Texas Hunger and Poverty Policy Questions

Please read these questions and let us know what your organization and others in the Lone Star State are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need.

Virtually all states have budget deficits and extensive financial problems this year and beyond.  The states are also the custodians and administrators of multi billions of dollars of federal assistance programs. State policies related to hunger and poverty contain a great deal of state money that is in short supply right now but much more federal money that can grow as the use of the programs grows.

These state policy questions are meant to begin a conversation about how states can deliver more services to their citizens who are facing extreme long term unemployment, hunger, home foreclosures and loss of health insurance and pensions. 

Please read them and let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need, especially the poorest of the poor, the millions of new poor, seniors, returning vets, children and the homeless.

Our intention is to create a place on our website that will highlight policy actions that state based organizations are taking and how they are proceeding.  We also hope to host a WhyHunger State Policy Award for the best state policies in the U.S.A.
hat other statewide policies or programs are you aware of that are helping to fight hunger and poverty, or are there any that are responsible for increasing it?

1)      Poverty levels in Texas are some of the highest in the nation. 17.2% of the population lives in poverty and 17.4% of households face low or very low food security. Texas is also the 4th most unequal state in terms of income equality. What programs are in place to combat hunger and poverty in the state? Who is involved in these efforts?

2)      Texas had the 2nd highest percentage of uninsured children at 16.3%, almost double the national average.  At 23.8% Texas has the highest percentage of total people not covered by health insurance.  Are there any initiatives to expand coverage for the uninsured?

3)      Initially it appears that participation in the Summer Nutrition Program is very high. However, compared to the extremely high participation rates in the School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, there is actually a very low number of children in the Summer Nutrition Program. Is there any effort being made to increase participation in the SNP such as increased advertising or increasing the number of locations where food can be obtained?

4)      Only 6% of families who live below the federal poverty line receive TANF benefits. This is the 6th lowest amount in the country. Do you know of any efforts to increase the maximum income level for this program, or increase awareness among those who are already eligible?

5)      There is no state EITC program.  Is there any movement in the legislature or among organizations to put this program in place?

6)      The percent of eligible recipients receiving unemployment insurance is 29%.  This is well below the national average of 43%.  Is there any effort being made to increase the participation rate?

7)      32.2% of jobs in Texas pay below the federal poverty line.  This is above the national average of 22.2%.  Is there any movement to increase wages for workers such as increasing the minimum wage or introducing a living wage?

8)      28% of eligible people receive housing benefits.  This is among the lowest in the country.  LIHEAP only serves 4.7% of households, the 3rd lowest amount in all the states. Is there any effort being made to increase access to housing benefits?

9)      The WIC Farmers’ Market Program Seasonal Benefit in the state of Texas is only $10. This is 50% of the national average. Do you know of any effort to increase this benefit level?

10)  Texas recently started a Senior Farmers’ Market Program. Do you know of any specific organizations or legislators who helped bring this program to your state? There are currently only 6 Farmer’s Markets participating in the SFMNP. What is being done to increase this number?

11)  Texas has the 2nd largest number of eligible people for SNAP, yet only 55% of  those eligible participate in SNAP. Is there any effort to increase participation? Who is involved?

12)   While the lowest 20% of income earners pay over 12.2% of their income in taxes, the highest 1% of income earners only pay 3% of their income in taxes. Is there any way to relieve the tax burden placed on low-income individuals and balance this inequality?

13)  Texas has the 2nd highest number of people in prison, on parole and on probation. What efforts are underway to look into alternative forms of correction and to reduce recidivism in the state?

14)  What other statewide policies or programs are you aware of that are helping to fight hunger and poverty, or are there any that are responsible for increasing it?

Please let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction to address these questions by contacting Executive Director and Co-Founder Bill Ayres at [email protected] 

Feel free to inform us of any mistakes we may have made in any of these questions. Also we would appreciate any comments on policies or statistics that might have been overlooked.

WhyHunger