News Update July 16th 2018

July 16, 2018,  HALA thanks you all for participating in Give65, a nationwide crowdfunding campaign for programs benefitting seniors. Funds for HALA will go directly to the Senior Market Match program. You can still contribute through the “regular” channel at www.hungeractionla.org/donate. More than ever we need this program to tide over the needs of seniors getting SSI as it will be one more year before they can apply for CalFresh.

We also thank the volunteers and shoppers for the Blind Low Vision Program who came out to Crenshaw Farmers Market this past Saturday!

*Peoples Guides are available in English and Spanish. Place your order at www.hungeractionla.org/peoplesguide

  1. 1. Hunger Action LA Sponsoring Forum on Current Hunger and Housing Issues, Tuesday July 31 6:30 pm to 8 pm
  2. 2. Farm Bill Update: Senate Passes Its Version of Farm Bill: Next Step is Conference Committee
  3. 3. US Threatens Countries Over Support for Breastfeeding
  4. 4. California Avoids Disaster on EBT at Farmers Markets Issue

1. Hunger Action LA Sponsoring Forum on Current Hunger and Housing Issues, Tuesday July 31 6:30 pm to 8 pm

Access to sufficient and healthy food, and keeping a roof over your head in one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S are always issues in flux. So many things are happening locally, statewide and federally now and in the next few months that we want to get everyone together to share what we know and what we ought to do. Please join us:

When: Tuesday July 31, 6:30 pm to 8 pm

Where: St. Mary’s Church, entrance to Parish Hall on 960 S Normandie

What: A variety of special guests will share information and action items on:

    • Prop 10: The initiative that would allow us to re-establish rent control in our communities
    • The Farm Bill: proposed changes to the SNAP program that could affect over a million people in LA County
    • Changes to SSI/SSP in California that will allow recipients to get food assistance next year

Please RSVP to info@hungeractionla.org. Light refreshments will be served. Please note: We have a big parking lot but there won’t be any spaces available ---basketball practice. Please try to take public transportation, carpool and look for nearby street parking.


2. Farm Bill Update: Senate Passes Its Version of Farm Bill: Next Step is Conference Committee

The Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill on June 28, by a wide margin of 86 to 11. Their version of this every-five-years, broad legislative package that includes farm payments and nutrition assistance contains no massive cuts to the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or “food stamps”), unlike the House of Representatives version that features new work requirements designed to boot people off the rolls. SNAP already has work requirements for able-bodied adults with no dependents, up to age 50, but the new work requirements would have included people with kids and people up to age 60.

The next phase of the Farm Bill will be a Conference Committee, to either reconcile the House and Senate versions (or, another possibility is that one of those bills will be rejected). Farmers are anxiously awaiting passage by the fall, as the farm payment and crop insurance sections help them determine what to plant.

 

Politico reports in Morning Ag: “The House could take an important step in moving farm bill talks forward next week by voting on a motion to proceed to conference — but Thursday (July 12) provided the latest indication that bad blood between House ag leaders is one of the many issues yet to be sorted out in the coming weeks.

House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) met Wednesday for the first time in eight weeks, according to Peterson. Their relationship burst into flames over the House bill's proposed changes to the food stamps program, which Democrats insist is a nonstarter. Peterson has vowed to team up with his Senate counterparts — Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) — during conference negotiations despite misgivings about some parts of their bill. Both Roberts and Stabenow have drawn a hard line in the sand that they won't play ball with any significant adjustments to SNAP beyond what they try to accomplish in their version (which mainly focuses on combating fraud within the program).”

 

You can call your Representatives now and urge them to “Reject the House Farm Bill and Protect SNAP” Call 202 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your congressional representative.  If you know who your representative is, you can ask to be connected directly. If you are not sure, you will be asked to provide your zip code and in many cases be given a choice of a couple of representatives, since zip codes overlap. Numerous websites can help you find out who your rep is: try https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative


3. US Threatens Countries Over Support for Breastfeeding

You probably heard this story last week:

“The United States threatened nations in an effort to blunt a World Health Assembly resolution supporting breastfeeding this spring, The New York Times reported Sunday. The US delegation worked hard, but largely unsuccessfully, to water down a resolution recognizing the importance of breastfeeding for infants and working against misleading attempts to sell substitutes for a mother's milk, the Times reported, citing more than a dozen participants from various countries, many of whom requested anonymity for fear of US retaliation.”

US Threatens Nations Over Breastfeeding Resolution

There is a long history of the pharmaceutical industry, which creates infant formula, aggressively promoting its products in developing countries, including giving them away to new mothers in hospitals and then reaping the financial benefits of having created permanent customers.

Clearly, a lot of women can’t breastfeed for any number of reasons and people shouldn’t be stigmatized for either breastfeeding or not. But the US position was highly suspect given the formula industry’s position on the matter.

The President angrily disavowed the story, tweeting that “The failing NY Times Fake News story today about breastfeeding must be called out. The U.S. strongly supports breastfeeding but we don't believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty.” However, the fact is, the US delegation to the World Health Assembly did successfully remove a portion of the resolution that called for “technical support for nations seeking to stop the inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children”. That means the US is totally green light, thumbs up on formula companies using any means necessary to make money and isn’t in favor of international bodies lifting a finger to help those countries that want to curb their practices.


4. California Avoids Disaster on EBT at Farmers Markets Issue

Bring EBT to your local Farmers Market

Thanks to a bureaucratic snafu, across the US hundreds of farmers markets won’t be able to accept SNAP (EBT) benefits after July 31. California thankfully will not be affected. But it is a tragedy for many other states including New York, Massachusetts and Texas, hitting right at the height of the farmers market season, and affecting many markets that in addition to accepting SNAP, provide a bonus (like our Market Match program here in California.)

Hundreds of Farmers Markets Will Lose Access to SNAP: California Not Affected

So why isn’t California affected: The problem arose when the US Department of Agriculture, in charge of SNAP, canceled its contract last fall with a company called Novo Dia to provide hardware and software to accept EBT at a low cost or free for farmers markets. This initiative wasn’t necessary for markets in California since our state provides portable EBT point of sale devices mostly for free to participating markets. In other states though, Novo Dia was a godsend, supplying IPads and software to hundreds of markets. When the USDA canceled its contract in the fall, Novo Dia slowly began going out of business due to no new orders from USDA, and say that they never heard from the company that was supposed to take over the contract. Now, Novo Dia says it will shut down on July 31, and the new company, Financial Transaction Management, is not ready to begin taking over the job.

While the whole issue is based on bureaucratic bungles and lack of communication rather than anti-SNAP policies,   there’s something fishy about the new contractor:

“according to publicly available documents, Financial Transaction Management was established in 2017, just a few months before winning the $1.3 million contract. It does not appear to have any experience administering government benefits, had no revenue before submitting its bid and had just one employee. The Virginia address listed in its paperwork is the same as that of a “virtual office” service.”

…which sounds awfully familiar and Trumpesque (remember the one-person firm hired to supply meals to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria?).

There’s some hope for our friends in other states—Massachusetts and New York government officials including Governor Cuomo of New York are scrambling for solutions—but we’re living in really messed up times, when even supposedly universally loved initiatives like SNAP at farmers markets and bipartisan support for breastfeeding encounter obstacles whether ideological or due to incompetence.



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