Poverty down, need for federal nutrition programs remains high

On Tuesday, September 12, the U.S. Census Bureau released the Income and Poverty in the United States: 2016 report. Highlights from the report include:

  • Median household income increase in real terms by 3.2%, from $57,230 in 2015 to $59,039. This is the second consecutive annual increase in median household income.
  • The official poverty rate fell by 0.8% from 13.5% in 2015 to 12.7%. This is the second consecutive annual decline in poverty. Since 2014, the poverty rate has fallen 2.1 percentage points from 14.8% to 12.7%.
  • The Utah poverty rate fell 1.1% from 11.3 in 2015 to 10.2%.
  • There were 40.6 million people in poverty, 2.5 million fewer than in 2015 and 6.0 million fewer than in 2014.
  • The poverty rate in 2016 (12.7%) was not significantly higher than the poverty rate in 2007 (12.5%), the year before the most recent recession.
  • The Supplemental Poverty Measure, which counts most government benefits as income and adjusts the poverty levels by geography (taking into account cost of living) decreased 0.6%, from 14.5% in 2015 to 13.9%.
  • The percentage of people with health insurance coverage for all or part of 2016 rose to 91.2%, 0.3% points higher than the rate in 2015 and a historic high.

The report reveals good news about the U.S. economy, especially that poverty is nearing pre-recession rates. These findings also highlight how key assistance programs, including the federal nutrition programs, are to our economy. SNAP alone lifts nearly 5 million people out of poverty, including 2 million children. In addition, every $5 in new SNAP benefits spent in our communities generates as much as $9 of economic activity. Gains in income and declines in poverty will continue as these programs remain protected, and families have opportunities to find and keep work.

Unfortunately, federal nutrition programs, as well as other assistance programs, are under attack. The White House budget released in May proposed $1,054 billion in cuts to critical anti-poverty programs, including $193 billion to federal nutrition assistance programs. In addition, the House of Representatives 2018 Budget Resolution, which is still open in Congress, included dangerous cuts and structural changes to programs such as SNAP, child nutrition programs, Medicaid, Medicare, SSI, TANF, low income tax credits, college financial aid, and other supports to low and moderate income families. Specifically, it calls for $150 billion in SNAP cuts over 10 years and a $1.6 billion cut to school meals over 10 years.

As the new poverty data demonstrates, our economy is finally returning to pre-recession levels. However, many Americans are still hurting. Cuts to federal assistance programs will not only set these families back, but will also set back the economy at large.

We urge everyone to:

Contact your Congressperson in the House of Representatives and express your opposition to the House Budget Resolution.
• Rep. Rob Bishop (1st district): 202-225-0453
• Rep. Chris Stewart (2nd district): 202-225-9730
• Rep. Mia Love (4th district): 202-225-3011

Contact Utah’s Senators and ask them to express opposition to these harmful cuts in the House budget and work to ensure that the Senate Budget Resolution does not harm programs that protect low and moderate income Utahns.
• Sen. Orrin Hatch: 202-224-5251
• Sen. Mike Lee: 202-224-5444

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UAH in the News: SNAP Challenge in the Salt Lake Tribune

SNAP Challenge: See what it’s like to live on food stamps by Christopher Smart

christopher smart

Can you survive on $4.20 a day?

The SNAP Challenge seeks to give participants a glimpse into the struggles faced by millions of low-income Americans who are trying to put food on their tables, said Gina Cornia of Utahns Against Hunger.

SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly known as Food Stamps — and is the first line of defense against hunger, she said.

The nonprofit agency is sponsoring the SNAP Challenge, which begins Friday and continues through Sept. 21.

If would-be participants can’t make an entire week, Utahns Against Hunger invites them to try it for one, three or five days.

The challenge is based on the average federal SNAP benefit of $4.20 a day. (In Utah the average is $3.85 a day.) It will demonstrate to participants how difficult it is for families living on SNAP to simultaneously avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods and stay healthy with limited resources, Cornia said.

About 12 percent of households struggled with food insecurity — limited or uncertain access to enough food — in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The majority of SNAP recipients are children, seniors and people with disabilities.

Utahns Against Hunger encourages everyone to participate in the SNAP Challenge.

