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Programs > Agriculture & Food: Focus on the Farm Bill > Food Assistance and Nutrition Programs

Food Assistance and Nutrition Programs


In 2010, nearly 50 million people lived in households that struggled to put food on the table, putting millions of families at risk of hunger and poor nutrition. It is reported that one in five children live in a household that at times ran out of food and one in four Americans participated in a federal nutrition and food program.  
 
Rural America is particularly impacted by hunger, food insecurity and high rates of poverty. Sixteen percent of people in rural communities live in poverty, a rate higher than those living in metropolitan areas. It is ironic and unacceptable that where our food is produced so many people suffer from hunger and food insecurity. The free and reduced school lunch and SNAP programs (food stamps) benefit many of these families struggling to make ends meet. 
 
Policy Priorities 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) is the first line of defense for people who do not have enough food each month. In 2011, SNAP served more than 45 million households throughout the nation. With the purchasing power of food stamp dollars decreasing and food prices rising, vulnerable people, especially children and seniors, cannot afford to have their benefits cut or reduced.  
 
As Congress debates the 2012 Farm Bill, join with us and call on your elected officials to protect, support and strengthen critical nutrition programs that serve hungry and vulnerable people. Here are the Nutrition programs to fully support:

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) feeds millions of households struggling against hunger, 76 percent include a child, senior or disabled member and 85 percent have incomes that fall below the federal poverty guideline. We urge you to oppose attempts to reduce or make other changes that would decrease critical benefits.  
 
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) helps low-income families, children and seniors struggling to make ends meet. We urge you to support TEFAP because it ensures that nutritious commodities are distributed to hungry people in communities through faith-based and charitable organizations such as churches, soup- kitchens, food pantries and shelters.  
 
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) is a vital program that primarily works to improve the health of low-income seniors, low-income pregnant and breastfeeding women, new mothers, infants and children up to age six. CSFP provides a nutritious monthly food package designed to meet specific nutritional needs and combat poor health conditions. Many of the food packages are delivered through Catholic charities and parish ministries.


Farm Bill Recommendations

The 2012 Farm Bill provides an opportunity to strengthen the food and nutrition safety net. The reauthorization should provide effective access to nutritious food for hungry and vulnerable people at home and abroad, including legal non-citizen residents.  
 
We offer the following recommendations as you consider the 2012 Farm Bill: 
 
Prevent cuts or reductions to the SNAP program. Reductions or technical changes which would result in a loss or erosion of benefits to hungry and vulnerable people must be rejected. 
 
Do not erode benefits or promote barriers to access. States should have flexibility in finding effective ways to feed hungry people and respond adequately to local needs but this should not result in a loss or a reduction in benefits, especially for children.  
 
Maintain the current entitlement structure of SNAP so that it may continue to respond to people suffering as a result of economic hardship or other unforeseen crises.  
 
Maintain “categorical eligibility” for food stamps. People who receive benefits such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) should also be able to receive food stamps to meet their needs without additional bureaucracy or paperwork. 
 
Simplify the application process to better serve working families and seniors who are underserved by the SNAP program. 
 
Review and repeal the current provisions penalizing low-income families headed by a parent with a past drug conviction.  



Catholic Experience in Nutrition Assistance

Serving hungry, poor and vulnerable people is an essential mission of our Catholic faith. As Christians, we are called to serve the “least of these” and “bring glad tidings to the poor.” In our churches, schools and charitable agencies we serve all people with compassion and respect. In following the Gospel, we serve others not because they are Catholic, but because our Catholic faith compels us to reach out and care for those in need.  
 
Through our Catholic organizations and institutions we are serving the hungry and helping the most vulnerable. For example, in Chicago there are hundreds of Catholic organizations that serve the needs of the city. One of those is Catholic Charities, which provides 2.2 million free meals to the hungry and vulnerable each year; that is 6,027 meals a day.

Many of these Catholic agencies, parishes, food pantries and schools, along with private resources, partner with government to provide food to hungry people through programs such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)
 
Today, our Catholic parishes and charities and other local agencies are experiencing significant increases in requests for food assistance due to economic hardship and occasional natural disasters. People who have lost their homes, the unemployed and working people with low wages are turning to us for help.

As this need increases, the ability of our organizations to respond becomes more challenging. In 2011, Catholic Charities USA reported that 64% of its local agencies were unable to respond to all requests for assistance in their local communities. A stronger partnership between churches, charities and government must respond effectively to rising needs.

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