Policy Pick: Federal Farm BillJune 25, 2012
| Billions of dollars in federal funding for programs that provide healthy food to California's most underserved children are in jeopardy with the reauthorization of the Farm Bill, officially known as the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 3240).
The Farm Bill, includes a reauthorization of the nation's most important anti-hunger program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known in California as CalFresh. But the current version of the bill includes a $4.49 billion cut over 10 years to the program. An estimated 500,000 low-income households would be affected by this severe cut. California Food Policy Advocates, a First 5 LA policy grantee, reports that this cut could mean a reduction in benefits of up to $90 a month per household at a time when many families are struggling to put food on the table.
(LATE UPDATE: The Farm Bill passed the Senate on Thursday by a vote of 65-34. The version that passed included the $4.5 billion cut to the SNAP/CALFresh "Heat and Eat" program (see below).)
Here in Los Angeles County, an estimated 237,000 children 5 and younger rely on CalFresh/SNAP for food. For many low-income families, CalFresh is often the only source for healthy food, such as fruits and vegetables, which is important as California fights the obesity epidemic.
First 5 LA and other anti-hunger advocates worked to bolster support for an amendment made by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to restore the $4.5 billion in funding. However, that amendment failed by a vote of 66-33 on Thursday. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) was a cosponsor and both she and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) voted in support of it. Another amendment to the bill, which First 5 LA is also supporting, is from Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J), which would authorize a study on the link between sugary beverages and childhood obesity.
SNAP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which determines a family's benefits through a formula that evaluates how much money a family has available to purchase food by looking at its income and subtracting certain expenses, such as child care and utilities. The specific cut proposed in the Farm Bill is to a program known as "Heat and Eat," which will soon be implemented in California. This program makes it easier for CalFresh/SNAP recipients who also receive utility assistance from the federal government to deduct the money they spend on utilities from the income that is used to calculate how much food they can afford to purchase.
Additional information is available at the websites of the California Food Policy Advocates and the Western Center on Law and Poverty. For more information, please contact First 5 LA Policy Analyst Josh Kruskol at JKruskol@First5LA.org.
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