Category Archives: Advocate

A visit to our nation’s capital to advocate for the Summer Food Service Program

By Charlotte McGarry, Programs Director

Wow! What an amazing day! Yesterday I had the honor and privilege to speak before Senate staff at a briefing to educate lawmakers about the Summer Food Service Program. This educational opportunity was important as lawmakers begin to discuss the Summer Meals Act of 2014. As I departed the Wilmington train station en route to our nation’s capital, I was feeling excited, but extremely nervous. This was my first time speaking to national leaders about a program that helps so many children in our country during the summer months.

Feeding America and Share Our Strength invited the Food Bank of Delaware to speak given our long history and success with the program. Since 2002, we, along with our partners and volunteers, have provided millions of meals to children at risk of hunger in our state.

During my 10-minute talk I spoke about the need, challenges and successes of the program from the perspective of a sponsor. As a sponsor,  we are responsible for locating and recruiting meal sites, hiring, training and supervising staff and volunteers, arranging meal preparation and delivery, monitoring sites, and preparing claims for meal cost reimbursement from USDA.

Yesterday’s presentation was intended to show members of Congress that it’s time to make adjustments to Summer Food Service Program processes developed in the 60s and 70s.  As we all know, families’ needs and dynamics have significantly changed since then. It’s time to change the processes in which we serve children summer meals.

In Delaware only 20 percent of children who receive free or reduced-price meals at school participate in the Summer Food Service Program. Participation is not only low in Delaware, but on a national level. Lack of transportation and general awareness are two major barriers that hinder participation.

In order to reach more children, USDA has funded several demonstration grants to try alternative ways to provide meals. The Food Bank of Delaware, along with the Delaware Department of Education successfully managed one of these projects.

The Grab and Go alternative service method was so successful that we were able receive three years of generous funding from Our Family Foundation.  During this second year of private funding and fourth year of the program our staff is faced with the sad truth that the need for this style of meal service outweighs the funds.

We urge Congress to support their constituents by instituting the changes necessary for children throughout our nation to have the opportunity to participate in Grab and Go and other innovative meal delivery programs.

To learn more about the Summer Meals Act of 2014, please click here.

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Legislative Day in Dover

DSC_0060compressedBy Dan Reyes, Coalition to End Hunger Coordinator

Every year around the start of summer, those wandering the corridors of Legislative Hall are greeted by a veritable sea of tie-dye—it’s hard to miss the Food Bank of Delaware’s Legislative Day. Staff and supporters travel to Dover to educate elected officials about the hunger crisis in our state and what FBD is doing to help, and in turn, the legislature is kind enough to pass a resolution commending our work.

In years past there has been a conspicuous absence at legislative day—those who rely upon the Food Bank of Delaware and its partners for emergency food assistance. Neighbors struggling with poverty and food insecurity are all too often left out of debates and conversations over the policies that directly impact them. The inclusion of this perspective is critical to ensuring that elected officials are working in the best interest of the constituents that they serve.

This year, when given the floor in the State Senate, our President & CEO Patricia Beebe gave only a few brief remarks, before turning the podium over to Edward Hawkins, a Dover Resident and a client of the Food Bank of Delaware. Edward, a Vietnam-era veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, was widowed after the passing of his wife last August. The loss of his wife was not only emotionally taxing, but also impacted his financial stability. The SNAP cuts of 2013 proved devastating, as he described to legislators:

“Prior to those cuts my food stores ran out approximately four days before the next month’s allotment. Now it has increased to two weeks. During that period, I got the chance to experience ‘true hunger’, which caused a weight loss of 20 pounds.”

Edward found relief through FBD’s mobile pantry program, where he filled out a “story card” expressing his interest in advocacy efforts. Not long after he began working with me to prepare for Legislative Day, culminating in his eloquent and impactful remarks on June 3rd. After speaking, Edward shared, “That was tough…it’s hard to get up in front of people I don’t know and feel so exposed. I don’t like feeling pitied…but I know this is important. I hope that by doing this, it will make it possible for other people in my situation to do the same.”

