The White House announced today that the President’s new budget calls for roughly $2.9 trillion in cuts to essential anti-poverty and nutrition programs over the next 10 years that will directly affect the ability of millions of struggling families, low-income workers, children, elderly and disabled Americans to meet their basic needs of affordable health care, accessible education and basic access to nutritious food.  
 
The Washington Post estimates that cuts in programs like Medicaid and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) would directly affect up to one fifth of all Americans. Funding for SNAP, which helps 44 million Americans get the nutritious food they need to live, work and thrive would be cut by more than $193 billion over 10 years, over a 25% reduction.  It might be easy for members of Congress or those of us glancing at the evening news to see these big numbers represented in pie charts that promise a balanced budget, and fail to see the 44 million Americans -- our neighbors, friends, co-workers and relatives – whose safety net will be severely compromised or eliminated. In fact, the vast majority of SNAP recipients are children, seniors and working families who simply don’t make enough to meet their basic needs.  The budget doesn’t stop there, but calls for cuts for college tuition, Medicaid, rental assistance, job training, and income assistance to poor seniors and people with disabilities.
 
The facade that President Trump and his administration are advocates for working class and vulnerable Americans has been completely shattered by this proposal.  The false narrative that these essential programs create “dependency” is not only inaccurate, but its damaging to the millions of folks struggling to make ends meet. 
 
After 42 years of working with community-based organizations across the country and answering countless Hotline calls from families in immediate need of food, we at WhyHunger know that these cuts will have real, lasting effects on some of the most vulnerable and hardworking Americans for this generation and the next.
 
If this budget were designed to help anyone except the 1%, it would be filled with programs to support living wage jobs, affordable education and healthcare, universal free school meals, and incentives to build local food and farm economies. It would roll back tax breaks and other incentives that lead to greater consolidation of wealth in the food system and a disregard for the stewardship of the natural resources necessary to nourish us all and cool the planet. It would invest in opportunities for all Americans to live healthy, productive and dignified lives and help rebuild communities most affected by hunger and poverty.  
 
We must stand together to demand that our representatives in Congress reject this proposed budget that hurts our most vulnerable communities and further divides our nation. And we must come together to develop and implement a shared road map for a future that protects children and seniors; ensures the dignity and health of workers; and invests directly in communities’ renewal the country over. 
 
We call on you to join WhyHunger in speaking out! Contact your Member of Congress, write a letter to your editor, share your thoughts on social media and talk with your friends and family about the type of budget, and type of world, you want to see.

This post was updated 5.25

Hunger and food insecurity affect 1 in 7 Americans today. Those affected by hunger are three times more likely to have diet related health problems like diabetes or hypertension. At WhyHunger, we support grassroots organizations working at the intersections of health and hunger. That’s why we’re excited to share this video highlighting the innovative programs at Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger (BSCAH).

BSCAH hosts an array of projects that tackle the root causes of hunger including a “VeggieRx” program. Through a partnership with the Addabbo Family Health Center, patients with diet related illnesses are given a “prescription” - a free voucher for produce from the farm stand. We visited their Healing Garden in Far Rockaway, NY to learn more about this model and how it can serve as an example to communities around the country.

During our time there, we met and spoke with Sam Josephs, a youth leader in the Green Teens Program, which allows her to serve as a mentor to her peers. Sam emphasizes the importance of growing fresh, organic produce for her community and the positive impact it has on her neighbors’ health: “Here in Rockaway, you don’t have access to the things that you need… When you have a farm, you’re producing your own food, you’re watching out for your own health.” Her testimony speaks to the value of programs like this, and the importance of local, community-controlled food systems in fighting diet related illnesses.

Executive Director Dr. Melony Samuels, who founded the organization in 1998, believes that increased funding and advocacy is needed to strengthen programs such as these that make the critical connections between food, agriculture and health. In turn, it will also support the development of new organizations and community empowerment nationwide. “This is a workable model,” she says. “I know the long-lasting benefit that it will add to the lives of families. It means that a senior citizen can live a little longer. It means that a child might never see diabetes, never be obese, or never have hypertension. It means a lot to me.” It certainly means a lot to the thousands of families served and it means a lot to us too.

Watch this inspiring video to learn more about Sam and BSCAH’s VeggieRx and Green Teens Program, and thank you to Sam & BSCAH for the work that you do and for sharing your story with us!

This post first appeared in The Huffington Post.

How can the richest country in the history of the world that has an abundance of food have so many hungry people? Who are they? How can we change this grave injustice?

Even after a substantial recovery from the Great Recession we still have 48 million people in our country who are food insecure including 15 million children and 5.4 million seniors. That does not mean they are starving but they often skip meals and are forced to buy cheap unhealthy food. The majority of the adults who are hungry work but cannot afford to feed their families. There are also a million homeless people facing hunger including an increasing number of families with children.

