SNAP Update:  “Twinkies can no longer be considered bread”

      “I’m disappointed that the rules don’t go as far as what was proposed early this year,” said Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank, a nutrition advocacy group. “USDA has missed an opportunity to increase the availability of and access to healthier foods for low-income Americans.”

The earlier proposals also recommended leaving food with multiple ingredients like frozen pizza or canned soup off the staple list. The outcome is a win for the makers of such products, like General Mills Inc. and Campbell Soup Co., which feared they would lose shelf space as retailers added new items to meet the requirements.

But retailers still criticized the new guidelines as too restrictive. Stores must now stock seven varieties of staples in each food category: meat, bread, dairy, and fruits and vegetables….

…More changes to the food-stamp program may lie ahead. The new rules were published a day after the House Committee on Agriculture released a report* calling for major changes to the program, which Republicans on the committee say discourages recipients from finding better-paid work.

Source: Regulators Tweak SNAP Rules for Grocers – WSJ

*Some of the findings from the 2016 Committee on Agriculture Report “Past, Present, and Future of SNAP” are below.

    • Program participation nearly doubled (up 81 percent from FY 2007 to FY 2013) as a result of the recent recession. In an average month in FY 2007, 26.3 million people (or about 9 percent of the U.S. population) were enrolled in SNAP. That increased to 47.6 million people (or about 15 percent of the U.S. population) in FY 2013, owing to the fact that the economy was slow to recover and many families remained reliant on SNAP. Even now, with a 4.6 percent unemployment rate (compared to a 9.6 percent unemployment rate for 2010), there were still 43.4 million SNAP participants as of July 2016.
    • SNAP is now a catchall for individuals and families who receive no or lower benefits from other welfare programs, largely because the eligibility criteria in SNAP are relatively more relaxed. As a result, the net effect has been to increase SNAP enrollment. For example, in the welfare reforms of 1996, the cash welfare program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was converted into a block grant known as TANF, which has rather rigorous work and activity requirements and includes a time limit. Another program available to those who are laid off from work is Unemployment Insurance (UI). These benefits require individuals to have a work history and to be fired through no fault of their own to be eligible for assistance. UI benefits are also time-limited, typically lasting six months. A third program, Federal disability benefits, requires individuals to prove they are unable to work. For many families who have not collected SNAP in the past, SNAP is now a default option for filling in the gaps.
    • USDA data shows that spending on SNAP remains three times what it was prior to the recession ($23.09 billion pre-recession average compared to $73.99 billion post-recession in FY 2015). However, SNAP spending is now projected to be significantly lower than it was estimated at passage of the 2014 Farm Bill.
    • For FY 2017, the maximum monthly benefit in the 48 contiguous states and DC is $194 for a one-person household, $357 for a two-person household, and $649 for a four-person household.17 In determining a household’s benefit, the net monthly income of the household is multiplied by 30 percent (because SNAP households are expected to spend 30 percent of their income on food), and the result is subtracted from the maximum benefit to determine the household’s benefit.
    • Seniors have the lowest rates of SNAP participation among eligible households of any demographic. While the low participation rate has a variety of causes, a prominent explanation is the stigma associated with SNAP and welfare in general. Many factors contribute to a lack of access to food among seniors, including a lack of a substantial income, the gap between Medicaid and the cost of living, limited income with specialized diets, and mental and physical illnesses.  The issues facing these populations must be viewed holistically, with SNAP as one piece of a larger solution to solving hunger for seniors.


According to research by the AARP Foundation—a charitable affiliate of AARP—over 17 percent of adults over the age of 40 are food-insecure. Among age cohorts over age 50, food insecurity was worse for the 50-59 age group, with over 10 percent experiencing either low or very low food security. Among the 60-69 age cohort, over 9 percent experienced similar levels of food insecurity, and over 6 percent among the 70+ population.

• The operation of the program is at the discretion of each state. For instance, in California, SNAP is a county-run program. In Texas, SNAP is administered by the state… Dr. Angela Rachidi of the American Enterprise Institute cited a specific example in New York City where SNAP, WIC, school food programs, and child and adult care programs are all administered by different agencies and the result is that each agency must determine eligibility and administer benefits separately.

K. Michael Conaway, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. Hearing of the House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture. Past, Present, and Future of SNAP. February 25, 2015. Washington, D.C.  Find report here

From CNN this week:

The number of people seeking emergency food assistance increased by an average of 2% in 2016, the United States Conference of Mayors said in its annual report Wednesday.

The majority, or 63%, of those seeking assistance were families, down from 67% a year ago, the survey found. However, the proportion of people who were employed and in need of food assistance rose sharply — increasing to 51% from 42%.

 

CNN Money report

 

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Celebrity crusade for online food stamp use

Shailene Woodley, Rosario Dawson, Will Smith and Kristen Bell are just a few of the big name stars teaming up with Thrive Market, a digital marketplace where individuals can purchase affordable, healthy food. They’re petitioning lawmakers and retailers to allow the use of food stamps online.