For both FBD and Edward, this is only the beginning. We are in the process of developing a “Witnesses to Hunger” program, an expansion of a project of Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities that seeks to engage caregivers of low-income households in participant-led advocacy efforts. Ensuring our clients can advocate for policies that will allow for greater opportunity and self-reliance is just as important to us as providing emergency food assistance.

Peace, Love, End Hunger.

 

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Food Bank of Delaware, Delaware Department of Education release Breakfast First, a statewide school breakfast report

Educators and anti-hunger advocates gathered yesterday afternoon at Highlands Elementary School for the release of the Food Bank of Delaware and Delaware Department of Education’s Breakfast First, a Statewide School Breakfast Report.

The report identifies that only 52.1 percent of Delaware’s children who receive free or reduced-price lunch also participate in school breakfast programs at their school.

In Delaware, children experience food insecurity in more than one in four households. With just more than half of eligible children receiving breakfast at school, tens of thousands of children who could benefit from a healthy start instead reach their school desks with empty stomachs.

“Guided by innovative and compassionate superintendents, principals, teachers, custodians and nutrition staff, schools throughout Delaware are rising to the challenge through a simple, yet effective strategy: moving breakfast into the classroom,” said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “We know that breakfast in the classroom works. Seaford Middle School has increased breakfast participation by 481 percent just by serving breakfast to all in the classroom.”

The Red Clay Consolidated School District has embraced increasing breakfast accessibility by implementing a Grab and Go model where children “grab” their breakfast in the cafeteria and head to class to eat and receive instructional time.

“The reality is some of our children leave school and will not have another meal until they come back the next morning,” said Red Clay Superintendent Mervin Dougherty. “There are too many obstacles for our children today. When our kids don’t have to worry about things we take advantage of, they excel.”

Highlands Elementary Principal Robert Farr shared a story to explain why school nutrition programs are so important, “One day a student was misbehaving. I asked him to come to my office. I sat him and down and asked him, ‘why do you come to school?’ The little boy replied, ‘I come to school to eat. We don’t have any food to eat.’ This reminded me how important it is that our kids have nutritious meals here at school.”

The Delaware Department of Education and the Delaware State Teachers Association support increasing access to school breakfast for children.

“A whole school buy-in leads to success for breakfast,” advised Aimee Beam, Education Associate, School Nutrition Programs for the Delaware Department of Education. “Valid research shows that school meals have a significant impact on student performance. Kids who eat breakfast have higher test scores, decreased visits to the nurse and fewer behavioral issues.”

“Educators may be leery about breakfast in the classroom, but anecdotal evidence shows that it’s virtually mess free and increases instruction time,” said Delaware State Teachers Association President Frederika Jenner. “Breakfast is more than just the most important meal; it’s the gateway to school success.”

The report delves into school and district-level data to highlight success, as well as identifies common barriers and opportunities for improvement. It shares best practices from successful schools, including Wilbur Elementary School in the Colonial School District and Seaford Middle School in the Seaford School District.

Dan Reyes, Coordinator of the Food Bank of Delaware’s Coalition to End Hunger and co-author of the report, encouraged attendees to use the report as an advocacy tool. “Review the report and identify schools where improvement is needed,” he said. “Encourage educators to take the steps needed to make breakfast free and accessible to all children.”

To read the report in its entirety, visit http://www.fbd.org/school-breakfast-challenge/.

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Anti-hunger advocates launch year-long School Breakfast Challenge at Ending Hunger Through Citizen Service conference

Two-hundred-fifty anti-hunger advocates gathered at the Christiana Hilton yesterday for the second annual Ending Hunger Through Citizen Service conference. The highlight of the day-long event was the official launch of the School Breakfast Challenge.

Delaware Department of Education Secretary Mark Murphy officially launched the challenge, announcing that a total of $20,000 is available to schools that increase participation in the school breakfast program.