There is a growing movement among hunger/poverty advocates, faith based organizations of all denominations, small farmers, environmental activists, labor unions and businesses to vote for candidates for the presidency and other national, state and local officials who support efforts to end hunger, alleviate poverty and create opportunity in the U.S. and around the world.

These are topics that often are lost in the furor of personal attacks and rarely become major issues in presidential and other important elections. Yet in poll after poll, a large majority of Americans say we should and can end hunger in America. Many of these folks support an emergency food program in their neighborhood but after more than forty years with tens of thousands of local food pantries and soup kitchens it has become clear that simply feeding people is not the answer to hunger.

WhyHunger is joining hundreds of organizations and individuals in the Vote to End Hunger Coalition to elevate the issue of hunger with the Presidential candidates during the 2016 election. Consider signing this petition to make hunger, poverty and opportunity a higher political priority and ensure the debate moderators ask the candidates, “If elected, what will you do to end hunger, alleviate poverty, and create opportunity in the US and worldwide?” during the upcoming presidential debates.

We certainly need to ask the candidates whether they support the already successful federal anti -hunger programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ( SNAP) that has successfully replaced Food Stamps and all the child nutrition programs. But, what about dealing with poverty, the root cause of hunger? Do they support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next five or so years? Do they support equal pay for equal work for women? What about pay raises for those who are not covered by minimum wage laws like farmworkers? How about supporting paid leave to take care of a newborn child or an elderly parent? Are they in favor of making it easier for workers to join a union? Are they on board to form a bi-partisan congressional effort to fund a massive Infrastructure/Jobs program?

Continue reading the full article on The Huffington Post. 

The "How Hungry Is America" hardship report was recently published by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) and highlights the progress made in the fight against hunger and the need that is still there.              

“Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” That question was part of a survey conducted by Gallup in 2015 as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, in which 177,281 households participated.

FRAC reports on the answers to that question and reveals two important findings:

• The situation is getting better: 2015 had the lowest rate of “yes” answers in the eight years Gallup has been asking this question; December 2015 had the lowest monthly rate of food hardship in the 96 months the question has been asked; and

• Too many Americans in every community and every state still struggle to put food on the table. Nationally, one in six households answered the Gallup question with “yes."

Food Hardship in U.S. Declines Significantly from 2013 to 2015

The nation has made considerable progress in reducing food hardship since the height of the recession in 2008 and through 2013. The rate has fallen from nearly 19 percent in 2013 to 16 percent in 2015.

There were numerous causes of this nearly three-point drop in food hardship, potentially including:

• the improved unemployment picture;

• the increase in the share of eligible families actually receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps);

• the ongoing impact of the improved Earned Income Tax Credit and refundable Child Tax Credit that Congress made permanent in 2015; and

• the impact on family finances of Medicaid expansions and other health insurance affordability improvements under the Affordable Care Act.

Still, in 2015, 16 percent of surveyed households indicated they experienced food hardship. As the economy continues to recover from the Great Recession, these findings show that there are millions of Americans who are being left behind.

The persistence of a high rate of food hardship underscores the failure of the economy to provide family-supporting wages and the failure of Congress to respond with adequately robust initiatives to boost jobs, wages, and public programs for struggling families, such as benefits and eligibility in SNAP and child nutrition programs.

Food hardship is not an isolated or concentrated phenomenon.
At least 15 percent of households were suffering food hardship:

• in 25 states; and

• in 72 out of 100 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs).

Food hardship — a marker for household struggles with hunger— harms children, working-age adults, people with disabilities, and seniors. It harms health, learning, and productivity; and it
drives up health and other costs for families, employers, and government. This is a serious national problem that requires a serious national response. Yet, as the survey findings indicate,
and despite significant improvements over the last two years, the country fails to grapple seriously with food hardship and poverty, despite the harm they do and despite available solutions.

Continue reading the full report here. 

WhyHunger’s Community Partnerships Manager Suzanne Babb, recently spoke at Wholesome Wave’s Transforming Food Access Summit about the role and limitations of existing nutrition incentive programs to address the unequal access to good, fresh, affordable healthy food and the poor health outcomes that some communities experience as a result.

Here is an excerpt from her remarks:

Let’s start with a provocative question: Is providing access to healthy food enough to address the food insecurity and poor health outcomes that have become so entrenched in certain communities?

We must first ask why do these inequities exist in the first place?  Why do some communities have readily accessible healthy food and what makes it so unaffordable for others?  What can we learn by examining the social determinants of health?  What can we learn by exploring the systems that perpetuate hunger and poverty in our country and what is the relevance to nutrition incentive programs? 

Part of the answer may lie in looking at the environmental factors that influence a person’s health, more commonly known in the public health world as the social determinants of health. Health is affected by individual choices AND community, environment, culture, connectedness and institutional policies and practices.

