Federal assistance programs are especially critical for the disabled community

Federal assistance programs are especially critical for the disabled community

1 in 5 SNAP households has a member with disabilities

By Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, Volunteer & Intake Support

Despite assistance programs for disabled individuals, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), they are more likely to experience food insecurity than their able-bodied peers. Strikingly, 1 in 5 SNAP households have at least one disabled member.

Studies show that poverty rates are high among disabled Americans. In 2019, the poverty rate for this population was nearly 27%, which was more than twice the rate for able-bodied individuals.

Disabled people also may have difficulties accessing charitable food assistance, including transportation barriers, trouble preparing food received from a pantry, and inaccessible food distribution measures. This can be largely impacted by the type of disability they are living with.

One study from Syracuse University identifies work-limiting disability, physical limitations, and cognitive limitations all increase the risk of food insecurity in their own unique ways.

Those with work-limiting disabilities can use their work history to lean on federal programs like SSDI and SSI. Physical limitations may require more support from community resources like home delivery programs or transportation providers, as their independence may be hindered due to mobility difficulties.

Currently, there are no social programs that address the food needs of those living with cognitive limitations. Memory loss, confusion, and trouble managing money significantly raise the risk of food insecurity in this population.

Federal regulation requires The Foodbank and our partner agencies to ensure equal access for our disabled clients. We also host twice-weekly drive-thru food distributions, which may be a good fit for individuals with mobility issues. 

Despite these accommodations, federal programming, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are especially critical for this population. SNAP allows recipients to purchase food on their own schedule and according to their own preferences or health-related dietary concerns.

It is also worthy to note that food insecurity, for disabled and able-bodied people alike, is a public health issue. One study found that disabled individuals who also experienced food insecurity were more likely to report poor physical health, poor mental health, and underutilization of health care services.

 

SNAP: Strengths and Limitations

SNAP currently includes measures that support individuals experiencing food insecurity. People who qualify for SSI or SSDI automatically qualify for SNAP benefits as well. 

However, not everyone who qualifies for this program receives these benefits. Research indicates that only 68% of people who receive SSI also receive SNAP benefits. The application process for SNAP can be a barrier for this population.

The Foodbank conducts SNAP application assistance to help streamline the process and pre-screen clients for eligibility. Those interested in applying for SNAP are encouraged to call our hotline at 937-476-1486 or fill out the online interest form here

While organizations like The Foodbank that conduct SNAP outreach can help more people access these benefits, simpler solutions exist. Some states have implemented Combined Application Projects (CAP), which help people apply for both SSI and SNAP at the same time. 

Disabled individuals who receive SNAP benefits, or who are 60 years or older, are also able to deduct out-of-pocket medical expenses over $35 from their countable income, which can help them qualify for a higher SNAP benefit. However, this deduction is underutilized: only 9 percent of SNAP households with disabled members claimed this deduction.

According to the Food Research Access Center, there are two major ways this issue can be addressed. One is for organizations serving disabled individuals to conduct outreach to increase awareness of the deduction, and another is for states to implement a Standard Medical Deduction (SMD). 

The SMD provides a standardized amount to individuals who are able to verify expenses over $35 per month. This amount varies based on which state has implemented the policy. The SMD also prevents recipients from having to track every medical expense that may qualify for the deduction, which can be burdensome.

Disabled people and able-bodied people alike can also benefit from the same improvements to SNAP. These include measures that simplify application and recertification processes, provide greater access to prepared foods, and increased benefit payments.

To learn more about how federal food programs can be more inclusive for disabled people, visit Feeding America’s resource here.

 


Three updates to federal nutrition programs for children

Three updates to federal nutrition programs for children

Everything you need to know about changes to P-EBT, student lunches, and summer meals

By Emily Gallion, Grant & Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, Volunteer & Intake Specialist

In recent months, the United States Department of Agriculture has announced several extensions to temporary provisions to serve children during the pandemic. These include policies related to The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT), the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

Here’s what you need to know about eligibility to these programs:

  1. P-EBT extended through summer

The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT), which provides additional funds for qualifying families with children, has been extended through summer 2021.

Families who qualify will receive two payments of $375 in benefits for each child. Families already enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or P-EBT should have received their benefits on their existing card June 30. First-time recipients should receive a new card mid-July.

There is no application process for this program. If you believe you qualify and have not received additional funds, call the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services Hotline at 1-866-244-0071.