In the 2012-2013 school year, only 52.1 percent of children in Delaware who received free or reduced-price lunch also participated in school breakfast.

“We know for our children to be able to learn well, their minds need to be free from worrying about hunger pains. Ensuring our children receive nutritious meals is a vital component of their academic health,” Murphy said.

Cash prizes will be available in the following categories:

Districts

  • Highest overall participation percentage – cash prizes for first place ($4,000), second place ($2,000), third place ($1,000) and fourth place ($500).
  • Highest increase in participation – cash prizes for first place ($4,000), second place ($2,000), third place ($1,000), and fourth place ($500).
  • Implementation of an alternative breakfast program or adding breakfast where it was not offered before. Honorable mention

Charter/Nonpublic

  • Highest overall participation percentage. There will be cash prizes for first place ($2,500).
  • Highest increase in participation percentage. There will be cash prizes for first place ($2,500).
  • Implementation of an alternative breakfast program or adding breakfast where it was not offered before. Honorable mention

Winners will be announced at next year’s Ending Hunger Through Citizen Service conference, and funding must be used to purchase equipment to improve the infrastructure of their nutrition programs.

Governor Jack Markell applauded the School Breakfast Challenge and emphasized the state’s commitment to ensuring the all Delawareans, especially children, have access to nutritious foods.

“While Delaware’s economy continues to improve, we know the recovery hasn’t reached all of our neighbors,” Markell said. “We will keep the safety net strong for individuals, families and, especially, children who are vulnerable to hunger. One critical area of our focus is our schools, recognizing that without consistent access to food, children’s physical, emotional and educational growth are in jeopardy. The School Breakfast Challenge is another important step to move us closer to a hunger-free Delaware.”

Administrator of the United State Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Nutrition Services Audrey Rowe discussed USDA’s important role in alleviating hunger for millions of Americans.

“I want to commend the many school districts in Delaware who have brought breakfast into the classroom,” said Rowe. “We hear from teachers who say that when kids eat healthy foods they do better in school. When kids get lots of healthy food choices and exercise at school, they learn good habits for life.”

In addition to the launch of the school breakfast challenge, anti-hunger advocate Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, provided keynote remarks that focused on the country’s collective will, including government’s, to end hunger.

“Saying we can end poverty and hunger by removing funding is like saying we can get rid of drought by removing water,” said Berg.

Four panels throughout the day focused on community-based advocacy, federal nutrition policies, healthy food access and funding for anti-hunger programs.

“The biggest bang for a federal dollar is SNAP benefits,” said Ellen Teller, Director of Government Relations for the Food Research and Action Center. “However, the SNAP program is the bull’s-eye on Capitol Hill. Anti-hunger advocates must be agile and play defense again the attacks.”

Panelists informed attendees that both national and local advocacy efforts are an important part of the political process as it relates to programs for low-income households.”

“When the stimulus funding ended last November, that meant an annual $16 million reduction in SNAP benefits, which is more than the entire annual budget of the Food Bank of Delaware,” said Secretary Rita Landgraf of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, which administers the SNAP program in the state. “Food is paramount to keeping people safe and healthy in their communities. That’s why we are committed to working with Gov. Jack Markell, our congressional delegation, state legislators and federal officials to find long-term solutions to meeting the basic food needs of vulnerable Delawareans.”

“Today was truly inspiring,” said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “To have so many individuals from all sectors show their support for a community free of hunger was humbling. We know that we have what it takes to end hunger in our state. Now we just need the political will to make it happen. Hunger is unacceptable in this country.”

To learn more about the School Breakfast Challenge or to sponsor it, please contact Dan Reyes, Coalition to End Hunger Coordinator at the Food Bank of Delaware, at (302) 292-1305 ext 206 or dreyes@fbd.org.

Check out some photos from the day!

