Kick Hunger Challenge
Kick Hunger Challenge
The 6th Annual July $150,000 Food Shelf Challenge
Contact: Sophia Lenarz-Coy email@example.com
Despite economic improvements, the need for hunger-related help – particularly for seniors and families – remains acute throughout the state
ST. PAUL, Minn. (June 16, 2015)— At a time when many Minnesotans are enjoying picnics and backyard cookouts, thousands of families statewide are struggling to put food on the table. A new report from Hunger Solutions Minnesota, a statewide hunger relief group, highlights the need for more resources, even as the state’s overall economy continues to improve. The State of Hunger in Minnesota report details how food insecurity impacts thousands of Minnesotans. “Access to nutritious food is the most fundamental element that contributes to the success of healthy communities.” said Colleen Moriarty, executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota. “Our report shows that an increasing number people rely on hunger relief efforts to ensure they can provide consistent, nutritious meals for their families.” The report highlights a continuing need for emergency food services in Minnesota. While unemployment has stabilized, more than 9,000 people per day still rely on the state’s food shelves. Families with children accounted for more than 1.3 million Minnesota food shelf visits in 2014. Visits by seniors increased 13% over 2013. The report also explains new and high impact hunger relief solutions the organization has created to address the nutrition needs of low income Minnesotans. This includes newly passed policies in the 2015 legislative session that address hunger, these include universal free school breakfast for students K—3rd grade, $2 million grant program for expansion of Mobile Food Shelves, and $650,000 to support Healthy Eating Here at Home, a farmers market SNAP incentive program. Because June is a very busy month for emergency food services, Treasure Island Resort and Casino has stepped in to help address child hunger. All donations made to Hunger Solutions Minnesota in June will be matched up to $10,000. “Too many families struggle to provide food for their children, especially during the summer months. It doesn’t have to be that way. Treasure Island Resort & Casino and the Prairie Island Indian Community want to help make a difference by providing a $10,000 matching grant to our friends at Hunger Solutions Minnesota,” said Bryan Prettyman, director of marketing of Treasure Island Resort and Casino. “This grant will double all the donations that are made during June. Every dollar makes a difference in the fight to end childhood hunger here in our backyard.” Read the full State of Hunger in Minnesota report and learn how to take action to fight hunger at www.hungersolutions.org.
Your gift doubles this month.
Donate & Share your favorite food memory.
Enjoyment of food is such a social activity and it has a great way of bringing people together. Ironically, I first started enjoying cooking when I lived alone a few years after college. I kept myself on a pretty strict food budget, giving me appreciation for what those with lesser means have. I’ve seen first hand what people who can’t afford food go
through. I’ve been delivering Thanksgiving meals to those less fortunate for more than 25 years. It is such a humbling experience and is something I want to share with my kids someday. Being able to share my love of food with others is something I do every day of my life and I feel grateful to be a chef. That is the reason I chose to be a part of Hunger Solutions efforts to end hunger in Minnesota. – Chef Ryan Hoffman
Veterans face losing SNAP benefits
Politico – 4/30/15
by Bill Tomson
With unemployment lower than it has been in seven years, federal lawmakers are looking forward to the end of a waiver that gave single adults long-term access to food stamps even if they weren’t working.
When the waiver expires at the end of 2015, an estimated 1 million people – able-bodied adults without dependents, or ABAWDs – will once again be limited to three months of assistance. The rollback could mean a savings of hundreds of millions of dollars in a program that has long been a target of conservatives.
But 60,000 of those people are believed to be military veterans, many of whom struggle to find work even in a better job market, and that concerns veterans advocates and some members of Congress.
“The idea that we would say to a veteran, ‘Thank you for your service to our country, but we don’t give a damn if you lose your SNAP benefit and can’t put food on the table’ … is unconscionable,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat and a longtime and vocal supporter of the SNAP program.
“Congress likes to get up and give patriotic speeches … but at this moment tens of thousands of veterans may lose their food [assistance], and there are a lot of members of Congress missing in action.”
The three-month limit is especially difficult for veterans, who often face more hurdles in transitioning into civilian life than non-veterans looking for employment.
Veterans aren’t always aware of what’s facing them when they come out, said Jeffrey Cathey, a retired Navy captain and head of Bank of America’s Military Affairs team, which focuses on hiring veterans and supporting military personnel. The bank recently hired two veteran snipers, and the transition to corporate life was more complicated than just finding them cubicles, Cathey said.
“It’s a whole new world for them,” he said. “Veterans themselves often don’t realize they have skills that can be very valuable,” he said. “It’s worth it to us to take the time to help them transition.”
