Hunger and Nutrition
The issue of food insecurity is a very real issue that has a significant impact on people’s livelihood all across America. America is one of the wealthiest counties in the world with our agricultural industries competing on the world stage to bring in billions of dollars into our domestic economy. Yet, hunger has remained a domestic problem for far too long.
Critical federal programs like the Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) play a major role in combating food insecurity in America. Unfortunately, existing federal programs are not enough to address the growing number Americans that struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) & the Farm Bill:
SNAP, is is a national anti-hunger initiative used to reduce food insecurity through America. As of February, a total of 1,834,577 Michigan residents were in the program, or 19 percent of the state’s population.
- Nearly 61% of SNAP participants are in families with children
- 92% of nutritional assistance programs aid seniors, disabled, and children with working parents.
- About a 1/3 of SNAP participants are working families
- 83% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100 percent of the poverty guideline (that comes to $19,530 for a family of three in 2013)
In 2013, the Republican controlled House of Representatives passed for the first time, a Farm Bill that did not reauthorize the SNAP program. When the House did bring a bill to the floor that included the SNAP program, the legislation would have slashed SNAP benefits by $40 billion - a severe cut that would result in an estimated 3.8 million Americans being thrown off the program. 47.3 million Americans enrolled monthly in the SNAP program go to work every day, raise their kids and live productive lives and yet are still unable to scrape enough together to provide food for an entire month.
Economists have found that SNAP is one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus, especially in a weak economy. According to a Moody Analytics study, every dollar increase in SNAP benefits generates $1.72 in economic activity.
During the same time the Senate passed a bill that would make roughly $4 billion in cuts to SNAP. With both Houses of Congress passing very different versions of the Farm Bill, where SNAP is funded, forty-one members from the House and Senate were appointed to a conference committee to work out all the differences between the two bills, and come up with a final version. I was selected to serve as one of the House negotiators.
- House GOP Votes to Nix Nutrition Title of Farm Bill
- Farm Bill Implodes on House Floor
- Letter Rejecting Rep. King's Farm Bill Provisions
- Levin Statement at Farm Bill Conference Committee Meeting
- Letter Supporting Senate Funding Levels to SNAP
To highlight the significance of the program and the misguided attempt to derail it, Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter and Macomb Commissioner Toni Moceri and I took the “SNAP Challenge” for 1 week, living off of $4.50 a day. This Challenge gave us a view of the struggle that millions of low-income Americans face as they try to obtain adequate food. The goal of this challenge is to force participants to make food shopping choices on a limited budget, and learn how difficult it is to avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy without adequate resources. While living on a food stamp budget for just a week cannot come close to the struggles encountered by low-income families week after week and month after month, it does provide those who take the Challenge with a new perspective and greater understanding of this vital program.
- Think food aid should be cut? Try living on so little yourself
- Food stamp users rely on a strong safety net
- Congressman Sandy Levin Learns to Live on $31.50-a-Week Food Stamp
- Congressman Sander Levin to live on $31 food budget for a week
Commodity Supplemental Food Assistance Program (CSFP):
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program is a Federally funded program, which works to improve the health of low-income pregnant and breastfeeding women, other new mothers up to one year postpartum, infants, children up to age six, and elderly people at least 60 years of age by supplementing their diets with nutritious USDA foods. USDA purchases food and makes it available to CSFP state agencies and Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs). Ninety-seven percent of all CSFP recipients are seniors with income levels at or below $14,521. CSFP is often a program of last resort for seniors who qualify for no other form of nutrition assistance.
- Letter from the National CSFP Association regarding Congressman Levin's Leadership on CSFP
- Letter supporting CSRP funding for 2015
Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA):
The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act authorizes funding for all of the federal child nutrition programs including the School Breakfast, National School Lunch, Child and Adult Care Food, Summer Food Service, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs and WIC. These programs provide funding to ensure that low-income children have access to healthy food. More than 31 million children that rely on school meals through the school lunch program and many, if not all, receive most of their daily meals in school. 17 million children are living in food insecure households and one out of every three children in America now considered overweight, therefore schools often are on the front lines of our national challenge to combat childhood obesity and improve children’s overall health. Federal nutrition programs need to do their part to raise and sustain nutritional standards.
With the HHFKA set to expire on September 30, 2015, this is an opportune time for Congress to further strengthen programs and address more effectively the needs of our nation’s children and young adults.
Food Donation Deduction Bill:
With an increase in demand for emergency food assistance, food banks have reported a higher demand for food that is expected to remain high as food prices and energy costs continue to rise, and should unemployment continue at its current levels.
Unfortunately, decreased donations and funding resources have left food banks and the struggling Americans they serve facing a perfect storm of rising need and diminished resources. Hunger is increasing in the United States at the same time that the USDA estimates that more than 70 billion pounds of food each year is being thrown away and filling landfills.
Congress can act to make sure help incentivize local businesses donate healthy foods to people in need. Under current law, businesses that donate food inventory to charity are eligible for a special deduction. Unfortunately, the eligibility of businesses that are not C corporations, including farmers and ranchers, expired at the end of 2013. The restaurant industry alone has increased food donation by 137% in pounds of food donated as a result of this critical tax provision. I have introduced legislation to permanently extend these critical expansions as a needed step in fighting against hunger in America.
Local Hunger and Nutrition Resources:
The following food banks serve Macomb and Oakland County. You can help by donating food directly or by making a monetary contribution. In addition, they are all looking for volunteers to help sort the food once it’s been collected, so please consider volunteering your time.
Gleaners Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan
Detroit, MI 48207
21800 Greenfield Road
Oak Park, MI 48237
Macomb Food Program
21885 Dunham Road
VerKuilen Building, Suite #10
Clinton Township, MI 48036
33222 Groesbeck Hwy
Fraser, MI 48026