Children who meet any of the following criteria will qualify for the additional summer benefits:

  • Children eligible for free or reduced cost meals at school
  • Children who attend a school where every child receives free meals
  • Children under the age of six in SNAP households

Receiving P-EBT benefits will not impact your immigration status. As of April 2021, the public charge rule — which barred visa applicants determined at risk of becoming dependent on government assistance — is no longer in effect.

For more information on P-EBT, visit http://ohiopebt.org/.

 

2. National school lunch program to include all students next school year

The Ohio Department of Education received approval from the United States Department of Agriculture to offer free lunch and free breakfast to all students at schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) for the 2021-2022 school year.

To see if your school district participates in the NSLP, you can search this database here: http://ohiopebt.org/NSLP.php.

We are pleased to see this step towards ensuring that every child has enough to eat while at school. Students who experience food insecurity are more likely to experience other challenges, including attendance issues, worse educational outcomes, and poor physical and mental health.

Making school lunches free for all students eliminates the burden of applying, which can be a barrier for low-income households. It also addresses the issue of student lunch debt and the issue of “lunch shaming,” when students are given alternate meals or otherwise singled out for not having lunch money.

School lunches provide important nutritional support to all students. One study released this year found that schools were the single greatest source of healthy meals for children.

 

3. Summer meal waivers extended

The USDA has extended waivers to the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) that allow for more flexibility at sites.

This program, which provides free healthy meals in low-income areas during summer months, was designed to prevent children and teens from going hungry when school is not in session. These sites serve anyone 18 and younger.

The waivers include:

  • Meals can be picked up or delivered, rather than being eaten on-site
  • Meals may be served outside standard times
  • Parents and guardians are allowed to pick up meals on behalf of their children
  • Waives the requirement that “open sites” be located in areas where at least half of children are in low-income households.

To find a summer meal site near you, use this search tool.

 


Pride Month: Highlighting hunger in LGBT households

 Pride Month: Highlighting hunger in LGBT households

LGBT individuals face elevated rates of food insecurity compared to their straight and cisgender peers.

By Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, Volunteer Support and Intake

June is Pride month, where we celebrate the LGBT community and the freedom to live life unapologetically yourself. The Foodbank values all people without judgement, and we are committed to advocacy work that strives to provide everyone with a healthy, happy, just, and safe life. 

Many efforts have been made towards equality for the LGBT community, but there is still a long way to go. Like most marginalized communities, LGBT individuals are disproportionately affected by food insecurity. 

One study by the Williams Institute found that 27% of LGBT individuals experienced food insecurity the previous year, compared to 17% of their straight and cisgender (the term used to describe people who are not trans) peers. Strikingly, 18% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual  individuals surveyed reported that they or someone in their family went without food for an entire day in the prior month.

LGBT adults are 1.62 times more likely than non-LGBT adults, on average, to report not having enough money for the food that they or their families needed at some point in the last year. 

There are disparities present within the LGBTQ community as well: a 2019 study, also by the Williams Institute, found that rates of food insecurity were highest among transgender individuals and cisgender bisexual women.

There are racial disparities present within the LGBT community as well: The 2016 study found that among LGBT individuals, 42% of African American people, 33% of Hispanic people, 32% of American Indians and Alaskan Natives, and 21% of Whites reported not having enough money for food in the past year.

Food insecurity rates were also higher among disabled people and younger LGBTQ individuals.

Cultural factors also play a large role in the food insecurity rates of LGBT individuals. A study published by Transgender Health found that the sociopolitical climate of the Southeast United States made it difficult for transgender and noncomforming individuals to find and maintain employment, which is a primary driving factor of food insecurity. 

Food insecurity has many other detrimental impacts on one’s well being. Stress from unemployment and underemployment, inadequate food supplies, and discrimination was reported as a contributor to poor physical and mental health, and weakened support systems. 

To offset the public health impacts of discrimination against LGBT individuals, Transgender Health recommended implementing employment nondiscrimination policies to protect trans and gender nonconforming people in the workplace. The organization also saw a need for building relationships between local food pantries and LGBT organizations to create safer environments for all persons in need of food assistance.

De’Ja Durham, MSW, is the Southern Region Program Manager for Equitas Health, an organization that offers health and other services for the LGBT community. She manages housing advocacy in Newark, Dayton, Portsmith, and Athens Ohio. Ms. Durham said she has seen clients who experience food insecurity amidst unexpected financial hardship.

