Friday, May 30, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
With economic downturn comes hunger, and with hunger comes obesity. Though this equation seems to counter the traditional logic of dieting, for families trying to survive on food stamps, buying low-cost high calorie-food is often the only solution for making limited allotments last into the second or third week of the month, prompting a cycle of serious weight gain. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that women in poverty were 50% more likely to be obese than women of higher economic status, while a 2006 University of Pennsylvania study found that poor 15 to 17 year olds were also 50% more likely to be overweight or obese than children from higher-income families. Derek Felton, a
Friday, May 23, 2008
Here’s the good news: Yesterday the House again approved the farm bill by 306 to 110 and the Senate quickly voted to support the bill by a majority of 82 to 13. Both of these votes were sufficient to override President Bush’s veto (Wednesday).
The problem is that this vote was to override Bush’s veto on the “original” farm bill – which suffered from an administrative glitch that failed to include a 34-page section on foreign aid, which accounts for only $200 million, or less than one percent, of farm bill spending.
Despite yesterday’s victory, therefore, some doubt the constitutionality of this vote and Senate will again have to vote on the bill. The question is: Will they vote on the bill in its entirety or only on the section that was previously omitted? Either way, Bush will also have another opportunity to veto the “new” bill after the Senate votes.
In the midst of this political squabbling, let us not forget that 66% of the funds allocated for the farm bill will provide additional funding to food stamps and other essential nutritional assistance programs that provide low-income Americans with the support they desperately need in these difficult economic times.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Yesterday May 21, seemed to be a day of uncharacteristic swiftness for the nascent farm bill. As expected, President Bush vetoed the bill and the House responded with an override vote of 316 to 108, moving the bill one step closer to a final override vote in the Senate before the holiday recess.
However, an administrative blunder rendered both the veto and the vote moot and insured that the passage of the farm bill will be sluggish as were farm bill deliberations. The error concerned a 34-page section of the bill addressing foreign aid, which was omitted from the copy of the bill submitted to the President and subsequently vetoed.
The House must now approve the corrected farm bill, which it is expected to do today, and submit the bill for approval by the Senate before issuing it for another Presidential veto and a subsequent override by both houses. Though such errors have previously been rectified through mutual agreement of the President and lawmakers, thus circumventing this kind of legislative backtracking, House Republican leaders have chosen to enforce by-the-book standards in order to emphasize the mistake by Democratic leadership.
Meanwhile, food pantries are forced to ration supplies and families across the city are struggling to stretch their Food Stamp benefits under the insufficient provisions of the 2002 farm bill.
The New York City Coalition Against Hunger and more than 1,000 national, state and local organizations signed letters demanding that Members of Congress override President Bush’s veto of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2419).
Contact your representatives today to urge them to support the Farm Bill and to vote to override the veto of the 2008 Farm Bill Conference Report.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
There are 64 billionaires in
The recent economic crisis has further worsened the problem of hunger in the “land of plenty.”
“Downturn leaves food pantries bare” proclaimed a recent headline in Am-NY. The article highlighted the increased need and decreased supplies in food pantries throughout
As Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, explained, for food pantries: “It’s gone from bad to worse to worser.” Berg also stated that, as a result of the current situation, “[p]eople are suffering more.”
On the other hand, despite the increased need for food pantries and soup kitchens, the New York Times recently found that Americans waste an estimated 27 percent of the food available for consumption. This amounts to about a pound of food per American per day.
