Thursday, June 23, 2011

Second Harvest Says Recent Legislation Would Gut Aid Programs

by Second Harvest

After nearly 20 years of bipartisan commitment to ensure funding for critical nutrition assistance to our country's most vulnerable, the House of Representatives voted last week to gut funding for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program in a move that seeks to deny nutrition assistance to as many as 350,000 newborns, very young children and mothers in HB 2112.

WIC provides funding for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Additionally, the same piece of legislation dramatically cut funding to the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Commodity Food Supplemental Program (CSFP). CSFP is a Federally funded program, which has had success improving the health of low-income pregnant and breastfeeding women, other new mothers up to one year postpartum, infants, children up to age six, and elderly people at least 60 years of age by supplementing their diets with nutritious USDA commodity foods. TEFAP supplements the diets of low-income needy persons, including elderly people, by providing them with emergency food and nutrition assistance.

TEFAP and CSFP programs provide more than half of the food distributed by Second Harvest Community Food Bank across our 19 county service territory. Second Harvest will be re-evaluating how to feed the local needy due to these cuts.

Recently Second Harvest joined food banks from around the country in releasing the results of a nationwide study of food access. That study concluded that low income residents of Northwest Missouri and Northeast Kansas are missing 8.7 million meals annually. If enacted as written, this bill would remove access to an estimated 500,000 additional meals exploding our local meal gap to 9.2 million.

“To put that number in perspective, imagine your child or your parent ending a day having missed a meal because their house or apartment was completely devoid of food. Then consider that single occurrence happening 9.2 million times a year mostly in the lives of young children and the elderly,” says Second Harvest Executive Director David Davenport. “This is the worst kind of public policy - it's ideology over common sense, it's poor bashing to satisfy the worst kind of political behavior. Low income Americans don't have much of a political voice, they cannot hire lobbyists and they do not make contributions to political campaigns. The poor just try to survive.”

Summer 2011 has Second Harvest partnering with Brittany Village Apartments in a pilot program to provide supplemental food boxes for 150 low income families. They can expect 25 pounds of dry and canned goods and additional produce to be delivered in June, July and August. According to program director Linda Laderoute, “We hope that this will enable us to support hungry families this summer and expand to meet the greater need next summer.”

Summer is rough on many of our children. Often times, hungry kids can't wait to get back to school so they can have at least two balanced meals a day. They exist on minimal resources during the summer and research indicates that even mild under-nutrition during critical periods of growth impacts the behavior of our kids, their school performance, and their overall cognitive development. For more on Summer Hunger visit the Harvest Blog:

With the measures taken this month to cut critical nutrition assistance to families with children, summertime for our nation's children will likely continue to be a time of great need in this country. To see how your State Representative voted and voice your concern regarding HB 2112, see the following links:

Editor's note -- Congressman Sam Graves voted for this legislation.

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