Issue #32, November 9, 2010
New from FRAC:
Food Hardship: A Closer Look at Hunger - Data for the Nation through September 2010
Survey data collected by Gallup as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and provided to FRAC finds nearly one in five households report inability to afford enough food; SNAP benefit boost keeping food hardship rate from skyrocketing.
Latest SNAP/Food Stamp Data: 42.3 Million Americans Received SNAP/Food Stamps in August 2010 - Record Enrollment
1. New Jersey SNAP/Food Stamp Recipients Missing Out on $5 Million in Additional Funding
(NJ.com, October 28, 2010)
New Jersey has not applied to extend a SNAP/Food Stamp waiver which expired September 30. Nearly 120,000 families had been receiving an additional $14 a month through the waiver which is related to their higher housing costs. “The loss of even a few dollars a month takes food off the table and can seriously jeopardize the health of struggling families,” noted Sen. Frank Lautenberg in a letter to state Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez. The waiver program was extended to the end of the year, and 14 states have re-applied. A spokesperson for Velez said the state is taking steps to restore SNAP/Food Stamps by December, and retroactively replace, in March, those benefits lost in October and November. The number of households receiving SNAP/Food Stamps in New Jersey skyrocketed 27 percent between August 2009 and August 2010, when 329,000 households received the benefit.
2. Campaign in Connecticut Aims to Increase Senior SNAP/Food Stamp Participation
(Catholic Transcript, October 28, 2010)
Only 34 percent of eligible seniors in Connecticut receive SNAP/Food Stamps, and AARP Connecticut is working with End Hunger CT!, Foodshare, and the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) on a campaign this fall to improve that number. Seniors can call a toll-free number – 1-866-974-7627 – to receive eligibility screenings and enrollment assistance from trained volunteers. The campaign also provides outreach through community events such as educational webinars, a direct mail effort aimed at older, low-income adults, and paid advertising to raise awareness of the SNAP/Food Stamp Program. Changes to the program over the past year have made 70,000 older Connecticut residents eligible for the program. “[Y]ou may qualify even if you work, receive Social Security, SSI and/or retirement benefits,” said Lucy Nolan, executive director of End Hunger CT! “You may also be eligible if you own a home or car, have money in the bank or live with others.” The SNAP/Food Stamp Program is important in the state because it’s impossible to meet local food assistance needs by distributing food alone, notes Foodshare vice president and chief executive officer Alicia Flynn. “For older adults and families that are struggling to make ends meet in today’s economy, SNAP can often mean the difference between putting food on the table or going hungry,” said Tracy Helin, program director for CAHS. The main reason seniors don’t apply is because they don’t realize they are eligible.
3. Economy Drives Up SNAP/Food Stamp Numbers
(Sacramento News & Review, October 28, 2010)
In Sacramento County, the recession, high unemployment, and home foreclosures have driven an increase in the number of Californians on SNAP/Food Stamps - last year there were 13,000 more receiving the benefit, for a total of 46,300. “We are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of families relying on food stamps and food assistance,” said Bob Erlenbusch of the Hunger Coalition. “We are seeing more seniors who are living on next to nothing,” said Janet Green of Loaves & Fishes. “We are also seeing more families, families that a month ago were in their own homes.” The demand for nutrition assistance has hit area food banks particularly hard. “The end of the month is the worst time,” said Green. “That’s when people face the choice between paying for rent and paying for food.”
(Santa Fe New Mexican, November 2, 2010)
In September 2009, 135,000 New Mexican families received SNAP/Food Stamps; that number climbed to 165,000 families in September 2010. Santa Fe County’s September participation numbers were 8,278 households – or more than 17,200 individuals. The increase has been steady since 2008 when the recession began, noted Betina Gonzales McCracken, public information officer for the New Mexico Human Services Department. While the economy has driven the increase, the rising numbers are also due to a change in eligibility. Before April 2010, eligibility was limited to those at 130 percent of the federal poverty level; that was changed in April to 165 percent, making a family of four earning less than $3,032 a month eligible for the benefit.