The agency also is inviting Utah’s congressional delegation and other state elected officials to participate, Cornia said. They will play an important role in preserving and protecting SNAP in the budget and in the upcoming Farm Bill.

SNAP helped lift 4.6 million Americans out of poverty in 2015, according to USDA data. It also kept 53,000 Utahns out of poverty, including 29,000 children, per year, between 2009 and 2012.

Sign up for the SNAP Challenge by visiting http://tiny.cc/UTSnap.

Questions can be sent to UtahSNAP@UAH.org.

Challenge rules:

  1. All food consumed during the Challenge week, including fast food or eating out, should be included in your total food spending.
  2. Avoid eating food you already own, including condiments.
  3. Avoid free food from friends, family, or work, so that you get a better understanding of living on a SNAP budget.
  4. Record everything you eat and drink during the Challenge. Keep a log of your food spending and portion sizes.
  5. Share your experience through social media and with your elected officials. Use#UtahSNAPChallenge when sharing your experience.

Original article can be found here.

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Despite Improvement, Too Many Utahns Still Experience Food Insecurity

Nearly 112,000 Utah households struggled with food insecurity — limited or uncertain access to enough food — in 2016, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

The data reveal a statistically significant decline in Utah household food insecurity in 2016 from the previous year, with the rate dropping from 14.3 percent to 11.5 percent, a 2.8 percent improvement.

“We are glad that food insecurity numbers are moving down, but it’s too early to celebrate. Utah still has a significant number of households who struggle to afford enough food,” said Gina Cornia, Executive Director, Utahns Against Hunger (UAH). “Study after study show that food insecurity harms health, the ability to learn, productivity, and the nation’s economic strength. The nation’s largest federal nutrition programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and school meals, serve as the first line of defense against food insecurity for tens of millions of Americans. Both the president’s fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget and the House Budget Committee’s FY 2018 budget resolution propose dramatic cuts to SNAP and school meals.”

“Historically, federal nutrition programs have enjoyed bipartisan support, creating a safety net that is used by our most vulnerable in communities across the state. These programs also support parents who are working; in Utah 86% of SNAP households with a working age adult had earned income in the last 12 months,” said Cornia. “Utahns Against Hunger is calling on our federal delegation to step up and protect the integrity, structure, and funding for these vital programs so we can keep moving in the right direction. SNAP and school meals have a proven track record of effectively addressing food insecurity. Without question, cuts to these programs would make food insecurity in this country, and in Utah, far worse.”

Utahns Against Hunger is also asking Utah’s federal delegation and the public to take the SNAP Challenge, living on a SNAP food budget of $4.20 a day. More information about the Challenge can be found at www.uah.org.

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2017 Utah SNAP Challenge

From September 15-21, Utahns Against Hunger will be hosting its third Utah SNAP Horizon CardChallenge. The SNAP Challenge gives participants a glimpse into some of the struggles faced by millions of low-income Americans who are trying to put food on their tables. Participants use the average federal SNAP benefit ($4.20 per person/per day) as their budget for all food and drinks. Participants are encouraged to join the challenge for 7 days, but also have the option to commit to 1, 3, or 5 days. The Challenge provides an opportunity for participants to experience how difficult it is for families living on SNAP to simultaneously avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy with limited resources.

We are also inviting Utah’s congressional delegation and other state elected officials to participate in the Challenge. Utah’s Members of Congress will play an important role in preserving and protecting SNAP in the budget and in the upcoming Farm Bill. We encourage all participants to reach out to their elected officials and encourage them to join the Utah SNAP Challenge.

To end the challenge, UAH will be hosting a screening of the documentary “A Place at the Table,” starring Jeff Bridges. This will take place on Thursday, September 21 at 6 pm at Salt Lake Community College South City Campus. More details will be posted closer to this event.

For more information on the 2017 Utah SNAP Challenge, please download the toolkit https://goo.gl/dJqcs4 or sign up at http://tiny.cc/UTSnap. Additionally, more information can be found at https://facebook.com/UtahnsAgainstHunger.

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As Youth Go Back To School, New Laws Go Into Effect for Youth Justice System

From the ACLU of Utah: Many youth across the state of Utah will be back in school next week. Several Utah non-profit organizations wish to remind these youth – and those who care for and about them – that positive changes have been made to Utah laws regarding the juvenile justice system.

