Tag Archives: Farm Bill

Tucson Food Stamp Challenge: A Teachable Moment

Food-stamp32-sig-sm72by Pamela Powers Hannley

September is Hunger Action Month. Locally, the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona is encouraging Tucson residents to take the SNAP (food stamp) challenge by trying to live on $4 of food per person per day.

If you follow my blog, you know that I write regularly about poverty and imperiled social safety net programs, including food stamps and other nutrition programs like Meals on Wheels and school lunches. When the food bank called me and asked if I wanted to join the SNAP Challenge and blog about it, I jumped on board. I was intrigued by Cory Booker’s food stamp challenge blogging and video and wanted to try it.

My husband and I both participated in the SNAP challenge this week. Since there were 2 of us doing it, our allotment was $32 for the 4 days of the challenge. Read about our experience after the jump.

Broccoli39-sm72On Sunday, with SNAP in mind, we purchased $20 of food– mostly bulk grains and vegetables– at Sprouts in midtown Tucson and purchased a few additional items– like butter and ground turkey– at Fry’s on Monday. It was the first time in years that I looked at every price, weighed all of my purchases, scouted for items that were on sale, and looked for cheaper alternatives to regular purchases (like buying a 1 lb block of butter in a plain wrapper for $2.79 , instead of 4 quarters individually wrapped and boxed for $4.39 or buying Roma tomatoes for $.99/lb rather than vine ripened tomatoes for twice the price).

What we purchased (above) was almost as interesting as what we didn’t purchase.

We bought: a 5lb bag potatoes, 2 sweet potatoes, 3 Roma tomatoes, 1 head of broccoli, 1 head of Romaine lettuce, 2 ears of corn, 1 lb of brown rice, 1 lb of dried black beans, 1 cantaloupe, 1 package of whole wheat tortillas, 1 mango, 1 small bag of carrots, 2 Hatch chillies, 12 eggs, cheese, 1 lb of ground turkey, 1 block o’ butter, tofu, and $4 worth of coffee. Our most expensive food item was the ground turkey at $3.79, followed by tortillas ($2.99), and eggs and butter ($2.79 each). We spent about $10 total on all of the fruits and vegetables.

Food items that we usually buy– but didn’t– include: salmon, chicken breast, lunch meat, Kefir, Greek yogurt, expensive cheese, crackers, chips, good bread, milk, olive oil, prepared sauces, specialty foods, non-dairy ice cream, and a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. What’s interesting to note is the number of protein-rich foods we couldn’t afford to buy.

Having read many Facebook posts and the food bank’s communal blog written by other SNAP challenge participants, I think we did pretty well, compared to some others who tried this. Although we probably didn’t consume enough protein during the past 4 days, we didn’t go hungry, we didn’t run out of food, and, for the most part, we ate well and included many fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in our meals– not junk food.

Although we ate slightly different items at some meals (since I am a vegetarian and he isn’t), we cooked our usual 3 meals per day over the 4 days. Some food choices got repetitious– particularly the tofu and black beans– because it’s difficult to create a variety of meals with the same ingredients. Creativity helped a lot– in coming up with different combinations and with making substitutions based upon what’s available. For example, we always cook with olive oil, but since we didn’t buy oil with our SNAP allotment, we ended up cooking with butter. (The butter was a tasty change of pace for us, but it’s interesting to note that we had to make an unhealthy choice because of our limited food budget.)

Our dinner menus included vegetable and tofu fried rice on Tuesday; corn on the cob, steamed sweet potatoes, and salad with lettuce, tomato, and carrots on Wednesday; and cheese and Hatch chili omelette with sauted sweet potatoes on Thursday. Lunches consisted of a bowl of black beans with salad; broccoli, brown rice, and cheese burritos; ground turkey, brown rice, and cheese burritos; black bean, potato, and cheese burritos; or stir-fry leftovers. The stir-fry meal is a good example of a modified regular dish we make because we had limited veggies and no prepared sauces to spike it up. The $.22 worth of fresh chilies really came in handy several times– including in the stir-fry. Stretching small quantities of food is another skill learned on the SNAP challenge. It was amazing how my husband stretched that one pound of ground turkey out over 4 days– fashioning it into burritos for lunch and self-styled meat patties to eat with his morning egg and home fries.

There are lessons learned here on the SNAP challenge.
Hatch-chilies21-sm72

It takes a lot of planning, creativity, and home cooking to exist on the food stamp allotment of $4/day/person. For the most part, we made the SNAP allotment work for us by shopping frugally, cooking everything from scratch, and making trade-offs. But we have life skills and education that many food stamp recipients don’t have– like a masters in public health. An 18-year-old single mom would have a much harder time creating healthy meals for herself and her child on this meager amount of money than we did.