And a lot of the veterans, especially the younger ones returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, are in particular need of help, McGovern added.
But the food stamp program has been a favorite target for some lawmakers in recent years. They point to the growing cost of the program, which now serves about 47 million Americans, as an example of federal spending run amok. Federal spending on SNAP rose from $17 billion 2000 to $74 billion in 2014, according to USDA data.
During negotiations over the 2014 farm bill, efforts were made to cut as much as $40 billion out of SNAP over a 10-year period. Half of the reduction would have come from eliminating state waivers for ABAWDs. Lawmakers pushed back on the cut and got it reduced significantly, fearing it would result in the collapse of the entire farm bill and its billions of dollars in subsidies, crop insurance and conservation programs for farmers.
But the focus on SNAP has not relented. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway has called for a two-year “full-scale review” of the program, simultaneously drawing attention to “a new group of healthy, working age recipients” who previously did not rely on SNAP.
In one of the first hearings called by Conaway’s committee in the 114th Congress, Rep. David Rouzer, a freshman Republican from North Carolina, expressed frustrations with the food stamp program. He recounted how one of his constituents was angry that he had to work for his groceries while “those who have not contributed quite as much to society … they’re getting everything.”
The majority of food stamp recipients are employed, however. Fifty-eight percent of all households on food stamps with at least one working-age non-disabled adult were home to at least one person with a job during the prior month, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal nonprofit, and 87 percent were employed during the prior year. The percentages were higher if the households had children.
Seven years ago, millions of Americans were losing their jobs and staying unemployed while hiring had virtually frozen at the height of the last recession. Congress acted by approving legislation to extend unemployment insurance.
It was USDA that interpreted the Unemployment Compensation Act of 2008 to allow states to lift the three-month SNAP limit for unemployed ABAWDs. According to USDA, states could get a waiver for the restriction by showing unemployment rates of more than 6 percent. Previously, states would have to reach a much higher bar by showing unemployment rates were 20 percent higher than the national average in order to allow ABAWDs to receive SNAP.
As a result 28 states and Washington, D.C., qualified to waive the employment condition for childless adults to get SNAP. Before the law was in place, only five states – Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oregon and South Carolina – and D.C. qualified, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which often advises state governments on SNAP issues.
Now the reverse is expected to happen on Dec. 31, when the waivers are no longer easy for states to get. The number of states with full waivers is expected to drop to just four or five, causing about 1 million people to lose their SNAP benefits.
Meanwhile, some states have started paring down their SNAP rolls in advance of the Dec. 31 expiration date.
Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s governor and an expected Republican presidential hopeful, elected to begin the process of reimposing the three-month limit on food stamp benefits as a trial run for three counties more than a year ago. Walker expanded his effort to remove ABAWDs off FoodShare – what Wisconsin calls its SNAP program – statewide on April 1.
State FoodShare officials confirmed that although 700 people in the three-county pilot program did lose their SNAP benefits, 259 also gained employment and either kept the food stamps or no longer needed them as a result of a new employment and training program.
Laurel Patrick, a spokeswoman for Walker, stressed that Wisconsin residents aren’t simply being kicked out of SNAP without some assistance. Rather, the state will spend $37 million from 2015 through 2017 on employment training programs.
“No one will be kicked off the FoodShare program if they are actively participating in the FoodShare Employment and Training program or meeting the work requirement,” Patrick said.
“Gov. Walker is committed to helping Wisconsin residents move from dependence on government programs to the independence and dignity that comes with working hard to build a prosperous future of their own choosing,” Claire Yunker, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, explained further.
“The Governor’s FoodShare Employment and Training program reforms help FoodShare members, especially adults ages 19-49 with no minor children living in their home, to transition to the workforce by increasing opportunities for education, vocational training and active engagement in the workforce.”
The governor also laid out a plan during his 2014 reelection bid to begin drug-testing ABAWDs as a prerequisite to getting the benefits. Following up on Walker’s plan, 17 members of the Wisconsin State Assembly introduced a bill last week that would require drug testing for ABAWDs that participate in employment training programs that allow them to continue collecting SNAP benefits in lieu of a job.
Wisconsin is not alone. Indiana will also begin requiring, on July 1, that ABAWDs find employment or enter a job training program to keep their food stamps for more than three months. Ohio cut its waiver for all but 16 of its 88 counties in 2013, and Maine ended its waiver statewide in October 2014.
Conaway said he is taking an active interest in what happens in the states that have elected to kick ABAWDs out of SNAP early.