These groups – which include Racially Just Utah, YWCA Utah and the Ogden Branch of the NAACP – have worked together to produce an informational brochure that outlines several of these important new developments. The brochure highlights many positive changes that were enacted with the passage of HB239 during the 2017 Utah Legislative Session, such as:

New caps on fines and community service hours for youth sentenced for various offenses;
New limits on the amount of time youth can be kept in juvenile detention or secure confinement; and more alternatives to court appearances and out-of-home placements.

The brochure is now available to the general public for use and distribution. It can be downloaded here. Free print copies can be obtained by contacting Voices for Utah Children or the ACLU of Utah. It is currently available in English, with translated versions soon to be available in Spanish, Somali, Tongan and Samoan.

“We want to be sure that Utah’s youth, and the adults in their lives, are aware that there are new rules about how youth are to be treated when they come into contact with the juvenile justice system,” said Lincoln Nehring, CEO of Voices for Utah Children. “These new rules should result in better outcomes for youth who find themselves being disciplined at school or appearing in court, but these reforms will only succeed if community members know about them.”

This is an opportunity for parents, guardians, friends and counselors to be informed and knowledgeable about how the new law requires youth to be treated, in the juvenile justice system. If you are an adult who suspects that a young person in your care or community is not being treated lawfully, or want more information about the new laws, you are encouraged to contact one of these participating community organizations, or the Utah Board of Juvenile Justice (801-538-1031).

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Official Statement on House FY 2018 Budget Resolution

On July 19, the House Budget Committee “marked up” its Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget Resolution. While this markup is just the first step in the budget process, it is already clear that the House intends to make dangerous cuts and structural changes to programs such as SNAP, child nutrition programs, Medicaid, Medicare, SSI, TANF, low income tax credits, college financial aid, and other supports to low and moderate income families. Among the harsh cuts proposed to essential anti-hunger programs are:

  • Instructions to the House Agriculture Committee to make $10 billion in cuts over 10 years to programs in its jurisdiction — a reduction clearly aimed at SNAP, given the language in the Budget Committee’s explanatory documents.
  • Another $150 billion in SNAP cuts over 10 years through block grant-type structural changes in the latter years of the 10-year budget window.
  • A $1.6 billion cut over 10 years in the Community Eligibility Provision for school lunch and breakfast in high-poverty schools, targeting an estimated 25 schools currently participating schools in Utah with over 8,000 students.

In addition, the Budget calls for tax cuts, mostly skewed for corporations and the most wealthy.

The House Budget Committee’s fiscal year 2018 budget resolution is an all-out assault on struggling families, in Utah and across the country. Cuts to the program would make hunger in Utah far worse, and jeopardize the health and well-being of more than 206,000 Utahns, most of whom are children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

We urge everyone to:

Contact your Congressperson in the House of Representatives and express your opposition to the House Budget Resolution.

  • Rep. Rob Bishop (1st district): 202-225-0453
  • Rep. Chris Stewart (2nd district): 202-225-9730
  • Rep. Mia Love (4th district): 202-225-3011

Contact Utah’s Senators and ask them to express opposition to these harmful cuts in the House budget and work to ensure that the Senate Budget Resolution does not harm programs that protect low and moderate income Utahns.

  • Sen. Orrin Hatch: 202-224-5251
  • Sen. Mike Lee: 202-224-5444
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Summer Sun, Food & Fun: Fresh and Free Meals for Utah Kids

Utah is home to over 878,000 children, and the fastest growing population in the nation, SFP Logo with Fruit Redwhich promises a bright future for our state. However, when schools let out for the summer, over 200,000 of these children lost access to regular school meals. For the households who rely on these meals during the school year, as well as caretakers such as grandparents, family members, and neighbors, summer can be a stressful time. The summer nutrition programs fill this gap by providing free meals and snacks to all children, all summer long!