“Unexpected costs not only affect mortgage, rent, but also affect affording food, toiletries, personal items, and other expenses,” Ms. Durham said. “We have a lot of clients who are homeless and are using food pantries to be able to put just a simple meal on the table.”

Among these clients, discrimination related to their LGBT identity can contribute to challenges around housing, substance abuse, and food insecurity.

“I know at least a handful of clients who are homeless due to family putting them out due to being LGBT or transgender. I know clients who have turned to substance abuse as a result of not being accepted,” Ms. Durham said. “If people don’t understand them due to the community they are a part of, or if they don’t feel comfortable attending work, they don’t have means to have income to afford food. We have a handful of clients who have told their significant other (about their LGBT identity) in the midst of their transition and may lose housing that way. They can go from being able to afford the food they need to having nothing.”

To better serve individuals in the LGBT community, Ms. Durham said that organizations should participate in bias training and training on the use of gender-affirming pronouns. Equitas Health Institute offers a variety of trainings on their website, https://equitashealthinstitute.com/.

“A lot of people have issues with saying, ‘I don’t see color,’ or ‘I don’t see gender,” Ms. Durham said. “But you should see me for who I am and accept me for who I am.”

We know that true progress towards equality cannot be done without policy and legislation change.

A study done by the Center for American Progress found that LGBT Americans receive SNAP benefits at over twice the rate of their non-LGBT counterparts. A SNAP household includes anyone living together that purchases and prepares their food together. This allows the many LGBT individuals who have a “chosen family” of loved ones that may not be related by blood to receive benefits.

Health disparities are a large concern for members of the LGBT community who are more likely to be uninsured than their counterparts. Transgender women and gay or bisexual men face higher rates of HIV than any other demographic. Medicaid expansion and access to affordable healthcare of all kinds is a life-saving measure for many LGBT Americans. 

As Ms. Durham mentioned, many LGBT individuals face homelessness because of stigma and discrimination in their personal lives. Unfortunately, these individuals are widely discriminated against in some homeless shelters and rental/housing markets. Access to affordable, but most importantly safe, housing is crucial to the wellbeing of these individuals facing personal trauma. 

This Pride month, and every month, we encourage you to bring those extra seats to the table for those who need it most. 


Recent legislation provides support for summer meal programs

Recent legislation provides support for summer meal programs

How to locate summer meal sites near you

By: Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, Outreach/SNAP Lead

While local schools look forward to closing down for summer break, students who typically rely on breakfast and lunch during the school year may be left wondering where their next meal is coming from. Thanks to an extension of funding from the USDA, students and their families will have a weight taken off their shoulders this summer.

The United States Department of Agriculture recently announced the extension of free summer meal programs through September 2021. This announcement will benefit Dayton area programs working to provide healthy meals to students throughout the summer months when school is not in session.

This funding will also include schools who, pre-pandemic, may not have qualified to provide summer meals to their students in previous years. Beavercreek City Schools is one district who did not previously qualify, but are now looking forward to organizing meal distributions for students after an especially challenging year. 

During the school year, many schools provide additional food assistance by issuing weekend backpacks. Feed the Creek, Blessings in a Bag, and the Kettering Backpack Program are some examples of school-ran programs aimed at sending nutritious food home with children at risk of food insecurity. 

The Foodbank’s own Good-to-Go Backpack Program aims to fill the gap for schools who cannot provide their own backpack program. Each week The Foodbank distributes over 750 backpacks to local schools, which are then distributed to children identified by a school administrator. Each pack is filled with foods intended to feed the student through the weekend.

While these programs offer a security net during the school year, students no longer have these guaranteed meals once school is out for the summer. 

According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, the COVID-19 pandemic increased the nationwide food insecurity rate by 17 million people. In The Foodbank’s service area of Montgomery, Greene, and Preble counties, 1 in 5 children struggle with food insecurity. Summer meal programs will be critical for families still trying to recover from the added hardships brought on by the pandemic. 

There are over 50 free meal sites in the Dayton area alone. Emerson Academy, Immaculate Conception, and Kettering Fairmont High School are just some of the sites that allow all children aged 1-18 years to receive a free meal throughout the summer. Some programs are even offering multiple meals a day.

Families looking to find a summer meal site may do so by using this site locator or by contacting their school’s administration.