It’s easier to live on SNAP when you’re a couple (without kids). Getting $32 for the 2 of us enabled us to buy a wider range of food. I think it would be extremely difficult to live on food stamps if you are a single parent with a child because you would be constantly saying, “No, we can’t afford to buy that.” Prepared foods– cereal, peanut butter, cookies, chips, frozen dinners, soda, candy– are marketed heavily to children. It was easy for us to bypass all of those pricey items.

Buying bulk foods and shopping sales saves money. Sprouts has a wide variety of bulk grains, fruits, and vegetables at affordable prices. It was a good choice for the bulk of our SNAP shopping because we could buy one pound of black beans for $1.69 or one pound of brown rice for $.99, instead of large prepackaged bags.

Living on foods stamps is about making wise choices and trade-offs. The bottomline is: on SNAP you can’t buy or eat what you want when you want– especially meat, fish, and chicken. When you’re on such a strict food budget, you have to make tough choices. The lack of variety– particularly in protein-rich foods– got boring for me, but beyond “boring”, it’s not healthy to have such a limited diet.

The official 4-day challenge ends today– Friday– but you can still take the challenge and try living on a $4/day/person food stamp budget. Living on SNAP is anything but a snap. If you’re in the cut food stamps political camp, put your money where your mouth is and take the SNAP challenge.

Like what you read here? Check out my Word Press blog Tucson-Progressive.com, my Tumblr page, or my Facebook page.

How Progressives Stopped the Farm Bill

SNAP-springfield-massby Pamela Powers Hannley

When Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) rallied its membership and asked them to take to the streets, their computers, and their telephones to oppose food stamp cuts in the farm bill, stopping the multi-year, behemoth looked bleak.

Both versions of the bill had cuts to food stamps and school lunches; the House of Representatives version, which was defeated on Thursday, had $20 billion in cuts to food stamps + increased subsidies to agribusiness, and the Senate version has $4 billion in cuts. This is immoral– feeding the military industrial complex but not the children.

PDA mobilized nationally to stop this– hundreds of letter drops at Congressional offices around the country and in Washington DC, thousands of phone calls and e-mails to Congressional representatives. And it worked– for now. Details of the mobilization after the jump.

From PDA…

PDA National Board Member Rep. Jim McGovern just called me to thank everyone in PDA for our help defeating the House Farm Bill by a 195 to 234 vote today. He shared with us that last week–even last night–this bill looked unstoppable. A few days ago, Democratic Leadership was silent. But we went from trying to make a statement of conscience to a clear victory on behalf of the millions of working people, retirees, veterans, and children who would have been devastated by $20.4 Billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps).

This result delighted us, even as it infuriated the right wing. As The Hill reported, “Immediately after the vote, Republicans were apoplectic at what they characterized as a betrayal by Democratic leaders, who did not deliver the votes they promised.”

Our pressure helped to turn the tide. We visited leaders including Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Richard Neal, and Henry Waxman in Emergency Actions at their offices on Monday. The PDA Phone Team generated hundreds of calls into key offices this week. PDA organized 225 letter drops at Congressional offices around the country, and 72 offices on Capitol Hill–more than 300 personal face-to-face contacts–yesterday.PDAers sent 22,054 email messages to 527 members of the House and Senate using our advocacy alert since this battle began. All of these efforts paid off…for now.

Sadly, the battle isn’t over. The other side is already planning another vote to slash Nutritional Programs. Soon, we’ll have to gear up again, but for now, let’s celebrate. We’ve never been more proud of PDA and what we do to stand up for our progressive values.

Thank you for everything you did–from all of us and from Congressman Jim McGovern!

Tim Carpenter on behalf of the PDA Team: Conor, Kim, Andrea, Judy, Mike H, Janis, Mike F, Kurt, Jeanne, and Deb

P.S. Please contribute whatever you can to keep PDA strong, standing up for peace, equality and essential help for people in need.

Breaking News: Farm Bill Defeated 234-195, AZ Dems Split

by Pamela Powers Hannley

The Farm Bill– which included $20 Billion in cuts to food stamps– went down in flames in the US House of Representatives this morning. The vote was 234-195, with 62 Republicans voting "no", and 24 Democrats voting for it, according to the Huffington Post.