(WECT, October 29, 2010)
SNAP/Food Stamp participation is up in North Carolina’s Brunswick and New Hanover Counties. In September, 133 people applied for the benefit for the first time in Brunswick County, bringing participation up to 6,189 households. New Hanover’s participation climbed by 235 people from August to September, for a total of 12,311 households. Participation numbers have increased steadily for more than a year, and don’t show signs of stopping, notes the state Department of Social Services.
(ABC27.com, October 28, 2010)
“We’ve seen SNAP enrollment increase gradually through the years, but the past couple of years it’s hit double digits,” said Michael Race, spokesman for the state Department of Public Welfare. Nearly 1.7 million Pennsylvanians receive SNAP/Food Stamps. Unemployment and underemployment are the leading causes of the increase said Race, as more and more people are unable to pay their bills even though they are working. Residents can apply for the benefit online at www.dpw.state.pa.us.
(KFOXTV.com, October 28, 2010)
About 163,000 El Paso residents are now on SNAP/Food Stamps, up from 160,000 a year ago according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. The area’s poverty rate doubled over the past year to 30 percent. In October 2008, less than 150,000 El Pasoans received SNAP/Food Stamps.
(HamptonRoads.com, November 1, 2010)
Virginia’s South Hampton Roads cities have seen skyrocketing participation in SNAP/Food Stamps. Virginia Beach’s enrollment increased 34 percent in the past year, jumping to 27,156 in FY 2010 from 20,289 last year, according to the Virginia Department of Human Services (DHS). Chesapeake’s participation increased 27 percent, from 2009’s 14,968 recipients to 2010’s 19,041. The recession hit suburban families who had not signed up for SNAP/Food Stamps in the past, said Tom Steinhauser, DHS’ director of division benefit programs. Between 2009 and 2010, the number of Virginia residents on SNAP/Food Stamps rose nearly 24 percent, from 614,144 in 2009 to 759,562 in 2010. The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia has been hit by increased need and fewer donations. “We are seeing the exact same thing that SNAP is seeing,” said Danielle Ayers, the organization’s grants and communications manager. “These people who’ve lost their jobs and can’t keep up with the rising cost of utilities. They are the new faces of hunger. Everyone is feeling the pinch.”
4. SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge Raises Awareness in Texas
(Austin Food Bloggers, November 1, 2010; News 8 Austin, October 31, 2010)
At the end of Austin’s recent SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge, Austin Food Bank’s Wendy Heiges wrote it’s “[o]ver, but not forgotten,” and now only begins to understand the struggle faced by those receiving the benefit. “There are ways to make healthy, nutritious choices using SNAP benefits. The choices are hard when you have to purchase something SNAP benefits don’t cover, like diapers. They’re hard when you work two low-wage jobs and don’t have the time or physical energy to hit three grocery stores to maximize your benefits, or prepare home-cooked meals from scratch.” The Heiges family cut back their spending amount from $4.50 to $3.70 per person per day for the last two days of the Challenge. That’s the amount an individual would receive if the current proposal to cut SNAP/Food Stamps takes effect. Dave Heiges started thinking about the cut early in the week. “For the first couple [of] days we were okay,” he said. “Then, Wednesday you start getting worried about what’s going to happen Thursday and Friday.” The Heiges family noted that SNAP/Food Stamp families have to sometimes make unhealthy food choices because “they’re cheaper, and it’s about filling your stomach and it’s about having something there…” Currently, 3.6 million families receive SNAP/Food Stamps in Texas.