Earlier in the 2020-21 school year we saw the creation of a new Pandemic-EBT program that allowed for a crucial line of defense against childhood hunger. This temporary program distributes SNAP benefits to school aged children who qualify for free or reduced school lunch. 

The electronic funds can be used at any retailer that accepts regular SNAP benefits and can be used on eligible items such as dairy, fruits, vegetables, protein, and more. For each day that school was closed due to the pandemic, children will receive $6.82 on their P-EBT card. 

Additionally, children under 6 years old currently living in a household that qualifies for SNAP are also eligible for P-EBT benefits beginning April 2021. To see if your family qualifies, visit the program’s website

As Americans work to regain a sense of stability after the pandemic, having resources that allow a form of financial relief can be vital to one’s quality of life. Hunger does not operate in a silo and it is important to acknowledge all of the organizations working to ensure that no one goes hungry.

The Foodbank and its 106 partner agencies provide food assistance year-round and is always available free of charge. For more information on how to receive food, visit our website.

 


How our partnership with Feeding America helps us invest in our capacity

How our partnership with Feeding America helps us invest in our capacity

In the past year, we have received over $800,000 in grant funding from Feeding America

By: Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, SNAP/Outreach Lead

There is one thing we are certain about: Hunger in the United States is a national problem that takes national solutions. We are grateful to be one of 200 food banks in the Feeding America network.

Our membership with this organization comes with several perks, including national grant opportunities, shared knowledge from other thought leaders across the network, and emerging research from the Feeding America National Office’s (FANO) research team.

This partnership has been especially fruitful during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has pushed food banks across the nation to adapt to surging demand for food in our communities.

Here is our breakdown of three ways we have leveraged funding from FANO to better serve our neighbors:

  1. Expanding our building to accommodate more staff.

With help from grant funding from Feeding America, we recently completed an expansion of our office space to accommodate our growing staff. Our current facility was designed to process about 15 million pounds of food annually. Even prior to the pandemic, we were already operating over this capacity, distributing over 16 million pounds of food in fiscal year 2019.

The pandemic added fuel to this fire by forcing us to send home our volunteers due to limited space for social distancing. Our Foodbank Family has grown from around 25 full time staff to over 50 in less than two years. We needed to hire new team members — but where would we put them?

To solve this problem, we renovated our office space to add space for 11 employees. With this additional space, we have been able to expand our mobile food distribution and volunteer management teams.

Significantly, we have also been able to direct Feeding America grant funding to the salaries of these staff, which has helped us to meet the demand in our community without the help of our volunteers. Last fiscal year, we distributed almost 18 million pounds of food.

2. Expanding our truck fleet.

As we have mentioned in a previous blog post, a large portion of the food in our warehouse comes from our food rescue program. Our truck drivers travel to 42 different retail stores every week to rescue food from their back docks.

In order to reach all of these donors, we have to have the right trucking fleet to get the job done. We also use our truck fleet to make food deliveries to agencies and host Mobile Farmer’s Markets. Thanks to Feeding America, we have been able to expand our trucking operations in the past year  by purchasing a new truck with FANO funding.

We are not the only organization that has benefitted from the expansion of our truck fleet: Last year, we raffled off one of our older vehicles to our partner agencies. This is the first time we have been able to hold a truck giveaway for our partner agencies. In this way, we can invest in the greater hunger relief network of our community.

3. Standing up new mobile pantry locations in areas with high food insecurity.

In partnership with the University of Dayton, we used FANO grant funding to pay for a Service Gap Map. While this study revealed 97% coverage of food insecure individuals in our area, it did identify some pockets in which clients were geographically distant from services.

In response to these findings, we decided to stand up temporary mobile food distributions in these areas identified as underserved. So far, we have begun monthly food distributions at the following locations: Vandalia, Englewood, and Yellow Springs.

These food distributions were made possible by pass-through grant funding from Feeding America and an anonymous donor. Every mobile pantry distribution costs $2,500 in staffing, trucking, food repacking materials, and other expenses.

We could not do the work that we do without the partnership of the Feeding America Network and their dedication to solving hunger across the nation. We are grateful for the expertise they provide in helping us better serve the Miami Valley.

 

 


Client Story: Charlene

Client Story: Charlene

By Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, SNAP/Outreach Lead

Client interview by Katie Heinkel, Mobile Pantries and Data Entry Assistant

Staff at The Foodbank recently had the opportunity to talk to Charlene, a Foodbank client, at our on-site Drive Thru Food Pantry.

