in a Hungry World , the bishops called for national policy which would establish food security as the ultimate goal of food and agricultural policy - ensuring that every human being has access to enough food to maintain a decent human standard of living. [p. 25] To combat hunger, the bishops called for strengthening the domestic food assistance programs to ensure that no one in America goes hungry or suffers malnutrition. They stated, "when the economy fails to provide the jobs and income necessary to prevent hunger and malnutrition, the various local, state, and national food assistance programs must be funded and expended to provide food to all in need." [pp. 26-27]
What You Can Do:
The Hunger Relief Act of 1999, S 1805/HR 3192, was introduced into Congress to address many of the current concerns regarding the Food Stamp Program. The bill would:
- restore food stamp eligibility for needy legal immigrants, building on the bipartisan restoration of benefits in the 1998 Agricultural Research Act;
- allow food stamp recipients to own reliable vehicles by raising the limit on the value of a vehicle that a household may have and still qualify for food stamps;
- raise the shelter deduction cap for families receiving food stamps, allowing families to more accurately reflect their housing costs; and
- bolster The Emergency Food Assistance Program [TEFAP] by providing an additional $100 million over five years for commodity purchases and food distribution costs.
Urge your members of Congress to become co-sponsors of these bills and, along with the Administration, work for their passage this year.
For more information, contact: Patricia A. King [202-541-3188 or email@example.com] or Cynthia Phillips [202-541-3235 or firstname.lastname@example.org].