5. SNAP/Food Stamp Program Expands to Fill Recipient Needs in California
(Black Voice News, October 28, 2010)
As record numbers of people receive SNAP/Food Stamps, Californians are finding their benefits can be used at more stores, and some recipients can even use their benefits at some restaurants. In San Bernardino, WalMart, Costco, Target, 7-Eleven, The Dollar Store, a number of convenience stores, and some Sam’s Clubs accept EBT cards. A program titled “Restaurant Meals” allows senior recipients over 60, the disabled, and homeless to purchase healthy meals at participating restaurants. The program includes more than 500 restaurants, and is particularly important to homeless recipients, as they “don’t have space to store food or cook,” said Lydia Erviti, who oversees the Restaurant Meals program. “We wouldn’t be surprised if the EBT revenue growth for company and franchise stores was over $2 million,” said Joe Stein, head of Strategy and Innovation for El Pollo Loco, about the Restaurant Meals program. “From something that started in August 09, that’s a pretty good size growth.”
6. State Budget Cuts Force Closure of Some Louisiana Assistance Offices
(2theadvocate.com, October 28, 2010)
The Greensberg, Louisiana SNAP/Food Stamp office will close because of state budget cuts. The office only processed 40 SNAP/Food Stamp applications in the past three months, as most applicants “do interviews by telephone,” said Paula Saltaformaggio, regional administrator for the state Department of Child and Family Services. The cuts “seem to be targeting rural areas, which happen to be places where you don’t have reliable computers, Internet or transportation,” said State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) at a recent St. Helena Parish Police Jury meeting. WIC recipients and applicants will be able to access services on alternate days in Greensberg and Amite. State officials at the jury meeting said that if St. Helena Parish could provide a location at no cost to the state, then the Greensberg SNAP/Food Stamp office could remain open.
7. Colorado County Plowing Through SNAP/Food Stamp Backlog
(Greeley Tribune, October 29, 2010)
Colorado’s Weld County Department of Human Services was swamped with 8,239 SNAP/Food Stamp cases through October, causing a backlog of 800 cases, 300 of which have gone beyond the 30-day federally-mandated processing timeframe. The recession and a change in eligibility requirements, which qualifies more people, are the reasons for the flood of applications. Department of Human Services (DHS) staff have been working overtime and weekends to deal with the backlog, which represents a 124 percent increase in the first 10 months of 2010 as compared to the same period in 2005. SNAP/Food Stamp applicants who are waiting for benefits are provided with food baskets, purchased by Weld County Family Services, and are referred to the Weld Food Bank. DHS issued $10.4 million in SNAP/Food Stamp benefits in 2005; that number increased 215 percent in 2010 to $32.8 million. The Department predicts it will issue $34.5 million in benefits in 2011.
8. Websites and Hotlines Connect Needy to SNAP/Food Stamps
(Simi Valley Acorn, October 29, 2010)
In the first six months of 2010, Ventura County, California’s 211 line helped 1,283 callers in Simi Valley access help in buying food as well as finding mental health services, medical care and shelter. Residents can call the line, which has been operating for the past five years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sponsored by Interface Children and Family Services, in partnership with First 5 and United Way, the line is the “new evolution” of referral and information services, notes Tanya Kellam, director of 211 Ventura County. The recession has made the line particularly important, said Kellam, for people who are struggling for the first time and may not know what services are out there that can help. The line also helps those who already receive some services. One Simi Valley woman, a single mother who saw her work hours cut back significantly, called the line after she had applied for SNAP/Food Stamp and WIC and found she still needed assistance making ends meet. The 211 operator let her know about California’s First 5 program, which provides aid to parents with young children.
(West Central Tribune, November 2, 2010)
In Minnesota, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) created a website – www.bridgetobenefits.org – which helps link needy families to SNAP/Food Stamps and other assistance. Aimed at those people whose incomes are slightly above the federal poverty level, the site provides a confidential screening tool, and features applications that can be downloaded as well as information on SNAP/Food Stamps and other programs, and guidance on how to apply. Site users can also find information on school meal programs and WIC. These programs “are valuable assets to our communities,” said Stephanie Hogenson, an outreach specialist with the CDF of Minnesota. “They bring millions of federal dollars into local businesses and help build community stability.” Forty percent of families eligible for SNAP/Food Stamps in the state don’t receive the benefit.
