News Update Jan 4th, 2019

January 4, 2019:

  1. Outlook for Federal Food Programs 2019
  2. Action on State Budget: Downtown LA, Thursday Jan 10
  3. LA County Board of Supervisors to Discuss Allowing Sale of Home Cooked Meals and Present Plan for Public Feeding Ordinance January 22
  4. 2019 is the Year of SSI Recipients in California
  5. Dollar Stores Prepare for a New “Permanent Underclass”, Fresh Food Access is More Difficult than Ever
  6. Exemplary And Not So Exemplary Food Policy from Around the World

Outlook for Federal Food Programs 2019

So the New Year is beginning with a government shutdown still in place from late last year. We managed to escape 2018 with minimal damage to the nation’s primary food safety net, the SNAP program (still known as Food Stamps to many), although a couple of proposals still linger that could result in more hunger in America. Arguably, one of those proposals on immigrant public charge has already caused damage by scaring a lot of folks away from applying for SNAP benefits even though they may be eligible.

A brief review of our current situation:

  1. The Government shutdown isn’t affecting SNAP (CalFresh) benefits beneficiaries will continue to get monthly CalFresh allotments and all stores and farmers markets that accept EBT can continue doing so
  2. The President signed the most recent Farm Bill this past month (Dec. 20) . It includes no harmful changes to the SNAP program, in spite of Republican efforts in the House to move the goalposts on beneficiaries’ work requirements by increasing the age limit and including people with dependent children
  3. However, this hasn’t stopped the President from proposing an administrative change that would severely limit states’ ability to obtain waivers from those work requirements in areas of high unemployment or of using waivers “banked“ from previous years to exempt people from work requirements.

The people affected by the proposed rule are adults from age 18 to age 50 who have no dependent children. They’re called “ABAWDS” (Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents) in bureaucratic parlance, which makes it easier to dehumanize them because an ABAWD sounds like a monster that might be headed for a showdown with Captain Marvel.

As with many proposed federal changes, public comment is being collected on this issue. The public comment period is underway and the deadline is Monday April 9.

From our colleagues at CFPA:

“USDA has requested public comments on whether it should reconsider certain rules regarding the three-month time limit for low-income adults who are not raising minor children. Before making any changes, USDA is asking the public to tell them if reworking these rules is a good idea. We need to generate lots of comments from a wide variety of voices urging USDA to not restrict waivers or pursue any other changes that would result in many more vulnerable people being cut off from CalFresh.”

https://cfpa.net/abawd-anpr-comments-usda/

Washington Post has an op-ed on this proposed change, and gives an interesting look at the history of the food stamp program’s evolution:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/01/04/when-it-comes-hungry-americans-weve-lost-our-heart/?utm_term=.9d1e65dcaa9e

  • Meanwhile you may remember the Public Charge issue the Trump administration wants to make receipt of food assistance one of the criteria for which immigrants hoping to upgrade to permanent status can be rejected. In other words, if you get SNAP or other help for your low income family, they can keep you from becoming a permanent resident. That proposal was also up for public comment, and the comment period ended in early December. A nationwide coalition, Protecting Immigrant Families, coordinated the outreach to generate tens of thousands of public comments. The government website regulations.gov reports 216,102 comments received on this issue
    https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=USCIS-2010-0012-0001

NOTE: This regulation has not gone into effect. DHS must review every single unique comment submitted before publishing a final rule. If and when a final rule is published, there will be at least 60 days before it takes effect.


Action on State Budget: Downtown LA, Thursday Jan 10

From Health and Human Services Network:

Save the Date Los Angeles January budget action on January 10th at 12:00 p.m. (Outside Ronald Reagan Building) to respond to incoming Governor Gavin Newsom state budget proposal release.

Some estimates are that there’s 11 billion to 15 billion revenue surplus. What will the new Governor prioritize? Will it be health and human needs including food, child care, housing?