The best way to meet children’s needs over the summer is with healthy meals served in positive community environments. In Utah, there are approximately 250 summer nutrition locations where kids 18 and younger can receive either breakfast, lunch, and/or supper for free. Meals are served Monday through Friday, but vary by location. Some locations are closed on Fridays, while others are open Saturday and Sunday. Participating school districts and nonprofits provide the free meals at schools, parks, libraries, other public agencies, and nonprofits. In 2016, over 1 million summer meals were served in Utah.  There is no registration or application to fill out for kids to participate, all they need to need to do is show up to receive a meal. “The summer nutrition programs are providing nutritious meals to kids in a safe, familiar environment. The majority of the meals served are prepared by the local school district, the same district that provided breakfast and lunch to students all school year,” said Marti Woolford, a child nutrition advocate with Utahns Against Hunger.

Not only do children benefit from the free meals, but they also benefit from the enrichment activities that keep them learning and engaged. Many sites provide activities throughout the summer. To find out more information about activities, contact the school district the site is located.

Summer nutrition program locations and hours of operation can be found by going online to http://www.uah.org/food-assistance/summer-food/; by calling Utahns Against Hunger at 800-453-3663; or by texting “FOOD” to 877-877.

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‘Double Up Food Bucks’ Stretches Food Stamp Dollars at 23 Farmers’ Markets Statewide

Double Up logo color

Salt Lake City, UT, 6/1/2017 – This week Utahns Against Hunger is launching the third season of Double Up Food Bucks at farmers’ markets and farm stands across the state of Utah. Double Up Food Bucks is a nutrition incentive program that helps low-income families take home affordable fresh fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers. The program works by matching federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly food stamps) dollar-for-dollar, up to ten dollars per market day at participating farmers’ markets, farm stands, and mobile markets. The matched benefits, known as Double Up Food Bucks, can be used to purchase Utah-grown fruits and vegetables.

Healthy food incentive program benefits low-income families, Utah farmers and local economies.

This season twenty-three farmers’ markets and farm stands will participate in Double Up Food Bucks, in eleven counties statewide. Most of the markets are situated along the Wasatch Front, with locations in Logan, Brigham City, Ogden, Syracuse, Kaysville, Salt Lake City, Murray, Provo, Spanish Fork, among others. Markets in Roosevelt, Park City, Tooele, St. George and Moab are also participating.  Roughly ninety percent of SNAP households in the state live in a county with at least one farmers’ market participating in SNAP and the Double Up program.  Programs like Double Up Food Bucks have helped increase the amount of SNAP benefits spent annually at Utah farmers’ markets by over 1000 percent since 2008.

Brian Emerson, Double Up Food Bucks Program Manager, says that the primary purpose of the program is to increase access to healthy food for low-income residents. “Double Up Food Bucks stretches SNAP recipients’ food budgets while encouraging the consumption of more fresh fruits and vegetable.” Over 3,400 Utah SNAP recipients benefited from Double Up in 2016. The majority of SNAP recipients in the state are either children (53.45 percent), seniors (5.83 percent), or individuals with disabilities (11.77 percent).

fm picSurveyed SNAP recipients who participated in Double Up Food Bucks in 2016 conveyed a sense of gratitude and relief for the program. Sixty-one-year-old Jennifer said that, “The amount of food stamps I get is so low that, without Double Up, I couldn’t survive food-wise.” Cammie, a thirty-seven-year-old mother living in the Salt Lake said that “Double Up really helps stretch my food dollars; it helps me feed my family fresh produce, and I love supporting farmers in the community… We’re grateful for it.”

Emerson says the benefits of the program are broader than increasing access to food. “In short, Double Up Food Bucks is a win-win-win for everyone. The program simultaneously reduces hunger and improves people’s access to healthy food, supports Utah farmers with new customers and more income, and strengthens the community by keeping food dollars circulating in the local economy.”

Research from the first two years of Double Up Food Bucks suggests that the nutrition incentive program works. Researchers from Utah State University evaluated the impact of Double Up Food Bucks on consumer behavior and found that participation in the program was associated with increased consumption of fresh produce, and a reduction in very low food insecurity.

Double Up Food Bucks is active in eighteen other states across the country, from Arizona and Texas, to New York. In 2015 Utahns Against Hunger (UAH) worked with a number of partners to bring the program to Utah, including Utah State University Extension, the Utah Department of Workforce Services, the Utah Department of Health, and the Michigan-based Fair Food Network (the creator of the first Double Up program). UAH was awarded a competitive Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant from the USDA in 2015 to implement the program, with matching funds from Salt Lake City Corp, Ally Bank and the Department of Workforce Services. In 2017 Double Up Food Bucks received additional funding support from Intermountain Community Care Foundation and the Utah Department of Health.

