October 2010 U.S. Poverty Action

Help End Child Hunger in America: Urge Congress to Pass Child Nutrition Funding Without Cutting SNAP (Food Stamp) Benefits

Take Action in Your District to Urge Passage of a Strong Child Nutrition Bill During the Lame Duck Session

Familiarize yourself (see reverse side) with the key points of child nutrition reauthorization — why it matters and the status of legislative action. Then, consider what strategic actions your group can take during this recess leading up to November elections:

  1. Use the talking points below to write a letter.
  2. Hold a letter-writing event at your home for your network, table after religious services, etc. See below for links to materials to help you activate others.
  3. Attend town hall meetings with your elected official or candidates. Go to a gathering with your questions in your pocket (“Will you fight for a strong child nutrition bill that doesn’t cut SNAP (Food Stamps)?”) or your sign in hand (“Our kids need a strong child nutrition bill”)
  4. Request a face-to-face meeting with your representative, senator, or their staff and bring along some of your action network to express your views on child nutrition and the action you want to see.

Use these talking points:

  1. Whatever action you take, introduce yourself and share your commitment to investing in America’s families, and especially the health of young children so they are ready to learn.
  2. Tell your member of Congress that RESULTS groups across the country are lobbying Congress to pass a robust child nutrition reauthorization bill to reduce hunger and food insecurity, help reduce childhood obesity, improve child nutrition and health, and enhance child development and school readiness — without cutting food stamp benefits.
  3. Remind Congress that families are struggling. According to the recently released U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey, the rate of child poverty in the U.S. was 20.7 percent in 2009 up from 16.2 percent in 2000, up almost 1.4 million children in just one year. This means their families had to scramble to put food on the table. And rising poverty affects the majority of states, with children much more likely to be poor than other age groups. (The percent of children below poverty level in counties covered by your district/state can be found at the U.S. Census Bureau site.)
  4. Express your concern that the Senate child nutrition bill does not do enough to end child hunger, and may actually make things worse because of $2.2 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp Program).
  5. Instead, voice your support for the bipartisan House bill, the Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act of 2010 (H.R.5504). The House bill allocates more funding than the Senate bill to increase access to key child nutrition programs.
  6. State your strong support for completing child nutrition reauthorization this year. We have a small but critical window of opportunity to make sure the House strengthens the child nutrition bill and rejects SNAP cuts before it goes to the President.
  7. Urge your member of Congress to tell House leadership (Representatives Sander Levin and Dave Camp of the Ways and Means Committee, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi) and Senate leadership (Senators Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley of the Senate Finance Committee, and Majority Leader Harry Reid) to support a bill that increases children’s access to programs — especially during weekends, summer, and breakfast — and is paid for without cutting SNAP (food stamps).

Note: To find contact information, including telephone numbers and addresses for congressional offices and the names of the health and tax staffer, visit our Elected Officials page (http://capwiz.com/results/dbq/officials/). For directory assistance, you can also contact the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Background: Feeding Our Children Is a Bipartisan Issue

Federal child nutrition programs help ensure that children in low-income families are getting the food they need to be healthy and productive. The child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), The School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), Child and Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP), and the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), are scheduled to be reauthorized by Congress in 2010. For all of these programs except for WIC, the reauthorization offers our best chance to increase eligibility and access for these programs by changing program guidelines; WIC is the only child nutrition program that is annually appropriated, so service (and therefore spending) levels for all the other child nutrition programs is “locked in” during the reauthorization process. Child nutrition reauthorization is our best chance to move towards ending childhood hunger in America.

President Obama has pledged to end childhood hunger in the U.S. by 2015. President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget proposal for Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization was $10 billion over ten years (subject to “paygo” rules) in additional funding. In August, the Senate passed the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 (S.3307), which provides $4.5 billion in added funding over ten years, but pays for almost half the bill by reducing future SNAP benefits. It simply does not make sense to cut food benefits from the poor (SNAP) to feed impoverished children. Moreover, while this bill makes substantial progress in enhancing the nutritional quality of food available in the programs, it does not go as far as we’d like to increase access to programs for underserved children.

Quick Background on SNAP: In 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, SNAP benefits were temporarily increased to help hungry families during the economic downturn. This increase was designed to phase out between 2010 and 2014 so that families receiving SNAP benefits wouldn’t see this benefits drop dramatically all at once. The Senate child nutrition bill — following passage in August of emergency state relief for teachers and FMAP paid for by a SNAP cut — now moves the phase-out date to 2013. This will cause families to see their SNAP benefits, which are already too low, drop dramatically and sooner than some had expected.

A record 41.8 million people received SNAP in July 2010, up from only 16.8 million individuals in June 2000, and the program has been a lifeline for families during the economic downturn. For more information on your state and county participation rates, visit FRAC: http://frac.org/reports-and-resources/snapfood-stamp-program-participation-data-2009/. You can also view the impact of SNAP benefits on an interactive map on a county by county basis here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/11/28/us/20091128-foodstamps.html

The House recessed at the end of September without bringing the Senate bill to the floor for a vote, despite pressure from the Administration to simply pass the Senate bill (the fear being that any House changes will necessitate a second vote by the Senate to agree to the changes.) This delay actually resulted from a significant effort by the anti-hunger community outraged by the SNAP cuts. Advocacy by the Food Policy Working Group (RESULTS is a member) led to a letter initiated by Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) to Speaker Pelosi and other House leadership that was signed by 106 Representatives basically saying they will not vote to cut SNAP benefits to fund child nutrition, and that other offsets/payfors must be found. This summer, the House Education and Labor Committee committee had passed its own, more robust, but unpaid for bill, The Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act of 2010 (H.R. 5504) on a bipartisan basis with approximately $8 billion in new funding to improve access to healthy meals. RESULTS and our anti-hunger partners prefer the House bill which brings more children into the programs to eat healthier food. But the bill has to be paid for AND not with SNAP cuts.

RESULTS applauds the efforts of the House and Senate to pass bipartisan bills to help end childhood hunger. Hunger should never be a political issue. Both of these bills make much needed improvements to child nutrition programs, including expanding access for millions of children to healthy meals year-round in schools, child care, and community based settings, and for the first time, establishing nutrition standards for foods sold outside of the cafeteria. The House and Senate nevertheless have to have to find responsible “offsets” in the budget to pay for the increase in funding. House leaders are running out of time, and in the lame duck session will face increasing pressure to simply take up the Senate bill. RESULTS strongly believes that Congress should not pass child nutrition legislation that cuts SNAP benefits and, if that happens, should act immediately to restore those cuts. Hungry children deserve better.

For more information and resources visit our website issue page at http://www.results.org/issues/us_poverty_campaigns/health_care_for_all/child_nutrition/. Additional resources:

We will strategize about how we can help pass a strong child nutrition bill on the October 2010 National Conference Call — Saturday, October 9, at 12:30 pm ET. To participate, call (888) 409-6709 with your group by 12:28 pm ET.