Charlene, who is 62, attended The Foodbank’s Drive Thru March 25 to pick up her Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) box. She brought her neighbor, who is also enrolled in the program, to pick up her box as well.

CSFP, also known as the Senior Food Box program, is a United States Department of Agriculture program that distributes food to low-income seniors so that they can have a balanced, healthy diet. The Foodbank facilitates food distribution for this program, which is administered by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Food assistance is especially important to older adults, who are at higher risk for complications related to food insecurity. Food insecure seniors are more likely to underutilize prescribed medications, face limitations in activity, and experience chronic health conditions.

Charlene has been enrolled in CSFP for two years now. She said she likes everything that comes in the box, but her favorite is the block cheese, which she said makes good grilled cheese and mac and cheese. In addition to the items in the box, which are primarily shelf stable, The Foodbank distributes bonus food items on days we host our CSFP distributions.

She said she was at the Drive Thru to make sure she had enough food for herself and the kids. Currently, she has four people living in her household, and she is living on a fixed income. She has a total of 7 grandkids.

“You’ve got to do what you have to do when you have kids,” she said.

Charlene said she likes using The Foodbank’s Drive Thru because it is convenient. Because staff places the food in clients’ vehicles, she doesn’t have to worry about getting out of the car and carrying groceries.

This was our Drive Thru’s original purpose: to provide an accessible way for CSFP clients, many of whom have mobility challenges, to pick up their food boxes. Over time, the purpose of the Drive Thru has expanded to include disaster relief and more widespread food assistance, but we still host weekly CSFP Drive Thrus.

Charlene encouraged everyone who needed help with food to seek it out.

“Don’t be ashamed, because everyone needs help,” she said. “Times are hard, and we are all here in the same boat, so you don’t have to be embarrassed.”

In March, The Foodbank distributed 973 CSFP boxes in Montgomery and Greene County. To qualify for this program, you must be over the age of 60 and have an income at or below 130% of the federal poverty line. To check if you qualify and to obtain an application, visit https://thefoodbankdayton.org/needfood/.

Questions? Contact Program Manager Katie Ly at (937) 461-0265 x33 or Kly@thefoodbankdayton.org.


Sustainability at The Foodbank

Sustainability at The Foodbank

Here’s what we’re doing at The Foodbank to look out for our planet.

By Lindsay Kreill, Garden Outreach Lead

Food insecurity and climate change are two very intertwined issues. Before the pandemic, over 35 million people in the US faced hunger, and that was estimated to have increased to 50 million as a result of the pandemic. At the same time, an estimated 30-40 percent of our total food supply is going to landfills. This becomes an even graver issue when you consider the environmental impacts of agriculture and that people in poverty are the ones most affected by climate change.

According to the EPA, the agricultural sector accounts for 10 percent of the U.S’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Soil management practices lead to the emission of nitrous oxide, and livestock produce methane — both powerful greenhouse gases. Additionally, food production requires a great deal of resources. Approximately half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture, with 77 percent of that used for livestock. In the US, 80 percent of our water is consumed by the agricultural sector. When the end result of this resource consumption ends up in landfills rather than on plates, it’s not only wasteful, but a new problem emerges. Organic waste in landfills generates something called landfill gas as it decomposes, and that gas is made up of methane and carbon dioxide — more greenhouse gases.

This is where food banks come in. As a member of the Feeding America network, we work hard to connect the excess food in this country to the families in our community who need it. We know that there is plenty of food for everyone, and we also know that food waste is harming our earth and everyone living on it. Our partnerships with local grocery retailers is one of the biggest ways we can simultaneously alleviate food insecurity and food waste. Statistics released by ReFED show that around 40 percent of food waste occurs in consumer-facing businesses, and 8 million tons is wasted by retailers specifically. We rescued 3,090,729 pounds of food from our retail partners in the 2020 fiscal year alone, and we are constantly working to better our processes for acquiring and distributing this food.

While our food spoilage rates are remarkably low, approximately 1 percent of food that we receive cannot be distributed. To combat this, we installed an in-vessel composting unit in The Foodbank’s urban garden. Last year we composted 25 tons of spoiled food from our warehouse, and the finished product is currently being used to fill our grow beds for the 2021 growing season. This means less food waste in landfills and more fresh, local, and chemical-free produce for us to distribute through our partner agencies and Drive Thru Food Pantry.