The 2017 Double Up Food Bucks season runs June 1 to October 31. Information on the program and a list of participating market locations can be found here, at www.DoubleUpUtah.org, or by calling toll-free 800-453-3663.

 

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President’s Budget Proposes Great Harm to Low-Income Americans

President’s Budget Proposes Great Harm to Low-Income Americans

Statement by Kevin Mass, Board Chair Utahns Against Hunger

PDF version of statement available here.

Salt Lake City, May 23, 2017 – The White House is proposing $1,054 billion in cuts to critical anti-poverty programs, including $193 billion to federal nutrition assistance programs. These proposed cuts in the president’s FY 2018 budget are short-sighted and target the most vulnerable in our communities. While many people have benefited from an improving economy, many have not.  These programs provide a critical safety net to working parents, seniors, and those with disabilities, who are unable to work enough to move out of poverty. Instead of providing support and opportunity, these cuts will push low-income Americans farther down the economic ladder by ripping apart the safety net that provides a path out of hunger and poverty.

Federal nutrition assistance programs are proven and effective. They are vital to ensuring that struggling Americans—including children, adults, seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, and low-wage workers—get the nutrition they need for their health and well-being.

The vast majority of individuals served by SNAP are under the age of 17 (53.45 percent), over the age of 60 (5.83 percent), or have a disability (11.77 percent). Child nutrition programs like the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the Summer Food Programs ensure that all children have access to meals that keep them healthy and prepared to learn. More than one in three (35 percent) Utah students participate in free or reduced price meals.

Shredding these programs will have a devastating domino effect on Utahns in rural, suburban, and urban areas alike.  We can expect to see increases in health care costs, decreased productivity in the workforce, and worse academic outcomes for the next generation.

These proposed cuts to the nation’s safety net are unacceptable. Utah’s congressional delegation must stand against these proposed cuts and work across the aisle with their colleagues in Congress. They must return to the historic, bipartisan commitment to protect nutrition assistance programs and reject any budget proposal that leaves Americans struggling against hunger. They must protect these proven and effective programs.

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Utahns Against Hunger is a state-wide anti-hunger advocacy program whose mission is to increase access to food through advocacy, outreach and education.

 

Budget graphic 2

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Official Statement on the American Health Care Act

We are disappointed that all four of Utah’s Representatives voted for the American Health Care Act on Thursday, May 4th. While we do not know the exact effects of the bill yet, because it has not yet been scored by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, it is clear that the bill will create challenges for low-income Utahns.
• The AHCA phases out Medicaid expansion by 2020, which allowed 3,000 to 5,000 low-income Utah parents to become eligible for Medicaid this year.
• The AHCA block grants Medicaid, which historically causes programs to serve less individuals and become less effective, and amounts to an $880 billion cut to Medicaid. Approximately 308,000 Utahns, 12% of the state’s population, rely on Medicaid for their health insurance.
• The AHCA allows states to waive the protections against pre-existing conditions and the essential health benefits requirement. Approximately 1.2 million Utahns have a qualifying pre-existing condition and prior to the Affordable Care Act, women in Utah were charged as much as 15% more than men for the same health coverage.
• The AHCA allows insurers to charge seniors higher premiums, up to five times as much as their youngest enrollees.
• The AHCA will likely raise insurance costs for low-income Americans; 145,000 Utahns currently get financial assistance to help pay for their health coverage.
Health and food access are intrinsically linked. We know that the vast majority of Utahns that are food insecure are children, seniors, and people with disabilities, all of whom will be directly impacted by these changes. Many families that are barely getting by may find themselves facing poverty and food insecurity. If health care becomes more expensive for low-income Utahns, hunger will increase in our state. We join the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society, the AARP, the American Public Health Association, the National Disability Rights Network, Voices for Utah Children, Utah Health Policy, Project, and many other Utahns in opposing the AHCA and ask Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee to vote against it.

Gina Cornia
Executive Director, Utahns Against Hunger

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