“We’re not talking about table scraps,” said Berg, explaining the extent of wasted food in the
Monday, May 19, 2008
Many seniors have recently found that Social Security is no longer enough to cover their food expenses. “It’s a damn shame,” said Mary Hood, 89, who relies on
Rising food costs have also threatened the quality of school nutrition programs, as the cost of milk and eggs has outpaced even the overall rate of food inflation. For large school districts an increase of several cents on staple items is anything but trivial. "For every penny on a carton of milk, it costs me $30,000 a year," said Lynnelle Grumbles, food service director at
The House Education and Labor Committee and the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee will meet in July to discuss adjustments to federal school lunch reimbursements for the upcoming school year.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
The mounting need for expanded food stamp access and emergency food funding helped fuel compromise on the bill, which will provide an additional $10.4 billion in funding for nutrition programs over the next ten years out of a total budget of $289 billion. As Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders stated, “This legislation is not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction. I also am pleased that this bill begins to address the alarming needs of local food shelves and that my colleagues included important provisions to give access to and education on fresh, healthy produce to school children.” The Senate is expected to pass the bill with a similarly strong margin as early as today, and to reach the President as soon as May 20. If vetoed, Congress will attempt an override before the Memorial Day recess.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
As Congress rallies for bipartisan votes to pass the Farm Bill and, if so, override of a Presidential veto, the Bush administration continues to display a fundamental misunderstanding of the bill’s nutrition title and the inefficiency of nutrition provisions under the 2002 Farm Bill. The current bill would increase nutrition spending by $10.3 billion over 10 years, while increasing the standard income deduction for food stamp eligibility to more fully account for current inflation for the first time since 1996. The bill would also index benefits to inflation rates and raise the minimum monthly benefit from $10 to $14. Despite these desperately-needed reforms, in a May 9 press conference, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer questioned whether increased food stamp access was intended to make the government “feel good about taking care of people,” asking, “in a time when we have a fairly decent sized percentage of people who are eligible for the food stamp program and are not participating…why would we expand eligibility to the program?” Schafer fails to note that food stamp enrollment has increased in response to the flailing economy, but that the federal government still needs to address the administrative barriers to access that have prevented eligible families and individuals from receiving benefits. A successful veto could result in a two-year extension of the 2002 Farm Bill, which would accelerate the current food crisis and leave millions of Americans with insufficient benefits. It is extremely troubling that, as the food costs soar and the gap between rich and poor Americans increases daily, Schafer is asking “do we really have a problem here?”
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Testifying before a joint hearing of the New York City Council Committees on Civil Rights and Consumer Affairs, NYCCAH Executive Director Joel Berg exhorted city officials to take responsibility for combating rising hunger rates by committing to large-scale anti-poverty initiatives, citing the effectiveness of Great Society programs, which cut poverty rates in half in the 1960s and 1970s. Berg noted that poverty rates have risen during Mayor Bloomberg’s administration despite his avowed commitment to ending poverty, and in response to the implementation of small-scale anti-poverty pilot programs across the city, which have placed the onus for economic change upon poor individuals. “We cannot dramatically reduce poverty without significant new expenditures. Trying to reduce poverty without increasing the money available to low-income families is like trying to reduce drought without increasing the availability of water” said Berg, who also noted that, while poverty has increased, so too have tax breaks for large City Corporations. “The original investment in the City’s poverty initiative was only $150 per year million, which equals only $97 per person living in poverty. In contrast, Goldman Sachs is getting an average of $83,000 in government funding for each person who is going to work in the new headquarters,” he observed. To begin to combat these massive inequities, Berg called on city, state and federal officials to commit to enacting a living wage, increase EITC funding and make it easier for individuals and families to access government programs like food stamps, WIC, and subsidized health insurance.
Friday, May 09, 2008
Following three extensions and seemingly interminable debate, the latest compromise farm bill has, like earlier versions, been met with the threat of Presidential veto. Congressional negotiators agreed to the $296 billion legislation, which increase funding for nutrition programs, including food stamps and emergency food programs, by $10 billion, while expanding an initiative to provide more fresh fruits and vegetables in school meals. President Bush has denounced the bill citing overspending and claiming that it offers no “real reform.” Farm subsidies have been a primary point of contention between the President and legislators, though subsidies account for only an estimated 16% of farm bill spending, according to House Agricultural Committee Chair Collin Peterson. NYCCAH Executive Director Joel Berg urged swift rectification of the most recent bill, noting that the absence of a new farm bill exacerbates the current hunger crisis. “The federal government has the resources and the scope to sole this problem,” said Berg. Congress may overturn a presidential veto with a two-thirds vote in each chamber of Congress. The July 2007 version of the bill passed by 231 votes in the House and 79 in the Senate; a two-thirds majority would require votes of 290 and 67, respectively.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
As food prices continue to rise, the steady loss of city supermarkets seems to add insult to injury for both consumers and supermarket employees. According to a study published by the New York City Department of City Planning on April 21, 3 million New Yorkers live in neighborhoods that require more accessible supermarkets, while many more could benefit from competing supermarkets where they live. Currently there are only 550 supermarkets over 10,000 square feet serving city residents, with fewer supermarkets per capita in low-income neighborhoods like Harlem, East New York and
Friday, May 02, 2008
Applying for food stamps in