In one of the wealthiest, most agriculturally rich states in the nation lies an ugly truth: Over 3.1 million people in Texas are “food insecure,” meaning they don’t always know where they will get the groceries or money for their next meal. This number includes approximately 874,000 Texans who may suffer from outright hunger.1 It is estimated that almost one-quarter of Texas children—over 1.4 million—live in food insecure households. 2 Texas has the second-highest rate of food insecurity in the nation—14.8% of families are at risk for hunger due to limited resources.The faces of hunger vary: many of these people are children or elderly. Almost two-fifths of food insecure Texans are working.3 They may be Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic or Asian; they may have more than a high school education.They may have access to food stamps that have run out; or, they may never have applied, believing for one reason or another that they do not qualify, or that the situation is temporary and does not merit “going through the hoops.” Some are homeless in the most commonly imagined sense, that is, living on the street, while others crowd into the homes of friends or family because rent is too high to afford a place of their own. Many are disabled, injured or single mothers. Most are struggling to make ends meet, often making choices whether to keep a roof over their heads, pay their utilities, continue taking medicine needed to stay healthy, or eat. The majority lack health insurance. A combination of public and private food programs is available to help low income Texans obtain an adequate diet. However, government programs fail to reach all those who are eligible, while the private, emergency food assistance network does not have the resources to consistently meet the needs of the hungry. Although a huge growth in both public and private food resources occurred over the last three decades, the welfare reforms of 1996 weakened the federal nutrition safety net, in turn straining the resources of private food providers. Despite the economic gains and record unemployment of the late 1990s, the number of poor Texans dropped very little during that time, and the percentage of hungry and food insecure families remained virtually unchanged.
FOOD SECURITY: Access to enough food at all times for an active, healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum. . . the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and . . . an assured ability to acquire aceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (e.g., without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies).
FOOD INSECURITY: Limitedor uncertain availability or nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited ornuncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.
HUNGER: The uneasy or painful sensation caused by a lack of food. The recurrent and involuntary lack of access to food. Hunger may produce malnutrition over time . . .Hunger . . . is a potential, although not necessary,consequence of food insecurity.SOURCE: Household Food Security in the U.S., USDA,
2003 Courtesy of the San Antonio Food Bank
There are h***s in the nutrition safety net, many low-income families in Texas do not get the food assistance they need because Government programs typically provide consistent, ongoing support to eligible people, but fail to reach all those who are eligible. Further, many Texans who need help buying food fail to meet strict program eligibility criteria or have trouble complying with program requirements I know a few people that are having this problem. Very strict criteria and sometimes it seems like there is some kind of racial profiling going on or the person doing the work for you does not like you.The private food assistance network generally only provides emergency, short-term help. Better coordination of public and private efforts is also needed to ensure that the hungry are fed.
Nine major nutrition programs make up the federal nutrition safety net: Food Stamps, the National School Lunch/School Breakfast Programs (NSL/SBP), the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), the Food Distribution Program (FDP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and the Nutrition Services Incentive Program authorizedby Title III of the Older Americans Act
These programs the backbone in the nation’s defense against hunger
Various state agencies in Texas administer the federal nutritionprograms, including the Texas Department of Human Services (Food Stamps,NSL/BP in private schools and residential child care institutions, SFSP, FDP,
TEFAP, and CACFP), the Texas Department of Health (WIC), the Texas Department of Agriculture (NSL/BP in public schools), and the Texas Department on Aging (Nutrition Services Incentive Program). 5 The majority of benefits and services offered by these programs are 100% federally funded, although states and local units of governments often share the cost of administering the program, or providing ancillary services
Although eligibility guidelines for these programs differ, many people are eligible for more than one program. For example, all children who receive food stamps are also eligible for free school meals. These programs are operated by a number of different agencies, so states must find ways to connect eligible individuals and families to all of the programs available to them despite separate application and enrollment procedures.
The Food Stamp Program (FSP) is the nation’s most important tool to fight hunger.The FSP enables low-income families to buy food at grocery stores and other food markets.