Here’s a traditional model of the five determinant areas that reflects a number of critical components/key issues that affect health outcomes. In this version, access to healthy food is just one critical component under “Neighborhood and Built Environment” in determining health outcomes. But here’s the thing: This diagram assumes is that these determinants collectively affect each person’s health in the same way, all things being equal.

1stdeterminants

 

Now let’s look at different model, from the “Gathering Wisdom” First Nations health conference in Canada.

2nddeterminants

 

The difference is that this version recognizes that all things are not equal. It shows that there other factors at play, like systems of oppression that affect women and people of color more persistently that show up in the form of racism, sexism rooted in a history of colonization and social injustice. These systems of oppression create persistent inequities in access, resources and opportunities that impact health. In other words, you have a society where certain communities have more power and privilege than others.

Because this diagram was created by the community that is directly affected by these issues, it shows a fuller and deeper analysis of what needs to be addressed to bring about better health in their community. It also underscores the importance of a culturally- appropriate lens. For example this diagram was created by the First Nations communities and they asked: Does the land where I live have clean water, are there good jobs, health services, safe housing? How does racism, colonization, or local control of resources affect wellness of both the individual and of a nation? What about the intersections between wellness and the justice system, self-determination, child protection, and revitalization of language?

Sometime these concepts can seem theoretical and abstract. But the point is these are all factors that play a role in poor health outcomes and food insecurity. The imbalances of power and privilege and the inequities they create get played out in every space in which we work, live and play, including in our own organizations and programs. And in all of these spaces there is opportunity to shift this dynamic.

Suzanne ended her remarks asking folks to consider additional questions: How can we make nutrition incentive programs more equitable for those who are participating in them? How can we shift the power dynamic? How can we demonstrate and value people as experts in their own experience? How do our programs change or evolve when we use a lens that considers the root causes of poor health in the first place?

There has been a good deal of media coverage over the last few weeks about the pending SNAP cuts affecting those the government labels as “Abled-Bodied Adults Without Disabilities,” better known as childless adults who may be struggling to get by and typically aren’t eligible for other forms of public assistance.

This April, 23 states will re-impose a 3 month time-limit on SNAP benefits - formerly Food Stamps - for hundreds of thousands of low-income adults. As a result, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates at least 500,000 to as many as 1 million SNAP recipients will have their benefits cut off in 2016.

This 3 month time limit, originally imposed in 1996 but waived by most states during the recent economic recession, means that unemployed and underemployed adults aged 18-49 who don’t qualify for disability or aren’t raising children will be cut off from SNAP after just 90 days. Starting April 1st, these individuals will no long receive their food assistance benefit, which average just $150 -$170 per month, barely enough to meet the most basic nutritional needs. These are our nation’s poorest of the poor, with average incomes around $2,000 per year.

However, they can continue to receive the assistance if they can secure a full-time job with at least 20 hours of work per week or enroll in the under resourced (and often unavailable) state job training programs.

But that can be easier said than done. This harsh time limit does not take into consideration if someone is working part time, but less than the 20 hour per week required, is actively looking for work but can’t find anything, or is willing to participate in a job training, but there are no programs in their county or there are no open slots. It does not consider if someone is a veteran, or homeless, or an ex-offender or struggling with addiction or mental health issues.

It may be tempting to look at this wave of SNAP cuts as simply a “work requirement” or a system to incentivize “able bodied” folks to work hard and become “deserving” of food assistance, as some of the media coverage will try to convey. But, without mandating that states offer employment or job training opportunities for this at-risk population and/or raise the minimum wage, a 3-month time limit that demands folks who face huge barriers to employment secure full-time work is downright shortsighted. For this population, already struggling on the bottom rungs, the research shows this time limit will simply mean more hunger and hardship.

The nation’s food access organizations, advocacy groups and activists are bracing for yet another wave of Americans slipping through our deteriorating safety net. We cannot stand by and allow hunger in the U.S. to continue to grow. There is the Fight for $15, proposals to boost the earned income tax credit for childless adults and important legislation protecting the right to nutritious food for all that we can and must continue to support.

Watch this video from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to learn more:

Just released! We are excited to share a new report and video made in collaboration with WhyHunger and food access organizations from around the country that participated in the recent national Closing the Hunger Gap “Cultivating Food Justice” Conference. Special Report: America’s Food Banks Say Charity Won’t End Hunger calls for a transformation from charity to justice and explores the growing conversation among food access organizations that ending hunger will take much more than food distribution. When the goal is to transform the systems and policies that perpetuate hunger, what role do emergency food providers play in achieving long-term change? How are resources allocated and how is success measured? Why is a focus on social justice essential?