Respond to this survey for the Governor. It’s from his campaign, but we can still bombard it with the info we know that too many Californians are struggling to pay for food, rent, and health care:

https://surveys.signforgood.com/newsom-priorities?firstName=&lastName=&email=emily@ellabakercenter.org&zip=&ask=1&amounts=1,5,25,50,100,250&code=jtk1181-ot-nd

There is a January 10th deadline for governor Gavin Newsom to release his recommendations for California’s 2019 2020 budget. The 2018 19 Budget Act, included $201.4 billion in spending, with a general fund of $138.7 billion.

20% of Californians are living in poverty and another 20% living “near poverty” (“near-poverty” to the U.S. Census means people struggling to pay for food and shelter).

 

For comparison, here are the budgets of the 3 largest states:

  • Texas $209 billion Population 28.3 million ($7,385 /per capita)
  • California $201.4 billion ($15 billion surplus) Population 39.54 million ($5,094 /per capita)
  • New York $168 billion ($4.4 billion deficit) Population 19.8 million ($8,485 /per capita)

Join dozens of LA groups working on anti-poverty, anti-hunger, health care, immigration and other issues to rally for a state budget that addresses these critical needs. Please contact Maribel Nunez maribelnunez.cap@gmail.com for more information.


LA County Board of Supervisors to Discuss Allowing Sale of Home Cooked Meals and Present Plan for Public Feeding Ordinance January 22

Board Hearing on AB 2178- Limited service charitable feeding operations and AB 2524- Catering operation and host facility is scheduled for January 22, 2019.

Board Hearing for AB 626 – Microenterprise home kitchen operations is scheduled for February 26, 2019.

For AB 2178 and AB 2524, Board hearing will be held on Tuesday, January 22, 2019 at 9:30 a.m., in the hearing room of the Board of Supervisors, Room 381B, Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 West Temple Street (corner of Temple Street and Grand Avenue), Los Angeles, California 90012. Written comments may be sent to the Executive Office of the Board of Supervisors at Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 West Temple Street, Los Angeles, California 90012.

For AB 626, Board hearing is scheduled for February 26, 2019 at 9:30 am and same location information as above.

Hunger Action LA and its members have been involved in researching the impacts of these new ordinances. AB 626 will help people become small entrepreneurs. AB 2178 may help some nonprofits overcome bureaucracy when feeding the public, but if we are not careful it could be used as a tool to attack groups of volunteers who are feeding the homeless.

HALA recommends you to please call your County supervisors:

1st District Hilda Solis 213 974-4111
2nd District Mark Ridley-Thomas 213 974-2222
3rd District Sheila Kuehl 213 974-3333
4th District Janice Hahn 213 974-4444
5th District Kathryn Barger 213 974-5555
*We endorse the proposal for the County to implement AB 626 which will allow people to legally sell home-cooked food. There are some flaws in the law, but it is a new state law that counties can “opt in” and decide whether to implement or not. It will help people to earn money and could help us spawn the next generation of culinary champions.

*On AB 2178, we oppose any crackdown on groups feeding the homeless outdoors in public. Groups that are informal associations of volunteers fall outside the purview of the law, which is actually helpful to groups that have 501 c 3 nonprofit status and already have restaurant-grade cooking equipment. HALA is concerned that this law could be used, as similar laws in other states have been, to shut down efforts to assist the homeless or chase them into other areas. We urge the supervisors to take measures to ensure that AB 2178 is not used to go after these volunteer groups.

More information frank@hungeractionla.org


2019 is the Year of SSI Recipients in California

As you may have heard, California’s 1.3 million senior and disabled residents receiving Supplemental Security Income, and struggling below the poverty line, will finally be eligible for CalFresh food assistance beginning June 1 of 2019.

There will be a massive effort to educate recipients about their new eligibility and help facilitate enrollment. It’s projected that in LA County alone there are 160,000 eligible households.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services is looking for volunteer agencies to assist the community with completing and submitting the CalFresh application via the online application system. They provide a 2 ½ hour training, and for agencies with 10 or more people being trained they can schedule a training directly at your agency. For more information, agencies should contact Rogers Munoz at RogersMuno@dpss.lacounty.gov. Individual SSI recipients interested should contact frank@hungeractionla.org.

Agencies who work with SSI recipients who would like an “in service training on the new policy can schedule a training with Hunger Action LA. Please contact frank@hungeractionla.org.