(Public News Service, October 29, 2010)
A recent study of the Ohio Benefit Bank (www.ohiobenefits.org), a free, online service that connects low and moderate income residents with SNAP/Food Stamps and many other assistance programs, found the service helped more than 168,000 people access nearly $368 million in benefits, work supports and tax credits since it began in 2006. “This means economic stimulus to our local communities,” said Jason Elchert, Deputy Director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks. Eighty-three percent of survey responders reported having a “good” or “excellent” experience with the Benefit Bank, and more than 72 percent of those surveyed who completed the process at a local county agency were approved to receive benefits. The study also looked at the long-term effects of benefits over a six-month period. “What we’re finding is families are actually more food-secure, so they are able to stand in a grocery store checkout line, rather than standing in one of our food pantry lines,” said Elchert. The study results can be found at www.oashf.org.
9. Charter School Meals not Tracked in California
(California Watch, October 22, 2010)
A report by the California State Auditor, aimed at finding how many charter schools in the state are participating in the school breakfast and lunch programs, found that the state has not kept reliable data. “As the charter network continues to grow, much remains unknown about the nutrition programs in California charter schools,” said Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) in a letter to the audit committee. California has been adding about 50 charter schools a year over the past decade; there are now more than 800 charter schools, enrolling 341,000 students – five percent of all public school students in the state. The audit report found that 451 charter schools, out of 800 in the state, appear to serve breakfast and lunch. 151 don’t offer the meals, as they seem to lack physical classrooms. The report also found that Achieve Charter School does not offer free or reduced-price meals, and “is at the mercy of the school district,” “which charges its students a higher price than other schools in the district.” And Nevada City School of the Arts students “often show up with little or no food.”. The report recommends the state Department of Education improve its electronic application system in order to provide reliable data, and recommends school authorities stop combining information from different schools and review school applications.
10. IOM Releases New CACFP Food Recommendations
(LA Times, November 5, 2010; FRAC, November 4, 2010; NBC/KJRH, November 4, 2010)
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a report recommending the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) institute new, more healthful meal standards. The recommendations call for more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and less fat, salt and sugar; 100 percent fruit juice with no added sugar; and 1 percent fat milk. They also reflect current standards for the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and WIC. The recommendations "will change the nutrition rules in about half the states for all children through the childcare licensing rules," said Geri Henchy, a member of the recommendation committee and director of Nutrition Policy and Early Childhood Programs at FRAC. “Until recently people weren’t really focused on obesity prevention in child care,” said Henchy. “Now there is a real interest in that.” The recommendations now go to USDA, which administers CACFP meal standards and monitors compliance. CACFP helps child care centers, family day care homes, afterschool care centers, adult care centers and emergency shelters provide food to children and adults from low-income families.
11. After Falling, Food Prices Start to Rise Again
(Wall Street Journal, November 5, 2010)
In recent months, prices of milk, beef, coffee and sugar have started to rise again, prompting large retailers like Kroger and companies like Kellogg’s to consider raising consumer prices. Companies are cautious, as the recession continues to force Americans to watch their spending and trade down on brands. Prices are currently rising faster than inflation, with the food index rising 1.4 percent over the past year, and USDA predicts food inflation to be about two to four percent in 2011. Over the past year, the consumer price index for all items minus food rose only 0.8 percent. However, prices haven’t skyrocketed as they did in October 2008, when the annual rate of food prices rose 6.3 percent. In response, shoppers switched from brand to private-label products. “The big challenge will be, how much can we swallow and how much can we pass along?” asked Jack Brown, chief executive of Stater Bros. Markets, a California grocery chain. The chain passed half of the five percent rise in cereal prices to consumers, making up the difference by cutting operating expenses.