Casey Introduces Bill to Help with Hunger Relief

WASHINGTON, DC- U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today introduced legislation that would make critical changes to nutrition programs to help low-income families and schools cover the costs of purchasing healthy, nutritious foods.  The National Hunger Relief Act of 2008 would provide funding to help federal nutrition assistance programs adjust to rising food prices and cover the costs of food for those most in need.  

“For millions of Americans facing hunger, the ability to afford the food they so desperately need has become increasingly more difficult.  Congress can and must do more to make sure that nutrition programs adequately cover the costs of healthy, nutritious food that these children and their families need,” said Senator Casey.  “That is why I am pleased to introduce this bill which will help make critical changes needed to help low-income families and schools cover the costs of purchasing healthy, nutritious foods.”

Each summer, the United States Department of Agriculture sets new levels for food stamp benefits and school meal reimbursement rates based on the average of the previous year’s food price inflation.   However, soon after implementation, especially in years of high food price inflation, these reimbursements begin lagging far behind current prices. 

To help with Food Stamps, the National Hunger Relief Act of 2008 would require Congress to anticipate the food price inflation that will occur in the coming fiscal year, and would act to offset it by setting a higher benefit rate for October 1 than is currently provided.  Beginning in Fiscal Year 2010, recipients would receive 102 percent of the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan in the previous June.  By fiscal year 2012, this benefit rate would be ramped up to 103 percent of the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan in the previous June.

This bill would also provide for semi-annual reimbursement rate adjustments for child nutrition programs.  In addition to the current annual update in July to reimbursement rates for school meal programs, reimbursement rates would also be adjusted for inflation each January. As a result of this change, reimbursement rates for the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, the Special Milk Program, the Child and Adult Day Care Program and the Summer Food Service Program would more accurately reflect the costs that schools or service providers incur to provide foods through these programs.  This, in turn, would help to keep the prices charged for foods provided to other children at schools more in line with the costs of procuring and providing those foods.     

In 2006 alone, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that 35.5 million Americans did not have enough money or resources to get food for at least some period during the year.   This figure was an increase of 400,000 over 2005 and an increase of 2.3 million since 2000.  These 35.5 million Americans include more than 12.6 million children. 

Benefits Under the National Hunger Relief Act vs. Current Policy:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (previously known as Food Stamps)

Current: On October 1, USDA sets new benefit levels based on 100% of the average of the previous year’s food price inflation (based on a period of June to June).
 

Hunger Relief: On October 1, 2009, USDA sets new benefit levels based on 102% of the average of the previous year’s food price inflation (based on a period of June to June).
 

On October 1, 2010, USDA sets new benefit levels based on 102.5% of the average of the previous year’s food price inflation (based on a period of June to June).
 

On October 1, 2011, and each year after, USDA sets new benefit levels based on 103% of the average of the previous year’s food price inflation (based on a period of June to June).

Reimbursements are now consistent with the way that food stamps were regularly adjusted for food price inflation for many years prior to 1996.

Child Nutrition Programs (including the National School Lunch Program, school breakfasts, after-school snack programs, Child and Adult Daycare Program, and Special Milk Program)

Current: On July 1, USDA sets new reimbursement rates based upon the average food price inflation of the preceding three-month period. Rates are not adjusted for another 12 months.

Hunger Relief: On July 1, USDA sets new reimbursement rates based upon the average food price inflation of the preceding three-month period. On January 1, USDA again sets new reimbursement rates based upon the average food price inflation of the preceding three-month period. This results in reimbursement rates being adjusted every 6 months.
 

This legislation has the support of Bread for the World, Feeding America (previously known as America’s Second Harvest) and the School Nutrition Association.

 

 

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