The roll call vote (after the jump) reveals that Arizona Congressional Democraic Representatives Ron Barber and Kyrsten Sinema voted "yes" (with the Republicans), while Representatives Ann Kirkpatirck, Raul Grijalva, and Ed Pastor voted "no". (On the Arizona Republican side, Paul Gosar voted the party line, while Matt Salmon, Trent Franks, and David Schweikert voted "no".)

More details and the roll call after the jump.

Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) launched a nationwide push to defeat the Farm Bill because of the food stamp cuts. Demonstrations were held at influential Democrats' offices on Monday, and on Wednesday, more than 200 letters were hand-delivered to Congressional representatives urging them to vote "no" on any Farm Bill that included cuts to food stamps. 

FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 286(Republicans in roman; Democrats in italic; Independents underlined)
      H R 1947      RECORDED VOTE      20-Jun-2013      1:54 PM
      QUESTION:  On Passage
      BILL TITLE: Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act

  AYES NOES PRES NV
REPUBLICAN 171 62   1
DEMOCRATIC 24 172   5
INDEPENDENT        
TOTALS 195 234   6


—- AYES    195 —

Aderholt
Alexander
Amodei
Bachus
Barber
Barletta
Barr
Barrow (GA)
Barton
Benishek
Bentivolio
Bera (CA)
Bishop (UT)
Black
Blackburn
Boehner
Bonner
Boustany
Braley (IA)
Brooks (AL)
Brooks (IN)
Brownley (CA)
Buchanan
Bucshon
Burgess
Bustos
Calvert
Camp
Campbell
Cantor
Capito
Carter
Cassidy
Chaffetz
Coble
Cole
Collins (NY)
Conaway
Costa
Cramer
Crawford
Crenshaw
Cuellar
Daines
Davis, Rodney
Denham
Dent
DesJarlais
Diaz-Balart
Duffy
Ellmers
Enyart
Farenthold
Farr
Fincher
Fitzpatrick
Fleischmann
Flores
Forbes
Fortenberry
Foxx
Frelinghuysen
Garamendi
Garcia
Gardner
Gerlach
Gibbs
Gibson
Gosar
Granger
Graves (MO)
Griffin (AR)
Griffith (VA)
Grimm
Guthrie
Hall
Hanna
Harper
Harris
Hartzler
Hastings (WA)
Herrera Beutler
Holding
Hudson
Huizenga (MI)
Hultgren
Hunter
Issa
Jenkins
Johnson (OH)
Johnson, Sam
Joyce
Kelly (PA)
King (IA)
King (NY)
Kingston
Kinzinger (IL)
Kline
LaMalfa
Lankford
Latham
Latta
Loebsack
Long
Lucas
Luetkemeyer
Lummis
Marchant
Marino
McCarthy (CA)
McCaul
McHenry
McIntyre
McKeon
McKinley
McMorris Rodgers
McNerney
Meadows
Messer
Mica
Miller (MI)
Mullin
Murphy (FL)
Murphy (PA)
Neugebauer
Noem
Nugent
Nunes
Nunnelee
Olson
Owens
Palazzo
Paulsen
Pearce
Peters (MI)
Peterson
Petri
Poe (TX)
Rahall
Reed
Reichert
Renacci
Ribble
Rice (SC)
Roby
Roe (TN)
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Rogers (MI)
Rokita
Rooney
Ros-Lehtinen
Roskam
Ross
Runyan
Schock
Schrader
Scott, Austin
Sessions
Shimkus
Simpson
Sinema
Smith (MO)
Smith (NE)
Smith (TX)
Southerland
Stewart
Stivers
Terry
Thompson (PA)
Thornberry
Tiberi
Tipton
Turner
Upton
Valadao
Vela
Wagner
Walberg
Walden
Walorski
Walz
Weber (TX)
Webster (FL)
Westmoreland
Whitfield
Williams
Wilson (SC)
Wittman
Womack
Woodall
Yoder
Yoho
Young (AK)
Young (IN)