Get the full report and watch the video to learn how America’s emergency food system is rethinking charity. Join the conversation with #HungerGap.

hhblogphotoWhyHunger’s latest resource guide A Path Forward: Innovations at the Intersections of Hunger & Health  profiles three dynamic organizations God’s Love We DeliverCapital Roots and Elijah’s Promise who understand the connection between hunger and health and are working to improve the health of their communities in innovative ways. Each organization offers an example of how fresh, healthy, nourishing food can have  a profound effect on the health of low-income people suffering from acute and chronic illnesses, and from poverty itself. Featured are: 

God’s Love We Deliver in New York City works squarely at the intersections of hunger and health, delivering 1.4 million nutritious meals annually to people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes and other life-altering illnesses. 

Capital Roots in Troy, New York prescribes healthy food through its Veggie Rx program. Doctors at the local health care center provide weekly coupons for free produce to patients at high risk of diabetes and hypertension.

Elijah’s Promise in New Brunswick, New Jersey believes food changes lives, especially those lives most affected by poverty. The organization provides nutritious, sustainably-sourced food to people in need. 

“This whole concept of “charity” has to stop. I don’t want scraps. If I can’t give you good food, then there’s no point in doing it all.” –Chef Pearl Thompson, Elijah’s Promise  

Learn about their work, progress and the importance of using nutritious food to serve the community by reading and downloading the full guide in its entirety. 

What do you do when your favorite band is only playing once in the United States this year? You go to the show!

dispatch1 WhyHunger staff gave out "Imagine There's No Hunger" bracelets at the event.

That's what Dispatch fans do. This past weekend, Dispatch performed their only North American shows of 2015 at Madison Square Garden in NYC. Fans of the band traveled from near and far to show their love. In doing so, fans not only supported the band, but also the band's mission to use their music to shine a light on the issue of hunger in the U.S.

The concerts were just one piece of the band's DISPATCH: HUNGER campaign. Throughout the weekend, Dispatch held events to further educate the fans about hunger in the United States and take direct action in support of programs and policies that work to fight hunger in NYC. Additionally, the band has released a new song titled "Bound By Love," to support DISPATCH: HUNGER. Through the month of July proceeds from the sales of the song will support the campaign partners, including WhyHunger. You can purchase the song here.

dispatch2 The DISPATCH: HUNGER Campaign partners.

WhyHunger was honored to have been selected as one of the partner organizations for this campaign and played a key role in providing content and shaping the campaign messaging to help educate fans. Our staff could be seen both nights at MSG-talking to Dispatch fans about our work, sharing information about hunger and poverty through our trivia game, and putting #WhyDammit tattoos on eager participants to show their support. Plus, by engaging with WhyHunger and the other partners on site, concert attendees had the opportunity to win one of the coveted DISPATCH: HUNGER volunteer shirts.

We would like to extend our thanks to Dispatch and their team, who worked tirelessly to make this all possible. WhyHunger and Dispatch both firmly believe in the power of music to make positive change in this world. We had a great time with the Dispatch fans and encourage everyone to stay engaged with our work and the issue.

H&H_1

In May, The Nourish Network for the Right to Food held the Hunger and Health Gathering at Rutgers University that gave eight different organizations the opportunity to build relationships and create space for shared learning. Staff attended from The Campaign Against Hunger in Brooklyn, NY; Center for Food Action in Englewood, NJ; Elijah’s Promise in New Brunswick, NJ; God’s Love We Deliver in New York, NY, MEND in Essex County, NJ; SAPNA in Bronx, NY; Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard in Bloomington, IN; and WhyHunger in New York, NY. WhyHunger is working to build a community of practice to explore the intersections of hunger and health among food access organizations that are addressing food insecurity and poor health outcomes in their communities and this gathering was an important building block.

H&H_5H&H_group

 

 

 

 

 

As individuals got to know each other, they were able to delve into topics and discuss the big structural issues that perpetuate hunger, such as living wage and the corporate influence on the emergency food system.  In small workshops, topics ranged from advocacy and coalition building to the lack of comprehensive health literacy that addresses the differing cultural perceptions about nutrition and body image. A deeper understanding was developed throughout the day and participants articulated their shared belief that to end hunger we have to end poverty.

H&H_2On the final day of the gathering, Elijah’s Promise organized a site visit that demonstrated how a holistic health centered approach to food insecurity is a critical step in transforming the emergency food system from one based in charity to one that is about social justice. From their work in their community garden, market, culinary school, pay-what-you-can café and the soup kitchen which offers health meals in a café style restaurant, Elijah’s Promise shows how addressing food insecurity requires addressing the whole person, understanding the quality of the food you serve and the importance of advocating healthy practices. By the end of the gathering, through the shared learning based in relationship building that these organizations were able to experience together, there was a clear call to action for continued conversation, partnership and collective action to build the movement for food justice.

 

 

 

 

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Welcome to WhyHunger’s Connect Blog featuring stories, projects and articles from the community-based organizations, organizers and social movements that are building the movement for food justice.

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