 

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Share a Second Helping food drive continues through February

Share a Second Helping filled barrelAnti-hunger advocates urge Delawareans to host Share a Second Helping food drives now through the end of February. The Share a Second Helping winter-long giving/awareness campaign launched in December in order to help meet the emergency food needs of Delawareans during the cold winter months. Organizers hope to collect 100,000 pounds of food by Feb. 28.

The Coalition to End Hunger, Food Bank of Delaware, Delaware Health and Social Services (DHSS) and Delaware 2-1-1 encourage Delawareans to dig a little deeper this winter season to help families struggling to make ends meet. Thirty-three percent of households served by the Food Bank of Delaware’s network of hunger-relief partners oftentimes report choosing between buying groceries and paying their heating bills.

“This winter has been harsh for all of us,” said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “But especially for families already struggling to pay their rent/mortgage, heat their homes and put meals on the table. The cold weather, coupled with recent cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the expiration of unemployment benefits for some, has made for a very difficult winter.”

“Many of the 156,000 food assistance clients we serve at DHSS are working outside of the home,” Secretary Rita Landgraf said. “But their paychecks and their food benefits aren’t always enough. That’s why thousands of our neighbors have to turn to the Food Bank of Delaware and other community partners each month to meet their basic food needs. As this harsh winter continues and needs increase, we ask the community to help us restock the food bank and its partners through the Share a Second Helping campaign.”

Share a Second Helping takes a three-pronged approach to assisting Delawareans this winter:

  • Gather food and monetary resources to meet the immediate food needs of Delawareans during the winter months
  • Educate at-risk Delawareans on available resources, including the services of Delaware 2-1-1
  • Work with elected officials and stakeholders to implement long-term solutions to meet these nutritional needs through a strong federal safety net

With a campaign goal of 100,000 pounds, the Food Bank of Delaware encourages individuals, businesses, community-based organizations, schools, faith-based organizations and others to host winter-long food drives and fundraisers.

A recent study by the Food Research and Action Council shows that Delaware ranks 12th worst in the nation for food hardship amongst households with children. Witnessing firsthand these increased needs from the community, Delaware 2-1-1 fielded more than 100,000 phone calls from Delawareans in need of human services last year.

“Over the last few months, Delaware 2-1-1 has experienced an 11 percent increase in the number of Delawareans who have utilized our service for assistance with food in comparison to this same time last year,” said Delaware 2-1-1 Director Donna Synder-White. “I’m honored that Delaware 2-1-1 is available to serve our community by guiding our neighbors to local resources so they may provide healthy meals for their families in their time of need.”

Central to the campaign’s advocacy component is giving Delawareans utilizing human services a voice in working to bring about systemic change.

“While additional resources will help hunger-relief agencies meet some increased demands, they do not address long-term solutions to the problems of poverty and hunger,” said Coalition to End Hunger Chairwoman Julie Miro Wenger. “We need to work on long-term solutions that will help those struggling to make ends meet. We have working families, seniors, veterans and children that have hunger in common. In this day and age there should be no family, senior, child or vet that has to experience hunger.”

To learn more about Share a Second Helping, please visit http://www.fbd.org/share-a-second-helping/. Information about food drives, fundraisers and advocacy can be found there. For individuals in need of emergency food assistance, please contact the Delaware 2-1-1 by simply dialing 2-1-1.

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Share a Second Helping this winter with Delawareans struggling to put meals on the table

Anti-hunger advocates gathered this morning outside the Delaware Department of Labor’s Pencader office to launch Share a Second Helping, a winter-long giving/awareness campaign. The kick-off coincided with a mobile food distribution for individuals utilizing the unemployment office.

In response to a recent $16 million dollar cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Delaware and even deeper cuts to SNAP proposed by members of the United States Congress, the Coalition to End Hunger, Food Bank of Delaware, Delaware Health and Social Services and Delaware 2-1-1 encourage Delawareans to dig a little deeper this winter season to help families struggling to make ends meet.