“We’ll watch and see what happens in those states where they let those waivers expire,” the Texas Republican told POLITICO. “If [states] no longer qualify, they shouldn’t get the waiver and we’ll see what impact that has on folks that had previously been on [SNAP] under the waiver. Once they get past the three months, do they then go to work?”
But reentering the labor force can be daunting, especially for some military veterans returning from years of service, sometimes in violent and bloody combat situations.
It’s why Rep. Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat, believes that, while ABAWD waivers should be abolished, an exception should be made for veterans. Conaway said he is similarly concerned about how the expiration of SNAP waivers will hit veterans.
The coming cut to SNAP will hit veterans hard, said retired Army Col. Ben Margolius, who runs the Southern Tier Veterans Support Group in upstate New York.
“It ain’t much,” Margolius said, referring to the average $127.73 received by SNAP beneficiaries on a monthly basis, “but it’s something. “We’re getting calls every day from veterans for help getting a job or getting food, some just returning from Afghanistan or Iraq.”
About 21 million veterans in America make up roughly 9 percent of the adult population, according to Labor Department data. While unemployment for veterans of all ages – estimated in 2014 to be 5.3 percent – is below the overall U.S. level, the rate shoots up to 7.2 percent for those who served on active duty after September 2011.
About 25 percent of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan report problems being able to feed themselves or their families, according to a 2015 study published in Public Health Nutrition. An average of 900,000 veterans use SNAP in any given month, nationwide, according to a separate study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Every time SNAP benefits are squeezed in the United States, Rich Synek said he sees more veterans line up at the two New York food pantries he runs. It was particularly bad after SNAP benefits were cut across America on Nov. 1, 2013, said the founder of the group Feed Our Vets, also a retired postmaster-general. Congress had boosted the benefits when it passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, but the bill expired four years later.
“If it wasn’t for SNAP, I wouldn’t make it,” said Rodney Yearby, a retired staff sergeant in New York.
Yearby, who served in the Air Force for 12 years and suffered a head injury after leaving in 1996, said he gets $165 per month in SNAP benefits. Feed our Vets helped him sign up for SNAP, find a place to live and apply for assistance from the federal Supplemental Security Income program.
It can be easy to overlook veterans, said Bank of America’s Cathey.
“They’re not really that well known in the communities,” he said. “People say ‘support the vets’ and ‘thank the troops’ and stuff like that, but the touch points aren’t there like they used to be and so people don’t really know.”
JOBS NOW Coalition
Job Vacancy FACT SHEET—April 2015
Part-Time Job Openings Up 70 Percent in Greater Minnesota
In Greater Minnesota there are 48,000 job seekers competing for 40,000 job openings, according to the latest Job Vacancy Survey from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).* The 1.2-to-1 ratio of job seekers to job openings is the best since DEED first did the survey in 2001.**
Most of the increase in Greater Minnesota openings is driven by a big jump in part-time, low-wage openings. Over the last year, part-time openings rose by 70 percent.
A quarter of all openings are in the two occupations with the lowest wages—food preparation and serving, and sales. There’s no evidence that growth in these occupations has been adversely affected by the increase in the state minimum wage. For example:
Other findings for Greater Minnesota include:
According to DEED’s Cost of Living in Minnesota research, a family-supporting wage for the five planning regions in Greater Minnesota ranges from $13.25 to $16.00 per hour. **** To see the updated research by planning region, use DEED’s Cost of Living Calculator at http://mn.gov/deed/data /data-tools/col/index.jsp
Questions? Contact Kevin Ristau at 651-290-0240 or firstname.lastname@example.org
* Greater Minnesota consists of all the state’s planning regions, excluding the seven-county metro region.
** Figures for job seekers and job openings are from fourth quarter 2014. https://apps.deed.state.mn.us/lmi/jvs/ChooseAreaMap.aspx
*** A median is a midway point; half of the jobs are above it, half below.
**** The average Minnesota family size is three persons; the average workweek is 33.7 hours. Partnered, 1 full-time and 1 part-time worker, 1 child, provides a standard yearly cost and hourly wage needed for a typical family, regardless of how the weekly work hours are distributed between the two adults.
Because of dramatic shifts in nutrition policy, last year SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) benefits decreased and thousands lost their eligibility. Currently in Minnesota, each of the 495,000 SNAP recipients receives $1.24 per meal (Minnesota Department of Human Services). This is down from $1.32 in 2013. Also, in the fall of 2013, Minnesota lost the federal waiver to enroll able bodied adults without dependents between ages 18-50 in SNAP for longer than three months. When this waiver expired, 89,000 individuals lost their SNAP benefits, more than twice as many as forecasted. Many have turned to the strapped network of community based food shelves for service as a replacement.