Dollar Stores Prepare for a New “Permanent Underclass”, Fresh Food Access is More Difficult than Ever

How strong is the American economy really? In spite of jobs numbers and other data being regularly reported that hail the current times as one of the greatest booms of all time, many Americans are having to squeeze their budgets like never before, even if they’re among those working. Housing costs certainly have an impact (especially here in LA County and California generally). But there’s been phenomenal growth in chains of “Dollar Stores” such as Dollar Tree and Dollar General, who are particularly targeting low income families, people of color, and rural customers.

These stores seem to be doing a great service by supplying a place where very low income people can shop and acquire their basic needs. But there is scarcely any fresh food at the stores no fresh fruits or vegetables, nearly all canned and processed food. The growth of these outlets is

Market research consultant Kantar Retail reports that more than a third of customers at Dollar Tree and Dollar General earn $25,000 or less annually:
Washington Post: Dollar Stores Know Their Customers

Claire Kelloway reports on Eater.Com:

“Two companies, Dollar Tree (which acquired Family Dollar in 2015) and Dollar General, have expanded their footprint from just under 20,000 stores in 2010 to nearly 30,000 stores in 2018, with plans to open yet another 20,000 stores in the near future. Dollar General alone opens roughly three stores a day.”

“Most of these new stores are in urban and rural neighborhoods where residents don’t often have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2015, in fact, Dollar Tree and Dollar General represented two-thirds of all new stores in “food deserts,” defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as low-income areas where a third or more of residents live far from a full-service grocery store. Dollar General predominantly targets rural areas, though it's beginning to compete with Family Dollar, which is ubiquitous in urban food deserts. In 2015, in fact, Dollar Tree and Dollar General represented two-thirds of all new stores in “food deserts,” defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as low-income areas where a third or more of residents live far from a full-service grocery store. Dollar General predominantly targets rural areas, though its beginning to compete with Family Dollar, which is ubiquitous in urban food deserts.”

“Dollar General executives publicly described households making under $35,000 and reliant on government assistance as their “Best Friends Forever.”

Dollar Store Growth Impacts

Tulsa has become a haven for Dollar Tree and Dollar General, but activists and city council-members led by Vanessa Hall-Harper, who ran on a platform of public health and food security, have fought back with ordinances that restrict their growth. Marie Donahue and Stacy Mitchell report for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance:

https://ilsr.org/dollar-stores-target-cities-towns-one-fights-back/

“Essentially what the dollar stores are betting on in a large way is that we are going to have a permanent underclass in America,” Garrick Brown, a researcher with the commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, told Bloomberg last year.

California actually has among the fewest dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar locations per 10,000 residents, when you look at the graphic map on the ILRS article. Arkansas, LA, Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia have among the highest.

It should be noted that 99 Cents Only Stores, located mostly in Southern California with others in Arizona, Nevada and Texas, at least offers fresh fruits and vegetables. Dollar Tree and Dollar General, along with most other dollar stores, do not have those or fresh meat either. In fact, on the link below for Dollar Tree, if you put “fruit” in the search bar, the first item that comes up is toy plastic fruit.

Dollar Tree link


Exemplary And Not So Exemplary Food Policy from Around the World

This past month, the parliament in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan voted that their entire country of 6 million people will shift to 100% organic agriculture over the next ten years.
Kyrgyzstan Votes to Go 100% Organic in Ten Years

Bhutan, a tiny country in the Himalaya mountains near China and India, made a similar announcement in 2011, to phase out pesticides and chemical fertilizers by 2020
Bhutan on Track to go 100% Organic

Germany is pushing the food industry to reduce sugar, salt and fat levels in food by up to 20% over the next 10 years:
Germany Tackles Unhealthy Eating

Not all countries are interested in sustainable agriculture.
Brazil’s new right-wing leader, who praises the former military dictatorship, endorses torture and wishes that Brazil had eliminated its indigenous people with the efficiency of the U.S. Cavalry, has handed over control of lands occupied by indigenous people to the country’s Agriculture Ministry, which is controlled by agribusiness in Brazil. The protection of the Amazon rainforest is in danger
Brazil's New Government is Threat to Environment and Indigenous People



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