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Archive for the ‘Food and Nutrition’ Category

It’s time to once again cover Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap report. Feeding American, of course, is a network of over 200 food banks. They help their partners distribute 3 billion pounds of food every year.

Their annual Map the Meal Gap report examines local food insecurity trends and this year’s report reflects data from 2012. This report helps local food programs measure food insecurity within their communities, providing information on the local level and including data on every county in the U.S.

map the meal gap 2Their estimates show the food insecurity rate in the U.S. is 15.9%, down from 16.4% in last year’s report. This means 48,966,000 Americans lack the resources to consistently afford enough nutritious food to live active, healthy lives.

The report also highlights children’s hunger by measuring the child food insecurity rate, which is currently at 21.6%. The 2012 child food insecurity rate is also lower than in 2013, which was 22.4%, but still includes 15,898,999 children living with food insecurity.

For Oklahoma, Map the Meal Gap estimates food insecurity rates have remained virtually the same since last year’s report, coming in at 17.2% of the state population. This means (more…)

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School will soon be out for many Tulsa students, and for families struggling with food insecurity this can mean an added strain on the budget. To address this need, the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program provides meals during the summer break.

Nationwide, 2.28 million children participated in the program in 2012 and 39,000 sites across the country helped distribute nutritious meals to children. Participation has grown in recent years. Yet, studies estimate the program still does not reach the majority of children who qualify for assistance under the National School Lunch Program during the regular school year.

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The USDA allows for different types of eligible sites under the Summer Food Service Program. Both types of sites depend on standards for free and reduced lunches set by the National School Lunch Program. Students are eligible for free lunches if their household income is at or below 130% of the poverty level. Students from households with income between 130% and 180% of the poverty level qualify for reduced priced lunches.

Under the Summer Meal Service Program, there are “Enrolled Sites,” where each family must fill out an application and the site must (more…)

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As I write this, we are less than 3 days away from dramatic spending cuts for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Nearly 48 million Americans rely on SNAP benefits, and every one of them will see a decrease in monthly benefits beginning November 1st.

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Dottie Rosenbaum, writing for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ (CBPP) Off the Charts blog, puts the real life cost into perspective.

A household of three, such as a mother with two children, will lose $29 a month — a total of $319 for November 2013 through September 2014…That equals about 16 meals a month for a family of three based on the cost of U.S. Agriculture Department’s “Thrifty Food Plan.”

Of course, the potential for further cuts does not end at the first of November.  The much debated Farm Bill is still being considered (more…)

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Before it’s too late, I’d like to talk about National Farmers Market Week 2013, which began on August 4th and ends August 10th. Farmers markets provide a local source for fresh, nutritious food, encourage local businesses and give communities a gathering place. Pearl Farmes MarketThis is what the Pearl Farmers Market, located in Centennial Park in Tulsa, does on Thursday evenings by hosting farmers, vendors and live music from 4 to 7 p.m.

The Cherry Street Farmers Market is another well-known market in Tulsa. They operate in two locations, Cherry Street on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., and on Brookside on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. And if you can’t make it to the Pearl or Cherry Street markets, have no fear. There are plenty of other farmers markets in the area, as the Tulsa World reported on in April. The USDA also has a directory where people can search for local farmers markets all over the U.S.

Like a growing number of farmers markets, the Cherry Street Farmers Market accepts SNAP benefits. As part of their efforts to promote access to nutritious food, the USDA funded efforts to equip markets across the country with the wireless equipment necessary to take the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card used by SNAP recipients.

While not all farmers markets are equipped to take EBT payments,  (more…)

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In May I wrote about upcoming cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and said it was anyone’s guess where a compromise would leave the program. Now August is here, Congress is in recess, and still nothing has been done to stave off cuts scheduled for November; cuts that will lead to a decrease in benefits for nearly 652,000 Oklahomans.

SNAP in OklahomaFurther cuts still seem inevitable. For the first time since 1973, the House of Representatives approved a version of the Farm Bill without including provisions for SNAP benefits at all. Since then, reports say the House has begun working on a plan to propose cutting $40 Billion from SNAP. This effectively doubles the cuts they proposed in their failed attempt to pass a Farm Bill in June.

Still, the Senate has yet to act on the House’s version of the Farm Bill, so the fight is not over. However, the Food Research Action Center (FRAC) is justifiably alarmed by recent developments, seeing them as an “assault on SNAP.” Robert Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, issued a statement on the subject last Friday calling the new proposal “stunningly harsh.” And while the policy debate on further cuts goes on in Washington, the current Farm Bill is set to expire in September.

The future of SNAP is unknown, but the history of the program is not. And to fully appreciate why SNAP is a vital part of the government’s safety net, it is important to look at this issue from a historical and scientific perspective. Why do we have food programs, including SNAP, in the first place?  Why are these programs still needed today? (more…)

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It bothers me to read recent reports implying the budget sequestration has not been all that bad. While some dire consequences, such as furloughing federal prison guards, air traffic controllers and border patrol agents, have been avoided, one thing is now perfectly clear: poor and at-risk Americans are bearing the brunt of the funding cuts and there is no relief in sight. I want to link readers to a few resources that drive that point home.

Congress moved quickly to end furloughs causing delays at our nation’s airports, but there are still lines of people waiting for housing assistance, job training, or a slot for their child in a Head Start program. All of these programs offer critical services, and all suffered funding cuts due to sequestration.

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Greg Kaufman, poverty correspondent for The Nation, and Moyers & Company,  has kept a close eye on how low-income families are faring under budget cuts. Through a series called Sequester Watch, Moyers & Company has tracked the effects federal cuts are having on housing assistance, food programs for seniors, Head Start and job training programs.

I’ll list the articles and some of the interesting issues from the series here:

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Feeding America is a network of over 200 food banks. Through their efforts, 3 billion pounds of food is distributed to roughly 37 million people every year. They just released their annual report, Map the Meal Gap, which examines local food insecurity trends. Information in the 2013 report reflects data from 2011.

map the meal gapTo help local food programs measure food insecurity within their communities, Map the Meal Gap provides information on the local level, including every county in the U.S. as well as regions served by particular food banks.

Their current estimates show the food insecurity rate in the U.S. is 16.4%, or a little over 50 million Americans. The national child food insecurity rate is 22.4%, or 16,658,000 children. These numbers stand for people who lack the resources to consistently afford enough nutritious food to live active, healthy lives.

For Oklahoma the report estimates 17.2% of the state population, or approximately 653,820 individuals, struggle with food insecurity.  (For specific information on every county in Oklahoma, click here.) The statewide rate is higher than the national average, and (more…)

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