“A sixteen-million dollar cut to SNAP is a significant cut for already-vulnerable populations, such as our children, seniors, people with disabilities and the working poor, “ said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “This cut is more than the entire yearly budget of the food bank. Already-strapped charitable organizations cannot fill the void of Congress’ inability to come up with workable solutions to the problems associated with poverty.”

DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf said the state will work with the community to make up the gap left by the $16 million reduction to SNAP. “We have 156,000 Delawareans who receive SNAP benefits, up dramatically from the 72,000 people we served just five years ago,” she said. “In a country that has so much and so much to be grateful for this holiday season, we cannot sit back as a government or as a society and, in good conscience, allow people to go hungry. Our SNAP program is meant as a safety net, and yet we know of too many families and seniors who have to decide between food or paying for their utilities, medications or paying their mortgage.”

Share a Second Helping takes a three-pronged approach to assisting Delawareans this winter:

  • Gather food and monetary resources to meet the immediate food needs of Delawareans during the winter months
  • Educate at-risk Delawareans on available resources, including the services of Delaware 2-1-1
  • Work with elected officials and stakeholders to implement long-term solutions to meet these nutritional needs through a strong federal safety net

With a campaign goal of 100,000 pounds, the Food Bank of Delaware encourages individuals, businesses, community-based organizations, schools, faith-based organizations and others to host winter-long food drives and fundraisers.

A recent study by the Food Research and Action Council shows that Delaware ranks 12th worst in the nation for food hardship amongst households with children. Witnessing firsthand these increased needs from the community, Delaware 2-1-1 fielded more than 100,000 phone calls from Delawareans in need of human services last year.

“Delaware 2-1-1 understands first-hand the basic needs of our neighbors,” said Delaware 2-1-1 Director Donna Synder White. “Monthly, we receive hundreds of calls from Delawareans and for years, the Food Bank of Delaware, and others partners, have utilized our easy 2-1-1 to connect people to food closest, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, senior centers, after-school and a host of other food programs so that no individual or family in the state goes without a meal to eat.”

Representative Ed Osienski and Senator Bryan Townsend were both on hand for the launch and are committed to advocating in Dover for a hunger-free state.

“If the cuts in unemployment claim extensions, which are being debated now in Washington, take affect then you’ll see a reduction in lines inside the Department of Labor unemployment office move outside to the mobile food distribution lines,” said Osienski. “Who will be providing the additional resources for that shift?”

“We must do more to support the many Delawareans who experience hunger on a daily basis,” send Townsend. “The holidays are a time when people often rally around these efforts, and certainly we should embrace holiday spirit and generosity in November and December. But every day of the year, a Delaware senior or child experiences sharp pangs of hunger. As the U.S. Congress proposes deep cuts to critical anti-hunger programs, we must become all the more vigilant about developing the kind of programs and distribution channels to help end hunger in our state, year-round, top to bottom, from seniors to schoolchildren.”

Central to the campaign’s advocacy component is giving Delawareans utilizing human services a voice in working to bring about systemic change.

“Share a Second Helping is not only about gathering the needed resources to get through the cold winter months, it’s also about coming up with solutions to effectively end hunger and battling negative stereotypes surrounding those in need of emergency food assistance,” said Coalition to End Hunger Chairwoman Julie Miro Wenger. “We are serving hard-working families, adults with disabilities, seniors who have worked their entire lives and children. We all play a role in ensuring that we meet the basic needs of families.”

To learn more about Share a Second Helping, please visit http://www.fbd.org/share-a-second-helping/. Information about food drives, fundraisers and advocacy can be found there. For individuals in need of emergency food assistance, please contact the Delaware 2-1-1 by simply dialing 2-1-1.

 

 

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Dispelling SNAP myths

DSC_0069webBy Matt Talley, SNAP Outreach Coordinator

Whenever I give a presentation to a new group of people, I always start with a couple of questions. First, I’ll raise my hand and ask, “How many people have heard of SNAP?” Usually there are a couple of hands that go up in the air, but mostly I’m met with blank stares from the audience. “OK, now how many of you have heard of Food Stamps?” With no exceptions, everyone raises their hand.

