Government Shutdown Leaves Hungry Even More Vulnerable

The federal government’s failure to act on a farm bill or a budget leaves hungry Americans with severely limited access to nutrition.  While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP — formerly food stamps) and school meals will be funded through October, other critical nutrition programs for low-income families and seniors will not. Take action on the farm bill through the ELCA Washington Office.

SNAP – SNAP has statutory authority to continue distributing benefits during October. This authority comes from Recovery Act, through which Congress provided “such sums as are necessary” to fund the temporary benefit boost. Additionally, about $2 billion in SNAP contingency funds are available and could be used to support state administrative activities to issue and process benefits. Contingency funds are provided in annual appropriations and do not expire until the end of FY2014. SNAP is providing about $6 billion per month in benefits, so unfortunately the contingency funds would not go very far if needed to help fund benefits.

Women, Infants and Children –WIC is highly vulnerable, as the USDA has no legal authority to continue providing WIC benefits. States may have money and legal authority to continue providing assistance for a week or so. Additionally, some contingency funds for WIC may be available, but there is not enough funding to mitigate a shortfall for the entire month.

Child Nutrition Programs – School breakfast and lunch programs and meals provided in day care settings (CACFP) would continue into October. This is also true for the Special Milk Program. School meal program and CACFP providers are reimbursed for meals served 30 days after the end of the service month, so providers would not be paid for meals provided in October until the end of November. Most state agencies will continue to have FY13 funds available for state administrative expenses. State administrative expenses are awarded for a two-year grant period and states are permitted to carry over up to 20 percent of their allocation into the second year of the grant period.

Commodity Supplemental Food Program– No additional funds would be available to support the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which provides a monthly food box to low-income seniors. CSFP is authorized in the farm bill but funded through appropriations. The program provides USDA commodities specifically to meet the nutritional needs of low-income seniors. Each month, about 35,000 seniors in Pennsylvania get boxes filled with canned fruits and vegetables, cheese, cereal, meat and other high-protein foods.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program – No additional funds would be available to support storage and distribution grants for emergency food providers. TEFAP storage and distribution grants are authorized in the farm bill but funded through appropriations. TEFAP food commodities are funded through the SNAP account. In 2012, more than 1.6 million low-income people in Pennsylvania residents received food through the State Food Purchase Program. More than half a million of them were children.

Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations – No additional funds would be available to support FDIPR. While there would be some inventory available for use in food packages, no carryover or contingency funds would be available to support continued operations.

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