By growing our own food and accepting donations from local community gardens and farms, we not only are able to distribute high-quality produce to our clients, but also cut down on unnecessary transportation. We know that to be good stewards of the environment we must support the growth of our local food system. This is why our garden team is dedicated to using our urban garden as a space for learning and education.

We also recognize that sustainability is often about the smaller, less glamorous changes and are striving to implement those in any way we can. In 2019 we switched all of the lights in our warehouse over to high-efficiency light bulbs.

We partner with the University of Dayton each year to analyze our truck routes and determine the most efficient routes for our drivers to pick up food from retail spaces. In addition to making us more efficient in our mission to relieve hunger in the community, this helps us minimize our impact on the environment.

To reduce runoff and improve water quality, we follow the EPA’s recommended best practices for stormwater management whenever we are developing new projects. The garden is an excellent example of this, as it is located on an old parking lot that we are slowly tearing out and replacing with gravel to remove impervious surfaces. This semester, a group of University of Dayton engineering students are designing and installing two rainwater catchment systems for our compost sheds. The water we harvest will be used to clean compost buckets for our compost exchange program and water plants during the growing season. We are also designing a rain garden that will be installed next to the parking lot behind our building.

While there is certainly always room for improvement, we are excited to share with you many of the ways we are taking action to care for our collective home. Stay tuned as we continue to explore more ways in which we can be sustainable in fulfilling our mission.

Happy Earth Day!

 

 


The American Rescue Plan and new USDA policies support increased food security

The American Rescue Plan and new USDA policies support increased food security

How a recent flurry of policies at the federal level help us do our work

By Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, SNAP/Outreach Lead

In the past month, we have received a lot of encouraging news from Washington about positive changes that have the potential to impact food insecurity rates in the United States. These policies cover a wide variety of programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, debt relief for farmers, and more.

Here is our rundown on some of the latest policies coming out Washington:

The American Rescue Plan includes critical support for nutrition assistance programs.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP), signed into law March 3, 2021, includes sweeping measures to strengthen nutrition assistance programs. These are programs anti-hunger advocates have focused on for years to reduce food insecurity in the United States.

Here some of the measures included in this legislation:

  • The extension of the 15% boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) through September 2021
  • The extension of Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits through the summer to support families with children who typically rely on school meals
  • $500 million in funding for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • $37 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP, commonly known as Senior Food Boxes) to support the nutrition of low-income seniors

Researchers at the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University have projected that these policies, combined with others within the scope of the act (including unemployment insurance expansions and the Child Tax Credit) will cut child poverty in half.

The Foodbank, Inc. applauds the passage of these measures. While we are glad to see fewer people seeking food assistance than this time last year, many families in our area are still struggling with lost income, exhausted savings accounts, and increased debt.

In addition to lifting families out of poverty, benefits that are spent directly at grocery stores — which includes SNAP, P-EBT, and WIC programming — have a demonstrated stimulus effect on the economy. According to research from the USDA, every $1 spent on SNAP increases GDP between $.80 and $1.50.

USDA takes a closer look at equity for farmers of color.

The American Rescue Plan also includes $4 billion for debt relief for historically disadvantaged farmers and an additional $1 billion for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create a racial equity commission.

While some conservative lawmakers have taken aim at this portion of the ARP, this funding is intended to offset the USDA’s history of racial discrimination against farmers of color.

There is extensive evidence that the department has discriminated against Black, Indgenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) farmers. A 1994 review of USDA loans and payments found that loans to Black males averaged $4,000 (25%) less than those to white males. Additionally, less than 1% of disaster payments went to Black farmers. The situation came to a head in the Pigford v. Glickman lawsuit, which culminated in one of the largest ever class action settlements in US history.

Advocates have pointed out that discrimination by the USDA has likely contributed to a decline in Black farmers over time. At peak in 1910, 14.6% of all farmers were Black. By 2012, the percent of Black farmers had declined 98% to only 1.6% of the total population. This racial discrimination did not start in the 1990s, either: It has roots in the Reconstruction era, when Black families were promised “40 acres and a mule” and instead were forced into sharecropping.

We are acutely aware that racial inequity is one of the driving factors of food insecurity. As participants in the larger food system, and recipients of USDA-funded product, we are glad to see Congress and the USDA working to provide reparations for past misdeeds and ensure greater inclusion in agriculture.

USDA increases SNAP benefits to lowest-income households.