My name is Talley – I’m one of two SNAP Outreach Coordinators for the Food Bank of Delaware. And for those of you who don’t already know, SNAP (an acronym for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is the new name for the federal Food Stamp program.

There are a lot of connotations in that name – Food Stamps. Ask yourself, what comes to mind when you read those words? Chances are it’s not positive imagery. We’ve all heard horror stories about the culture of dependency fostered by these so-called entitlements, programs that give out government assistance on the taxpayers’ dime. Costs are rising out of control, enrollment is growing rapidly, hand outs remove the incentive to work, fraud and abuse are rampant…we hear these complaints all the time coming from the political arena. But how many of us look at these claims with a critical eye? What is really going on with SNAP? Does it help or hurt the American public? What are the true costs and benefits of this program?

To get a better picture of the current state of federal food and nutrition programs, it helps to look to the past to understand why they were implemented. The origins of the Food Stamps program stretch back to the Great Depression, when bread lines and soup kitchens were overwhelmed by poor, undernourished citizens looking for enough food to keep their families alive. The government stepped in and created a system whereby families on relief could match their food purchases with vouchers in order to make food more available to those in need. This first Food Stamp program ended with the wartime economic recovery, which generally brought Americans back into prosperity…or so the narrative goes.

In the 1960’s, however, it became clear that hunger remained an unsolved problem in the United States. Many households, especially in the poorest states and counties, were still struggling to afford enough food to put healthy, sustaining meals on the table. The Food Stamp Act of 1964 was one step in a renewed effort to end hunger in the US, and it received overwhelming support from across party lines. The program was later expanded under the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations to more closely resemble the modern Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In the late 1970’s, the urgency of the hunger issue in the public eye started to wane as many perceived the problem to be largely solved.

Fast forward to 2013. Hunger still exists in America, and it’s getting worse due to growing income disparity. The last several decades have made the rich in this country richer than ever and the poor poorer than ever. The middle class is shrinking, with many families slipping out of financial stability and falling below the poverty line. Costs of living are disproportionately high. The costs of food in particular are growing at an alarming rate. Combine this with the fact that the most recent financial crisis has made finding gainful employment extremely difficult, and you can see that there are simply not enough jobs paying a living wage to give working families the purchasing power they need to be financially secure. What happens to a family that has to choose between paying all of their bills and buying enough food to eat three healthy meals a day? What would you do if you were in that position, or what are you doing?

The folks who designed the Food Stamp program (now SNAP) were able to foresee that economic conditions wouldn’t be static, and they were intelligent enough to make it flexible to the needs of the population by tying it to the Federal Poverty Level. In a nutshell, this means that when the economy does poorly and more households slip out of the middle class, SNAP is able to provide a safety net to at least fulfill their need for basic nutrition. As more households dip below that poverty line, the program “grows” to accommodate them. That’s where we get the misconception that the costs of SNAP are rising out of control – it was designed to function in that way. Conversely, as the economy recovers, more jobs are added to the labor market and there are less families living below that poverty level, enrollment in SNAP will decline.

Still, there is a constant stream of attacks from some policymakers that programs such as SNAP remove the incentive to work because they let people live comfortably without earned income. Here’s another acronym that you might not have heard before: ABAWD. An ABAWD is an able-bodied adult without dependents, someone who is able to work and doesn’t have to spend time taking care of children or other household members. Under SNAP, ABAWDs are only permitted to receive benefits for three months during any given three year period without working at least 20 hours per week or completing a work equivalency such as employment training or public service. This provides a major incentive for able-bodied individuals to work if they are capable of entering the workforce.

Furthermore, the vast majority of households that receive SNAP benefits contain children, seniors of retirement age or disabled individuals. Who would argue that children, seniors, or the disabled are lazy and that the money that they rely on for food should be stripped away? Shouldn’t this great society strive to provide a basic standard of living to its citizens, especially those who are particularly vulnerable or at risk of having inadequate nutrition?

