Tag Archives: news

Hunger News Review 1/28/14

It’s been a while since I published any hunger news links. People are still hungry, and we still haven’t figured out how to fix that. In a sense, there is no news there.

But importantly, we’ve been waiting for Congress to pass a new Farm Bill. Both the Senate and House had passed their own versions, but they were far enough apart in some key issues to doubt the ability to reconcile the two versions. This morning comes the announcement of bipartisan agreement to screw hungry people more than Democrats want and less than Republicans want. I guess that’s as good as agreements get these days.

The most recent version of the Farm Bill was passed in 2008, and it was scheduled to be renewed in 2012. Congress couldn’t come to agreement then, except to extend the existing provisions until September 30, 2013.

In case you’re not aware of the Farm Bill’s scope, here are a few of the areas it covers:

  • Commodities regulation (commodities crops and dairy, and commodities futures)
  • Agricultural trade and international food aid
  • Nutrition assistance programs including SNAP (food stamps)
  • Agricultural loans and crop insurance
  • Research
  • Conservation
  • Forestry service
  • Livestock and poultry production

These programs are all administered by the US Department of Agriculture, or USDA. The largest portion of the budget is nutrition support. This covers programs including SNAP (food stamps), school and summer lunches, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children supplemental foods), and others.

Nutrition supports directly benefit the individuals who get to eat, of course. They also benefit retailers, wholesalers, and farm producers. SNAP, the largest part of the largest part, also has direct flow-through as broad economic support. These programs do not hurt the economy; they help individuals, businesses, and the economy broadly.

Now with that background, the news:
According to the New York Times, the negotiated bill

will eliminate or consolidate dozens of agriculture subsidy programs, expand government-subsidized crop insurance and cut about $8 billion from the food stamp program over the next decade.

The House is expected to vote on the measure on Wednesday. It is unclear when the Senate will take up the legislation. Many Senate Democrats are likely to be unhappy with the food stamps measure, which cuts roughly twice as much as senators approved in May.

Yet the food stamp cuts may not be large enough to appease House conservatives, who in June helped defeat a bill backed by Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio that would have cut $20 billion from the program. The House eventually passed a bill covering only nutrition programs that would have sliced nearly $40 billion from food stamps.

Note that both the House and Senate need to approve the legislation, which at this point cannot be amended. Though it is expected that the bill will pass, it’s possible House Republicans will reject it. In that case, it would be back to the drawing board.

Full details of the bill have not been released. However it appears that the majority of cuts to SNAP come from closing loopholes in the way some states calculate benefits based on household utilities costs. Most beneficiaries in those states will still receive benefits but may at a reduced level.

This is far from ideal for those concerned about hunger in America. We shall see the impact if the bill is enacted. More news to come…


Hunger News Review 12/09/13

Hunger is a primary concern of mine. Adequate nutrition has positive impacts on every part of our lives, individually and collectively. To put it differently, if you eat the right amount and make healthy choices, your good nutrition affects both you and me. The reverse is true, as well.

I’ve written a lot on hunger issues and will continue to. With this post, I’m starting a new, related series. This post debuts a hunger news digest, no pun intended. As I see reports about hunger, food insecurity, the costs of poor nutrition, the political jousting around food stamps (SNAP), I will collect them here. Showing quick summaries with links will help you find your way around the news, and hopefully will highlight the prevalence of a sometimes hidden issue.

With no further ado, here’s the hunger news.

What Separates A Healthy And Unhealthy Diet? Just $1.50 Per Day
Opinions have differed about whether eating a healthy diet is more or less expensive than an unhealthy diet. A Harvard cardiologist and epidemiologist undertook a meta-analysis of existing studies to resolve the question.

So he and his colleagues decided to pore over 27 studies from 10 different developed countries that looked at the retail prices of food grouped by healthfulness. Across these countries, it turns out, the cost difference between eating a healthful and unhealthful diet was pretty much the same: about $1.50 per day. And that price gap held true when they focused their research just on U.S. food prices, the researchers found in their of these studies.

The researchers evaluated the cost of food by types of eating pattern — for example, a diet heavy on vegetables, nuts and fruits, like the Mediterranean diet, versus one rich in processed foods and meat. They also looked at price differences within specific food categories, such as grains, proteins, fats and dairy. The biggest price differences arose when it came to proteins/meats: Healthier, leaner cuts, they found, were on average about 29 cents more per serving.

The cost difference is especially noteworthy when considering the reductions to food stamp benefits as of November 1.

Thanksgiving: Food stamp cuts leave pantries struggling to meet rising need
Food stamp cuts leave families with fewer options. One option is food banks and food pantries, where they are available. But federal funding has been cut for them, too.

On Nov. 1, the 47 million people who rely on food stamps — also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — saw a decrease in benefits when Congress allowed a 2009 program funding boost to expire. As a result, a family of four will receive $36 less in food stamps in November and each month thereafter, according to the USDA.

Barkley said that NY Common Food Pantry has also had to adjust to a lack of government funding this year. In 2012, the U.S. government purchased $560 million worth of food for charities, but in 2013 the funding was slashed to $495 million. Feeding America’s director of tax and commodity policy, Carrie Calvert, said food banks will have to find a way to compensate for the 25 percent decrease in federal food deliveries.

From a political standpoint, Republicans are pushing hard to reduce food stamp benefits farther. Democrats generally are resisting that push. The disagreement is part of what has delayed the enactment of a new Farm Bill. But who actually uses food stamps?

Interactive: Republicans More Likely to Have Constituents Who Use Food Stamps
The information and graphics in this article show heavier dependence in congressional districts represented by Republicans. Please click the link to see the map of food stamp usage.

When the House voted in September to cut $40 billion from the federal food-stamp program over 10 years, all but 15 Republicans supported the measure while not a single Democrat did so.

But according to a TIME analysis of county-by-county food-stamp-enrollment data compiled by the nonprofit Feeding America, it appears that House Republicans represent more districts with high levels of participation in the program than House Democrats. Of the 350 congressional districts in which TIME was able to estimate the percentage of people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), 76 had levels of 20% or higher. Of those, 43 are held by Republicans while 33 are controlled by Democrats.

Links to other hunger news are welcome. Thanks for reading.