The USDA announced April 1 that the department would increase SNAP benefits to households already receiving the maximum SNAP benefit, providing $1 billion per month in assistance to an estimated 25 million people.

This decision is a reversal of the Trump-era policy in which all SNAP households were issued the maximum monthly benefit. While this policy provided important support to many SNAP households, the lowest-income households who already received the maximum benefit received no increase.

Beginning in April, households that had not received at least $95/month in increased benefits will be awarded additional benefits.

According to the USDA, “Among households that [previously] received little to no benefit increase, about 40% have children, 20% include someone who is elderly and 15% include someone who is disabled.”

Research has demonstrated that SNAP households in the lowest income brackets are most likely to spend all their benefits, maximizing the stimulus effect of the program.

We are glad to see these changes applied to the SNAP emergency allotment system to ensure that very low-income households are not excluded from receiving additional benefits.

The Foodbank works with a variety of allied organizations, including Feeding America and the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, to provide education about the impact of public policies on our programming. To stay up to date on our advocacy efforts, follow us on Twitter at @thefoodbankinc.

 


How the pandemic has worsened existing inequalities

How the pandemic has worsened existing inequalities

It is more important now than ever before for food banks to address systemic inequality

By Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, SNAP/Outreach Lead

There are many positive signs that the hardships of the pandemic are easing. More and more people have been vaccinated. Many businesses have reopened. We are relieved that our lines are much shorter than they were one year ago.

While we are hopeful for the future, we also know that for many households in our line, it will take much longer to rebuild.

At its core, food insecurity is an money issue. Food insecurity is, in many ways, a symptom of other evils, including poverty and generational inequality. While providing a box of food may help a household stretch their income and afford other expenses, such as utility bills and medication, it will not push them into the next income bracket.

The United States is widely considered a wealthy nation. However, that wealth is not shared by all who live within its borders. At the height of the pandemic, Feeding America estimated that over 50 million people were food insecure. At the same time, the top five billionaires saw a 59% increase in their wealth.

In many ways, the pandemic has reinforced existing inequalities. In figures recently released by the federal reserve, Black households had a median net worth of less than 15 percent that of white households.

Historically, families of color have been subjected to a wide variety of racist policies and practices, such as redlining, discriminatory lending, and mass incarceration, which have made it more difficult to accumulate wealth. Contrary to the “bootstraps” mentality, our nation’s past transgressions continue to have an impact on current generations: Researchers have estimated at least half of all wealth in the United States is transferred via bequests and other gifts.

The economic impacts of the pandemic have been disproportionately borne by low-income households and people of color. On average, households in the United States have actually increased their savings amidst the pandemic.

According to a Harvard-based research study, households with higher incomes reduced their spending by 17%, while low income households only reduced their spending by 4% in the same time period. Additionally, almost 70% of low-wage workers in zipcodes with the highest rent lost their jobs during the additional shutdown.

Given this data, it comes as no surprise that nearly 14% of Americans exhausted their emergency savings during the pandemic. This trend will make households impacted less resilient in future crises.

The disparate impact of the pandemic on US families is reflected in lines at The Foodbank and other food assistance programs. According to the Urban Institute, Black and Hispanic/Latino households were more than three times as likely to access charitable food assistance during the year 2020. The author of the brief wrote that this is “likely reflecting both higher rates of need before the pandemic and the recession’s significant impact on households of color.”

As we have mentioned before, food insecurity can also lead to poor health outcomes and perpetuate the poverty cycle. The high-carb, low-nutrient diet and other dangerous “coping mechanisms,” such as medication underutilization, that are associated with food insecurity can lead to preventable health problems down the road.

Unfortunately, this cycle begins at childhood at no fault of the children. A study by the Alliance to End Hunger found that schools with 90% white children spend $733 more per child than schools with 90% children of color. These dollars affect critical programs like school lunches, where schools that have a high percentage of students of color are half as likely to adopt healthy lunch options as the schools with majority white students.

All of these inequalities are a direct result of the laws, policies, and procedures that have been implemented for decades. There is no shortage of food in the United States, which regularly wastes 30-40% of the food it produces. Because food insecurity is not caused by a lack of food, it cannot be solved long-term by providing food alone.

Policy interventions have had a demonstrated effect on the severity of food insecurity amidst the pandemic. According to The Urban Institute, food insecurity dipped in May after the first stimulus checks were released, dropping from 22 percent to 17.9 percent. Then, rates rebounded to 19.6 percent from May to September. This relationship demonstrates that while relief packages have been effective, the “start and stop” pattern they are released in contributes to related fluctuations in food insecurity.