As far as fraud goes, SNAP is extremely efficient. Modern information systems make it extremely difficult for applicants to defraud the system, and fraud accounts for less than 1% of the total program. Most of that fraud is perpetrated by the private business sector, by the way, not benefit recipients.

Think again about that image that you conjured in your mind around the words “Food Stamps.” Is it consistent with the portrait of a senior who has worked and paid taxes for their whole life, only to see the cost of living rise above their monthly Social Security check? What about the single working parent who was laid off from their salaried position during the recession and is now underemployed and forced to work for low hourly wages with no chance of overtime? Hopefully you can see the disconnect between the story we are typically given in the mainstream news media and the practical reality of the situation. That is exactly why the USDA, which oversees all federal Food and Nutrition programs, decided to rebrand the program as SNAP in an attempt to remove some of the stigma associated with the name.

So with all that in mind, did you know that SNAP benefits are actually going to be cut on November 1st? The cuts that will be taking in effect are actually the result of non-action, not the result of any new legislation. In 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to deal with the effects of the financial recession. ARRA included an emergency boost to SNAP as a part of the economic stimulus package. This boost was originally intended to remain in effect until SNAP’s regular annual inflation adjustments caught up to the new levels. In 2010, however, Congress accelerated the “sunset” of ARRA’s SNAP provision in order to cut money from the federal budget deficit, which means that the boost is set to be reversed at the end of October.

What does this mean for the households that receive SNAP benefits? Beginning November 1st, all households receiving SNAP benefits will see a reduction in their monthly benefit amount. Single person households will lose up to $8, households of two will lose $14, and households of three will lose $20. The minimum benefit amount will go down one dollar to $15 per month. Bear in mind that this is the first time in the program’s history that SNAP benefits have been cut across the board, a fact which is particularly harmful given the inadequacy of current benefit amounts.

So the next time you hear the words “SNAP” or “Food Stamps,” maybe you’ll have a different impression. Maybe you’ll be able to see the millions of children, seniors, or individuals living with disability that depend on the program for sustenance and nourishment, that look for these benefits to fulfill one of their most basic needs. And maybe you’ll remember that those families’ benefits have just been cut. And maybe you’ll remember that, by the time the next financial recession comes around, some of you might be counted among the seniors budgeting expenses on a fixed income or that some of your children might be the parents struggling to put food on the table for their kids.

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Coalition to End Hunger announces priorities for a hunger-free Delaware

Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn and Delaware Department of Agriculture Secretary Ed Kee joined the Coalition to End Hunger this morning at Highland Orchards to announce the coalition’s priorities for the coming year.

The mission of the Coalition to End Hunger is to coordinate the collaborative development of an equitable, accessible and just regional food system for the state of Delaware’s New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties. The Coalition will focus on four areas in the coming year – increasing access to school breakfast for Delaware’s children, advocacy, healthy food financing and connecting area farmers to low-income Delawareans.

“We should make sure that kids who may not be getting breakfast at home are getting it at school, especially because we may be able to provide it to them at little cost to the state,” said Denn. “We will be working with our school districts over the coming months to increase the percentage of eligible kids who receive breakfast at school, with the goal of no kid going through the school day hungry.”

“Delaware has several strong initiatives to bring fresh produce to low-income residents and thus improve nutrition and health,” said Kee. “Our partners and projects include urban farmers in Wilmington neighborhoods, local farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture programs and distribution networks linking southern and northern Delaware.”

The Coalition to End Hunger is led by a steering committee of representatives from education, agriculture, government, community reinvestment and policy sectors.

“We are proud of the progress we have made as a result of the work of the coalition,” said Julie Miro Wenger, Coalition to End Hunger Chairwoman. “What started as the Anti-Hunger Coalition in 2009 has grown into a statewide Coalition to End Hunger, advocating on behalf of Delawareans who struggle with hunger. We held our first-ever Ending Hunger through Citizen Service conference in April with more than 250 attendees, and our focus for this year is a direct result of interest areas of our attendees.”