Thrive Marketplace

Food Price Monitors Needed for First Nations Study

LONGMONT, CO–(Marketwired – August 04, 2016) – First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is seeking up to 75 people or organizations — located on or near Indian reservations across the U.S. — to monitor and report food prices on a monthly basis over a 12-month period.

Participants each will be paid $500 at the end of the study. Applications are due by 5 p.m. Mountain Time on Thursday, September 8, 2016.

The participants will collect prices on a list of food products sold in Native communities by monitoring their community/reservation grocery outlet, and then report the prices via an online database. First Nations will use the information to update and significantly expand its initial 2015 report titled Indian Country Food Price Index: Exploring Variation in Food Pricing Across Native Communities (a PDF of the report can be downloaded athttp://www.firstnations.org/knowledge-center).

Most reservation consumers believe they pay more for food products than consumers in urban areas, but there is little data on food prices in Native communities to fully substantiate the claim. In 2015, First Nations piloted an attempt to collect food prices in Native communities, and an overview of that effort was documented in the initial Food Price Indexreport mentioned above. That report found that, on average, many food products were more expensive with the exception of some junk foods. Building on this initial effort, First Nations is seeking individuals, organizations or tribes to collect monthly prices in their local community’s retail outlet.

Monthly food prices will be collected on the following food items:

  • Loaf of white bread
  • One pound of ground beef
  • Whole chicken (price per pound)
  • One dozen large eggs
  • One gallon of whole, fortified milk
  • Red delicious apples (price per pound)
  • Pound of tomatoes
  • Coffee (ground, cost per pound) of a common brand such as Folger’s
    • Regular
    • Decaffeinated

Project participants will enter their monthly collected prices into an online database provided by First Nations by the 15th of each month. This data will be analyzed and shared with all project participants. Moreover, at the end of the 12 months, the information will be shared with Indian Country at large via the revised Indian Country Food Price Index report.

The project will begin as soon as all of the participants are selected.

To apply to participate, individuals, organizations or tribes must complete a short online application at this link: https://www.grantrequest.com/SID_1243?SA=SNA&FID=35135. Please note that not everyone who applies will necessarily be selected. The selection process will involve consideration of geographic locations, retail outlets to be monitored and other factors. The online application will ask for information such as name, physical address, tribal affiliation, email address, distance to nearest grocery story, whether the store in located on a reservation, if it’s a tribally-owned outlet, and other similar questions. Reliability and accuracy are highly desired traits in those who will be selected. Applications are due by 5 p.m. Mountain Time on Thursday, September 8, 2016.

About First Nations Development Institute

For 36 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities. First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information about First Nations, visit www.firstnations.org.

Image Available:http://www.marketwire.com/library/MwGo/2016/8/4/11G109314/Images/Food_Price_Cover_large_500-b61d945bdaab9229896530f92708d1ad.jpg

CONTACT INFORMATION

  • PROGRAM CONTACT:
    Raymond Foxworth, First Nations Vice President of Grantmaking, Development & Communications
    rfoxworth@firstnations.org or (303) 774-7836 x207

    MEDIA CONTACT:
    Randy Blauvelt, First Nations Senior Communications Officer
    rblauvelt@firstnations.org or (303) 774-7836 x213

How Columbus Is Using Smart Cities Challenge and Transit to Reduce High Infant Mortality Rate 

A very important story that illustrates how the social determinants can undermine any desire by individuals to access healthy living strategies. As many enterprising organizers have learned, simply adding a farmers market deep within  a food desert does not solve all of the nutritional problems faced by those residents. Additionally, the fact that markets do well when sitting on the “edge” of two or more communities (even with one being a food desert) and can therefore encourage bridging among the many residents has not been tested enough by planners or food system leaders.
As someone who was a community organizer in Columbus many years ago, I lived and worked in some of the very underserved areas described in this article and saw the effect on my neighbors and even on myself in those years. No doubt in my mind that the “mobile” in the term mobile markets in some cases should be focused on adding public transportation and shuttles from agencies to functioning markets that can offer a wide group of amenities to those new shoppers.

Finally, anyone who has heard my presentation on the “eras” of farmers markets which concludes with me asking those attending what the next era will be focused on will understand how gratified I am to see planners and regional governments include farmers markets in their strategies. Maybe this is the start of a beautiful friendship…

Crucially, Columbus wants to offer universal transit cards, which riders could use to pay for public transit as well as taxis, ride-hailing and car-sharing options. Kiosks would be installed at key locations, which would allow riders with (or without) credit cards or smartphones to add funds, call rides, and access real-time transit information. The city may also subsidize trips by private service providers like Uber and Car2Go. (A report released this week by the Center for American Progress highlighted this approach as a boon for low-income riders.) This could go a long way to address gaps in first mile/last mile connections, which can be a huge hurdle to low-income citizens getting the services they need.

The city is hoping a new BRT line and smarter technology can help families access crucial services.

Source: How Columbus Is Using Smart Cities Challenge and Transit to Reduce High Infant Mortality Rate – CityLab