—- NOES    234 —

Amash
Andrews
Bachmann
Bass
Beatty
Becerra
Bilirakis
Bishop (GA)
Bishop (NY)
Blumenauer
Bonamici
Brady (PA)
Brady (TX)
Bridenstine
Broun (GA)
Brown (FL)
Butterfield
Capps
Capuano
Cárdenas
Carney
Carson (IN)
Cartwright
Castor (FL)
Castro (TX)
Chabot
Chu
Cicilline
Clarke
Clay
Cleaver
Clyburn
Coffman
Cohen
Collins (GA)
Connolly
Conyers
Cook
Cooper
Cotton
Courtney
Crowley
Culberson
Cummings
Davis (CA)
Davis, Danny
DeFazio
DeGette
Delaney
DeLauro
DelBene
DeSantis
Deutch
Dingell
Doggett
Doyle
Duckworth
Duncan (SC)
Duncan (TN)
Edwards
Ellison
Engel
Eshoo
Esty
Fattah
Fleming
Foster
Frankel (FL)
Franks (AZ)
Fudge
Gabbard
Gallego
Garrett
Gingrey (GA)
Gohmert
Goodlatte
Gowdy
Graves (GA)
Grayson
Green, Al
Green, Gene
Grijalva
Gutiérrez
Hahn
Hanabusa
Hastings (FL)
Heck (NV)
Heck (WA)
Hensarling
Higgins
Himes
Hinojosa
Holt
Horsford
Hoyer
Huelskamp
Huffman
Hurt
Israel
Jackson Lee
Jeffries
Johnson (GA)
Johnson, E. B.
Jones
Jordan
Kaptur
Keating
Kelly (IL)
Kennedy
Kildee
Kilmer
Kind
Kirkpatrick
Kuster
Labrador
Lamborn
Lance
Langevin
Larson (CT)
Lee (CA)
Levin
Lewis
Lipinski
LoBiondo
Lofgren
Lowenthal
Lowey
Lujan Grisham (NM)
Luján, Ben Ray (NM)
Lynch
Maffei
Maloney, Carolyn
Maloney, Sean
Massie
Matheson
Matsui
McClintock
McCollum
McDermott
McGovern
Meehan
Meeks
Meng
Michaud
Miller (FL)
Miller, George
Moore
Moran
Mulvaney
Nadler
Napolitano
Neal
Negrete McLeod
Nolan
O'Rourke
Pallone
Pascrell
Pastor (AZ)
Payne
Pelosi
Perlmutter
Perry
Peters (CA)
Pingree (ME)
Pittenger
Pitts
Pocan
Polis
Pompeo
Posey
Price (GA)
Price (NC)
Quigley
Radel
Rangel
Richmond
Rigell
Rohrabacher
Rothfus
Roybal-Allard
Royce
Ruiz
Ruppersberger
Rush
Ryan (OH)
Ryan (WI)
Salmon
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Sanford
Sarbanes
Scalise
Schakowsky
Schiff
Schneider
Schwartz
Schweikert
Scott (VA)
Scott, David
Sensenbrenner
Serrano
Sewell (AL)
Shea-Porter
Sherman
Shuster
Sires
Smith (NJ)
Smith (WA)
Speier
Stockman
Stutzman
Swalwell (CA)
Takano
Thompson (CA)
Thompson (MS)
Tierney
Titus
Tonko
Tsongas
Van Hollen
Vargas
Veasey
Velázquez
Visclosky
Wasserman Schultz
Waters
Watt
Waxman
Welch
Wenstrup
Wilson (FL)
Wolf
Yarmuth
Young (FL)


—- NOT VOTING    6 —

Honda
Larsen (WA)
Markey
McCarthy (NY)
Miller, Gary
Slaughter

 

Street Heat: Progressives Protest Against Food Stamp Cuts Nationwide

SNAP-Waxmanby Pamela Powers Hannley

For weeks, Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) has been turning up the heat on Congressional Democrats in an effort to stop the proposed $20 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, AKA food stamps).

On Monday, June 17, PDA members nationwide protested athigh-profile Congressional officesfrom California to Florida to Illinois to Massachusetts.  (At right is the PDA protest outside of Congressman Henry Waxman's office. PDA Advisory Board Chair Mimi Kennedy is in the middle Other photos here.) PDA activists demonstrated at the offices of influential members of Congress, like Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Here is the list:

  • Rep Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader, CA-12: (415) 556-4862
  • Rep Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, DNC Chair, FL-23 954-437-3936
  • Rep Steny Hoyer, House Minority Whip, MD-05 (301) 474-0119
  • Rep Henry Waxman CA-33 310-652-3095
  • Rep Richard Neal, MA-05 (413) 785-0325

On Wednesday, June 19, PDA members visited the offices of more than 200 members of Congress and urged them to vote against the food stamp cuts. In Arizona,PDA activists delivered letters to the offices of Ron Barber, Ann Kirkpatrick, and Kyrsten Sinema.

Read the letter delivered to Congressional offices after the jump.

Here is the text of PDA’s letter to Congress about the proposed food stamp cuts:

Re: Public Policy Should Eliminate Hunger, Not Increase It
June 19, 2013

Dear Congressman Barber,

We are voters in your Congressional District writing to urge you to oppose cuts to Food Stamps—also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP). The House Farm Bill would cut $20.5 billion from SNAP, and any cuts to would increase hunger for millions of vulnerable Americans. We strongly urge you to Oppose any Farm Bill that contains cuts to Food Stamps / SNAP.