NATIONAL SCHOOL LUNCH/SCHOOL BREAKFAST PROGRAMS The National School Lunch/School Breakfast Programs (NSL/SBP) provide funding to schools to help them offer nutritious breakfasts and lunches to children Children from families with incomes at or below 130% of the poverty line receive free meals, while those with family income between 130% and 185% of poverty receive meals at a reduced price Virtually every public school in Texas participates in the school lunch program, and 97% of these schools also offer free
breakfast. In school year 2002-03, over 4.5 million children in Texas received
federally funded lunches, including 2.2 million children who ate for free or at a reduced
SUMMER FOOD SERVICE PROGRAM
The Summer Food Service Program provides meals and snacks to children in low income communities during the summer months. DHS and the Texas Department of Agriculture jointly administer the program, contracting with non-profit organizations, schools, and local governments to operate summer food sites at the local level.
WIC AND THE FARMERS MARKET NUTRITION PROGRAM
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) helps pregnant women, new mothers, and young children stay healthy by providing them with nutritious foods, nutrition education and counseling, and other nutritional health services. Low-income women who are pregnant, postpartum
CHILD AND ADULT CARE FOOD PROGRAM
The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) reimburses child care providers for the meals and snacks they serve to children in day care, at-risk afterschool programs, or emergency shelters. CACFP also reimburses adult day care providers for the meals they serve to functionally impaired seniors (age 60+) who are in their care. Children under age 12 are eligible for meals in child care settings and emergency shelters; children under age 18 may receive reimbursed meals in at-risk afterschool programs (within six months of delivery), or breastfeeding, and children under age five are eligible to receive these services. Eligible participants must be at risk for nutrition-related health problems and have family income below 185% of FPL.
FOOD DISTRIBUTION PROGRAM
The purpose of the Food Distribution Program (FDP) is to supplement the food received by children who participate in USDA’s child nutrition programs by providing USDA surplus commodities to schools, summer food programs, food banks, soup kitchens, and government agencies.
THE EMERGENCY FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
Similar to the FDP, the purpose of The Emergency Food Assistance Program'(TEFAP) is to reduce hunger among low-income Americans, while providing an outlet to the U.S. agricultural community for its surplus product. Through TEFAP, USDA-donated commodities are distributed to emergency feeding organizationssuch as food pantries, soup kitchens, and other emergency food programs. These organizations supply the commodities to needy individuals and families through prepared meals that are served on site, or food packages for use at home.
NUTRITION SERVICES INCENTIVE PROGRAM
Known as the Nutrition Services Incentive Program, federal funding is available under Title III of the Older Americans Act to provide grants to states to operate home-delivered (Meals on Wheels) and congregate meal programs for persons 60 and older, as well as other services such as nutrition counseling and education.These programs are intended not only to improve seniors’ nutrition, but also to offer participants with opportunities to make friends and join informal support networks. As an aside I would like to add the Meals on Wheels program is desperately in need of help. Because of rising gas costs many volunteers are unable to participate and help shut ins
The Private Emergency Food Assistance Network
The existence of large numbers of hungry or food insecure Americans has been met with a growth in private-sector institutions that provide food on an emergency basis to people in a crisis situation. “Food banking”—the storage and distribution of donated food to the hungry—has been around since the 1960s, although the concept of food charity for the poor dates back to Biblical times, when farmers were instructed to reserve the remains of their harvest for the poor
"And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou
gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God."
Food pantries may distribute food for home preparation,while soup kitchens or shelters prepare meals to be eaten on site. Many of these private agencies receive food from a local food bank, which may combine donations from national, statewide, or local sources. With some exceptions, most food banks do not provide direct service to individuals, but rather to the agencies that serve them.
AMERICAS SECOND HARVEST
America’s Second Harvest distributes 1.8 billion pounds of donated food and.grocery products annually. With a national network of over 200 affiliated food banks and food-rescue programs throughout all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, America’s Second Harvest serves approximately 50,000 local charitable hunger-relief agencies, including food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other non-emergency food programs.