“We must look beyond the traditional model of food banking – can in and can out – in order to create sustainable communities,” said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “Sound public policy and infrastructure is needed to ensure that our state’s most vulnerable have access to nutritious foods and opportunities for employment training where they’ll earn a living wage.”

Work groups comprised of community members will focus on making improvements in the four project areas. The advocacy work group is currently planning community screenings of the anti-hunger documentary, A Place at the Table, while the school breakfast group is meeting with educators throughout the state to identify best practices for alternative school breakfast models such as breakfast in the classroom.

To learn more about the work of the coalition, please visit www.coalitiontoendhunger.org.

Check out some pictures from this morning’s event!

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What a Challenge!

ImageBy Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

 OK. The SNAP Challenge starts tomorrow, and speaking for myself, maybe the word “challenge” should be capitalized, at the very least emphasized.

As part of Hunger Action Month and to better understand the daily struggles of low-income Americans, Food Bank of Delaware staff and supporters will participate in a week-long Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) challenge.

Throughout the week participants are required to live off a daily food budget of $4.50. This value represents an approximation of the national average SNAP benefit per person per week.

Maybe I’ve been over planning, but I have obviously done more thinking/research than doing. No special trip to the grocery store for me. Yet!

While some of my co-workers thought their challenge might be cooking at home,  I didn’t think that would be mine.

Wrong again! My usual routine this time of year is to visit the Riverwalk Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning, then prepare my own meals with fresh vegetables and fruit.

The vendors don’t provide receipts, but I knew I could write down the purchase price.

Last Saturday, I realized that I was probably spending more than I thought, plus some friends with gardens generously donated some items that must be calculated into the spending equation.

Now factor in a social life that’s coincidentally developing:  working dinner with a friend on Friday evening, lunch and dinner with friends on Saturday, then perhaps the beach on Sunday. I know that Tuesday evening, I won’t be at home either. So it goes. I will journal these exceptions.

Another co-worker wondered about coffee, i.e. give it up or drink very cheap coffee.  I don’t drink a lot of coffee, but one cup a day could cost close to $4.25. I’ll talk about that challenge in another blog!

Even though SNAP benefits are intended to supplement an existing food budget, behind the SNAP Challenge is the practical reality that many recipients do not have additional money for food. In Delaware, the average benefit is actually closer to $4.25 per person per day.

Be on the look out for more SNAP challenge experiences in the coming days from myself and other paticipants!

 

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SNAP Challenge jitters

ImageBy Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

I’ll admit it: I have SNAP Challenge anxiety already.

As the new kid on the block at the Food Bank of Delaware, I’m eager to jump into my first team activity, the SNAP Challenge. In a nutshell, that means we agree to eat for $31.50 for one week. That’s how much a SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) participant receives: $4.50 a day.

September is Hunger Awareness Month; the Challenge starts on Sept. 13 and ends on Sept. 19.

I, along with other participants, will keep a journal that will be shared publicly to create an awareness of the challenges low-income families face.

This is going to take some planning. I’ll admit that I’m picky, and I also have some food sensitivities. I’m allergic to corn and have been eating gluten-free for almost a year. I eat very little dairy, and usually prepare plant-based meals at home. This time of year I do a lot of shopping at the farmers’ market.

The rules, in a nutshell, require that you factor in the cost of food that you grow yourself, that you might already have on hand, such as spices, condiments and coffee, and also journal when you eat out for a work or social engagement.

And my birthday is during this week. I’m OK with skipping the cake, but not the ice cream. I’m sure I’ll go out for lunch and maybe have a special coffee, one that costs nearly the daily food allowance.

Wine? We’ll see.

So our SNAP Challenge starts on Friday, Sept. 13. Who’s superstitious?

Want to join? Email Matt Talley, our SNAP Outreach Coordinator, and he’ll be in touch – mtalley@fbd.org

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