Average benefits provided under SNAP are only $133.41 per person per month. Not even $1.50 per meal. After the amendment Rep. Jim McGovern (MA) offered to prevent the cuts failed on a party-line vote, the House Agriculture Committee passed the Farm Bill. We strongly oppose the $20.5 billion cuts that would devastate millions of Americans and inflict costs upon taxpayers far in excess of any supposed “savings.”

Spending for nutrition delivers a huge return on investment. SNAP spending is among the most powerful economic stimuli, with benefits that flow directly and immediately into the economy, enriching domestic farmers and retailers, and creating jobs. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack confirmed, “Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in the economy.” Conversely, decreasing SNAP would cause increased health care costs and incite crime, diminish productivity, stunt childhood development, and impose other collateral damage on innocent American families.

Please oppose any Farm Bill that contains cuts to Food Stamps / SNAP.

We invite continued engagement with you. Please provide us with the name and contact information for your staffer(s) responsible for this issue.

Thank you for your time and attention,

PDA Tucson Steering Comittee

Related articles:

House debates $20.5 billion cuts to food stamps

Activists protest possible cuts to food stamps

Organizations in LA protest possible food stamp cuts

Mayor Bloomberg outlines importance of maintaining funding for SNAP program

Obama opposes food stamp cuts, threatens veto of farm bill

Obama Opposes Food Stamp Cuts, Threatens Veto of Farm Bill

by Pamela Powers Hannley

President Barack Obama has issued an official statement saying that he opposes the current form of HR1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (AKA the Farm Bill).

Specifically, he opposes the deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program(SNAP– food stamps) and the spending increases in the form of subsidies. Cutting food subsidies (in the form of food stamps) to the poor while increasing subsidies to agribusiness is immoral. (You’ll remember that, in public, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is all “we gotta tighten out belts and reduce spending”, but in reality, they love spending money on pet projects– like war and corporate welfare. They passed the $640 Billion Pentagon Pork Bill last week. )

Will Obama’s statement and threatened veto give weak-kneed Blue Dog Democratsthe back-up to stand up for what’s right? I hope so. (The House of Representatives is still working on this bill; there is still time to call your representative and urge him/her topreserve funding for food stamps.) Read the President's full statement after the jump.

Here is the President’s statement

STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 1947 – Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013
(Rep. Lucas, R-OK, and Rep. Peterson, D-MN)

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013. The bill would reduce access to food assistance for struggling families and their children, does not contain sufficient commodity and crop insurance reforms, and does not provide funding for renewable energy, which is an important source of jobs and economic growth in rural communities across the country.

The Administration strongly opposes the harmful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a cornerstone of our Nation’s food assistance safety net. The bill makes unacceptable deep cuts in SNAP, which could increase hunger among millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, including families with children and senior citizens. The Administration believes that Congress should achieve significant budgetary savings to help reduce the deficit without creating hardship for vulnerable families – for example, by reducing crop insurance subsidies. Rather than reducing crop insurance subsidies by $11.7 billion over 10 years, as proposed in the President’s Budget, H.R. 1947 would increase reference prices for farmers by roughly 45 percent and increase already generous crop insurance subsidies at a cost of nearly $9 billion over 10 years to the Nation’s taxpayers.

The Administration supports enactment of a multi-year Farm Bill that includes a long-term extension of disaster programs and promotes rural development, preserves a farm safety net, maintains strong nutrition programs, encourages the development of local and regional markets, enhances conservation, supports environmental stewardship, complies with our World Trade Organization commitments, advances agricultural research, and provides funding for renewable energy. In addition, the Administration believes that crop insurance payments should be tied to the Nation’s soil conservation and wetland protection goals. The legislation should also contribute significantly to deficit reduction, with savings from reforms proposed in the President’s Budget.

Consistent with the President’s Budget, the Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to achieve crop insurance and commodity program savings not contained in H.R. 1947, while at the same time strengthening the farm safety net in times of need and supporting the next generation of farmers. The Administration also looks forward to working with the Congress to structure reporting requirements to maximize and facilitate agricultural research without creating undue burdens. The Administration believes that provisions that would create unneeded barriers for agencies with regulatory responsibilities in executing their missions should not be included in a final bill.

Finally, the Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to reform the P.L. 480 Title II food aid program in order to provide food aid to starving people faster and feed millions of additional people per year at current funding levels.

If the President were presented with H.R. 1947, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill. [Emphasis added.]