THE TEXAS ASSOCIATION OF SECOND HARVEST FOOD BANKS
The Second Harvest food bank network in Texas includes 18 food banks, 3,647 “member agencies” (local charities that provide food and other services to needy families), and covers all of Texas’ 254 counties. The following food banks are part of America’s Second Harvest network in Texas: Brazos Food Bank (Bryan) Capital Area Food Bank (Austin) Community Food Bank of Victoria Concho Valley Regional Food Bank (San Angelo) Food Bank of Abilene Food Bank of Corpus Christi Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley (McAllen) Houston Food Bank High Plains Food Bank (Amarillo) North Texas Food Bank (Dallas) Regional East Texas Food Bank (Tyler) San Antonio Food Bank South Plains Food Bank (Lubbock) South Texas Food Bank (Laredo) Southeast Texas Food Bank (Beaumont) Tarrant Area Food Bank (Ft. Worth) West Texas Food Bank (Odessa)Wichita Falls Area Food Bank In 2002, Texas food banks distributed more than $255 million worth of food to 3,647 local charities that feed the hungry.
Changes in the Food Assistance Network
Since Welfare Reform Although a huge growth in both public and private food resources occurred over the last three decades, the state and federal welfare reforms of 1996 weakened thefederal nutrition safety net, which in turn strained the resources of private food providers. FOOD STAMP DECLINES FROM 1996-2002 In 1996, federal welfare reform legislation (the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, or PRWORA) replaced the former cash welfare entitlement program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)with a block grant to states, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Although the primary purpose of welfare reform was to reduce the cash assistance rolls and move recipients from welfare to work, over half of the non-Medicaid savings in the legislation—$27.7 billion—was achieved by cuts made to the Food Stamp Program. The welfare act made most legal immigrants ineligible for food stamps, restricted eligibility for working-age adults without children, and reduced the value of food stamp benefits across the board for all families.
IMPACT OF WELFARE REFORM, FOOD STAMP DECLINES& RECENT ECONOMIC TRENDS ON EMERGENCY FOOD PROVIDERS
Despite the economic prosperity of the late 1990s and the much-touted success of welfare reform in moving people into jobs, lines at soup kitchens and food pantries across Texas started to grow as welfare and food stamp caseloads began to decline. A July 1999 study by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) foundthat the need for food assistance had not diminished in the face of declining food stamp and welfare caseloads. Rather, individuals and families forced to cut their food budgets to make up for the loss of food stamps or other benefits started turning to local charities for aid.12 The private “emergency” food network—put in place to meet the occasional food needs of people in crisis—became a regular, year-round source of food assistance for hundreds of thousands of low-income. Even for those families who left welfare or the Food Stamp Program for work, the survey found that the wages paid by their new jobs were not sufficient to meet
their basic needs. Only 46% of former welfare recipients reported being employed, and the median wage for those who did find work was only $6.25 per hour.13 These families joined Texas’ large population of “working poor,” families who work, but do not make enough to pay for their basic expenses—food, housing,rent, and health care—especially without the support provided by public assistance.
"It used to be that the average pantry would serve food three times per year [to each client]; now theyre seeing people six times per year, and sometimes once per month. We do not know hownwidespread them problem is. We havet he stories; we know agencies are overwhelmed, closing early because they cant
see everyone. Its a growing problem.---Dallas
Several innovative programs have been put into place to make food banks more sustainable. The South Plains Food Bank in Lubbock has planted its own orchard and operates a dehydration plant to make dehydrated soup packages from leftover vegetables. The Houston Food Bank operates a Summer Food Service Program,drawing down federal money to serve meals to low-income children when school is out. The North Texas Food Bank is a contractor for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (called PAN in Dallas—People and Nutrition), a federally funded program administered by the Texas Department of Human Services that provides surplus USDA commodities to residents of Dallas County who are elderly,or eligible for WIC but not receiving that assistance. The North Texas Food Bank was the first organization in Texas to operate this program. The Texas Association of Second Harvest Food Banks administers the Surplus Agricultural Grants Program with funding from the Texas Department of Agriculture, which provides funding to food banks for the collection and distribution of fresh produce donated by Texas farmers. More detail about these and other food bank innovations is provided later in the report in the section on Best Practices
There is a catastrophic crisis of epic porportions that continues to grow and if we do not continue to find ways to feed our hungry then we are all lost.
Even in the one of the most richest countries in the world has many starving people and the economic crisis that we are in makes the word hunger that much more pervasive
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