News Update September 6th 2018

September 6th, 2018

Peoples Guide Order: The 2018 Peoples Guide is HERE! Place your order now at info@hungeractionla.org or at our Online Store. The Guide is $1.25 per copy and one copy free for low income persons. Inquire at info@hungeractionla.org for pricing on large bulk orders. What is the Peoples Guide? Check out the PDF at Peoples Guide 2018 and find more info at www.hungeractionla.org/peoplesguide.

September 2018: While we in California are rejoicing over the news that over a million SSI recipients (seniors and disabled) will finally be eligible for CalFresh next year, threats to the program nationally exist in the form of the Farm Bill, which the House of Representatives have loaded down with work requirements in order to cut $20 billion from the program. Meanwhile, on the state level, the most fundamental food assistance — people voluntarily taking food to the poor and homeless — is threatened by a well intentioned bill that would actually make people register and pay fees in order to participate in this giving.

  1. Call Governor to Veto AB 2178
  2. Farm Bill Conference Committee Begins

1. Call Governor to Veto AB 2178

Call the Governor’s office at 916 445 2841 and ask that AB 2178 be vetoed. After pressing the language selection you can press 6 to speak to a representative.

What's it all about:

Nobody is in favor of unsafe food. We have health regulations for a good reason. But a new bill that’s ostensibly about food safety unfortunately presents an opportunity for people who don’t like the sight of homeless folks to shut down their access to meals prepared by community volunteers.

AB 2178 has passed the Assembly and Senate and is now headed to Governor Brown for signature. This bill goes through lengthy and confusing definitions of “charitable feeding operation” before stating that these operations (which include among others, groups of volunteers sharing prepared food with people in the public, such as homeless folks in a park or on the street) are required to register with the local enforcement agency (which would be the Dept. of Environmental Health of the particular county.)

The fiscal analysis for the bill indicates that this health department would be able to charge a fee to the group for registration. The end result is that groups of neighbors and volunteers, deciding of their own free will to share food with the poor and homeless, could be shut down, arrested and charged with a crime for their charitable actions.

There’s been no reports of outbreaks of food borne illnesses from groups feeding people on the street. On the other hand, all across the United States, food safety regulations and permit requirements have been used to pass strict ordinances against feeding the homeless in public, in over 50 cities, and publicity has surrounded the arrest of people including a 90 year old man in Jacksonville, Florida, and the arrest of people closer to us in San Diego County for feeding the homeless.

The authors of AB 2178 say they are trying to actually increase the amount of surplus food that is shared instead of wasted. While their intentions are good, this bill can easily be weaponized by people who are against shelters, public feeding, or any other manifestation of good will toward the homeless, and we can see programs getting shut down and cutting off the only access to food that many people have, practically. There is the CalFresh program, but it’s only in certain counties that CalFresh can be used for prepared food (which is costly at any rate). Undocumented folks can’t get CalFresh. So for homeless people, the undocumented, and those with no cooking facilities, or who have run out of CalFresh, there is no way to get prepared meals save through the actions of these volunteers.

Call the Governor’s office at 916 445 2841 and ask that AB 2178 be vetoed. After pressing the language selection you can press 6 to speak to a representative.

You can use these talking points:

This bill is potentially a weapon for those who want to erase the homeless from the streets and punish people who are helping the homeless.

  • Volunteer groups feeding the homeless do not have the time to register with a local enforcement agency, nor pay the fees that are allowed by this bill. Adding a layer of bureaucracy on to the activities of these groups will eventually result in them shutting down altogether, choking off one other non-governmental outlet for the hungry and increasing government burden further.
  • Volunteer groups feeding the poor and homeless pose little food safety risk. There has never been a report of food poisoning or other illness due to their activity. These groups have operated for decades.
  • These groups already follow strong private food safety practices. They are operated by people who are enthusiastic about cooking and food service because they know how to do it. They know to keep food at the proper temperature and to handle it with proper accessories (gloves), storage and transport equipment.
  • These groups are filling a critical gap, and criminalizing their volunteerism will only add to the misery that the state itself is struggling to find the resources to address. Volunteer groups that cook and provide nutritious meals would be sorely missed and not replaced in the community if they were eliminated by force of a new law based on the current version of AB 2178. We need MORE help for the homeless, not restrictions on kinds of help based on the fact that they come from “unregistered” sources.

More info or help with sample emails and phone scripts: info@hungeractionla.org

2. Farm Bill Conference Committee Begins

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have begun their conference committee to reconcile the two different visions each has of the Farm Bill, the omnibus legislation that authorizes certain farm payments and policies as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which helps feed 43 million or so Americans. And there were no surprises in the introductory remarks made by committee members when the committee began its proceedings on Wednesday (September 5.)

Several Republican House members, whose chamber had voted for $20 billion to be slashed from food assistance to the poor, insisted that the harsh work requirements they proposed weren’t aimed at the vulnerable, or seniors, but instead at employable adults. They pointed to the current low unemployment rates and made comments to the effect of “hardworking taxpaying Americans don’t want to pay for someone to get food stamps while sitting around watching Sports Center all day.”

What the comment misses, (apart from the fact that Sports Center is the weakest of all of ESPN’s programming) is the fact that jobs available don’t translate into jobs for the currently unemployed. If there are 500 job openings for teachers, people in I.T., and medical professionals, this doesn’t help you if you are a welder.

It also misses the fact that the vast majority of the 40+ million Americans getting food aid are working. One of the commentators mourned the fact that the unemployment rate is between 3 and 4 %, similar to a point in the 1990's, and yet twice as many people are getting SNAP. What is not reflected is that people are working at a lot of part time and temporary jobs, and that expenses have outpaced income and so many people are working yet still need food help.

There will need to be some compromise between the greatly expanded work requirements in the House version, which narrowly passed, and the Senate version which left the current work requirements intact and passed with broad support. President Trump weighed in with a tweet saying “Pass the Farm Bill with SNAP work requirements” and was echoed by tweets from Pence and from Paul Ryan, predictably (Ryan being the guru of adding more work requirements in assistance programs to the point of obsession).

House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway and ranking Democrat Collin Peterson said they have just over a week to reach a deal to meet the Sept. 30 deadline to pass the Farm Bill . If the deadline is missed, the provisions of the current Farm Bill will be extended.

Stay tuned for more news and alerts on the Farm Bill. The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) has many resources. You can even watch the whole web-cast of the public meeting that opened the conference committee on Sept. 5th, as well as get sample tweets. See http://frac.org/action/snap-farm-bill


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