Given the severity of the inequalities present in the economic crisis, it is important now more than ever that food banks and other anti-hunger or anti-poverty organizations advocate for systemic change, partner to address the social determinants of health, and continue to disprove harmful myths about poverty in the United States. We should also be careful to set our expectations for recovery: Many lessons can be taken from the recovery curve of the Great Recession, which lasted about 10 years.

While early signs of economic recovery are positive, we must pay close attention to the data we use to ensure that no group is left out of recovery. We are hopeful that this recovery will be faster than the most recent recession.

The Foodbank takes part in a variety of activities to address the root causes of hunger. While food assistance plays an invaluable role in ensuring that “no one should go hungry,” the long-term issue of food insecurity cannot be solved with food alone. For more information about our work, we invite you to read the following previous blog posts:

●     SNAP is critical to our hunger relief work – here’s why

●     Shortening the line: why we hire re-entry

●     The Social Determinants of Health: Connecting the dots between race, health equity, and the food landscape

 


Evaluating our reach with data

Evaluating our reach with data

The Foodbank recently underwent a Service Gap Map in partnership with the University of Dayton

By Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, SNAP/Outreach Lead

There is a question we hear a lot: “With three counties, how do you make sure you are serving everyone who needs help?”

It’s a valid question — while our headquarters in the city of Dayton is our highest-need and most-populated area, our three-county service area spans a diverse territory with varying needs. We serve communities that are urban and rural, high-poverty and seemingly affluent, and communities of various racial and ethnic backgrounds. So how do we make sure we are investing where we need to?

The answer: the only way we can make sure we are equitably allocating our resources is to do it with data.

The Foodbank recently underwent a Service Gap Map in partnership with The University of Dayton. We periodically take this measure to evaluate the changing landscape of food insecurity in our community. It is also an important tool to assess how effective our own distribution of services is.

“We want to make a difference in the world, and there’s no better place to start than in our hometown of Dayton,” said Dr. Cori Mowrey, Department of Engineering Management, Systems, and Technology from the University of Dayton.

Dr. Mowrey went on to say, “Our team is very excited to partner with The Foodbank to develop data-driven, evidence based solutions to serve the needs of our Miami Valley community. We are committed to continuing this work to ensure equitable access to The Foodbank and their partner agencies’ resources.”

As a result of this analysis, we obtained the following map of Montgomery County, created using GPSVisualizer.com, OpenStreetMap.org, and US Census data:

Across all three counties, the University of Dayton team found that we have a 97%* coverage rate by headcount of food insecure individuals. This is good news: We were concerned that recent events, such as the 2019 Memorial Day Tornado Outbreak, would have a significant impact on the landscape of need in our area.

We have made the above map available to the public via press release. We believe this information is valuable to many stakeholders in the community, and we embrace the transparency that this data provides from an evaluation standpoint.

However, we are concerned for the locations that were identified as underserved. In Montgomery County, these areas were Vandalia, Englewood, and Phillipsburg. In response, The Foodbank has added two new monthly Mobile Farmer’s Market sites this week to ensure that the food needs of these communities are being met.

These new mobiles will take place at Living Word Church (Vandalia) and Englewood Christian Assembly (Englewood). Due to the close proximity of Philipsburg to Englewood as well as its relatively low population, we anticipate that clients in that area will be able to access the Englewood mobile.

To view the dates and times of these and other mobiles, visit https://thefoodbankdayton.org/needfood/.

We have made the choice to release this map in stages while we evaluate how to serve communities identified as needing additional food resources. While our Mobile Farmers Markets are an excellent way to distribute food in high-need areas, the heart of our operation is the acquisition and distribution of food to our partner agencies.

As a more permanent solution, we prefer to work with organizations that are already active in those communities to stand up brick-and-mortar pantries. Our agency relations team works closely with a variety of community organizations to help them to provide services in these areas.

For a list of these partner agencies, visit https://thefoodbankdayton.org/agencies/. If you are interested in becoming a member of The Foodbank, please contact Jamie Robinson at jrobinson@thefoodbankdayton.org or by calling (937) 461-0265 x 14

 

*Preliminary results showed an expected coverage rate of 95%. The actual rate given by the University of Dayton team showed 97.3% coverage by headcount.