Wednesday, February 18, 2009

“The Beginning of an End”

Yesterday, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a nationwide effort to stimulate the economy and help Americans by creating jobs and providing necessary services. While not claiming that it would fix the economic crisis immediately, President Obama did comment that the Act would “set our economy on a firmer foundation.”

The compromise package of $789 billion will create or save 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, 215,000 in New York state alone. Particularly important to hungry Americans, this Act provides critical funding for the following nutrition assistance programs, including: $20 billion for SNAP (f.k.a. “food stamps”), $500 million for Women, Infants and Children nutrition (WIC), $100 million for Emergency Food and Shelter (funds homeless shelter and feeding programs), and $100 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) over two years.

Please call or write your Congressional representative to say “thank you” for their work in passing this Act which will help all of us recover from these difficult economic times.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Food in the Public Interest" Report

“750,000 New Yorkers do not have access to healthy food. That must change,” Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said in a press conference in Union Square on Saturday. Joined by advocates from the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and other food justice groups, BP Stringer held the press conference to announce the release of a report entitled “Food in the Public Interest: How New York City’s Food Policy Holds the Key to Hunger, Health, Jobs and the Environment.” This report is the product of an on-going partnership between the BP’s Office and food justice advocates throughout the city who also worked together to plan the “Politics of Food” conference in November at Columbia University.

As the New York Times reported, “Food in the Public Interest” calls for the city to make healthy food more available by supporting farmers’ markets and supermarkets tax through zoning incentives, limiting the proliferation of fast-food restaurants, and supporting local food producers. The media – for example in the Daily News, NBC, 1010 Wins, and Fox – focused on the report’s recommendations on the food shed issue.

However, it is also important to note that the report highlighted “Hunger” as a main policy area, stating that the “need for a food safety net is still relevant in New York City today” and that the recession will “likely result in a greater need for food assistance.”

The report makes several recommendations that assist the Coalition’s on-going advocacy efforts: Lobby for more federal funding for food programs; increase the number of eligible New Yorkers using food stamps; eliminate the existing state and local finger-imaging requirement; expand the number of places where food stamps can be used; and ensure that enrollment is available at soup kitchens and food pantries.

Although the report is only the beginning of an on-going process of engagement between the local government, advocates, and community members, it is an important first step in creating the necessary links between advocacy and policy changes.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Senate Considers Recovery Act

As a recent CNN article demonstrated, as the economy continues to fail, more people are turning to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) in order to avoid hunger. Said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, “The main purpose of the program is to wipe out Third World starvation in America, and it's worked.” Berg and other advocates are optimistic about the improvements included in the economic stimulus plan now being debated in the Senate.

The proposed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes the largest investment in nutrition assistance funding in decades. On Monday, the Senate began to debate the $885-billion stimulus plan. In particular, the bill includes a section of policy recommendations specifically geared towards “Alleviating Hunger”: for example, it includes $20 billion for SNAP, $200 million for Senior Nutrition Programs, and $726 million to increase the number of states that provide Afterschool Meals for Children.

Thanks to your help, an $819 billion version passed the House last week, but there are now several challenges to its spending levels in the Senate debate. It is critical that Congress approves the funding levels proposed in this bill immediately to provide assistance to individuals and families throughout the United States as soon as possible.

Please contact your Senators today to support the bill and the current level of anti-hunger funding. If you are in New York, please call: Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer (D - NY) at (202) 224-6542 and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D - NY) at (202) 224-4451. Alternately, you may phone the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.