Passage of Farm Bill, Adequate Funding For WIC Essential for Emergency
CHICAGO, Dec. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As Congress works to reach a compromise on domestic spending legislation, there are growing concerns that nearly 500,000 low-income mothers and children could be cut from the popular and cost effective Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Meanwhile, the Farm Bill is stalled in the Senate, and food banks nationwide report rapidly dwindling inventories stemming from a more than 70 percent decline in support from a federal food aid program in recent years.
"We are on the brink of a crisis for food banks and hungry Americans," said Vicki Escarra, president and chief executive officer of America's Second Harvest-The Nation's Food Bank Network. "Cutting people receiving benefits from WIC means that hundreds of thousands of mothers and children likely will need to turn to our Network for help, and our food banks are already struggling to meet demands for food assistance due to scarce food supplies." The prospect for large WIC cuts was identified in a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities last week.
In addition to WIC, several federal nutrition programs that are critical to food banks and the 25 million people served through the America's Second Harvest Network each year also are included in the Omnibus Appropriations bill Congress is currently considering. These programs include The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) storage and distribution, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and the expansion of the Simplified Summer Food Program. WIC is the largest of the programs, and it is becoming a focal point for concern about cuts as Congress attempts to reach funding compromises with the White House.
Research has consistently shown that WIC is extremely effective in contributing to healthier birth outcomes and improving the diets of pregnant and postpartum women, infants and children who are at diet-related health risk. It is also able to bring many poor pregnant women into contact with essential prenatal health care that prevents future health problems.
"WIC is a vital to the well being of more than 8 million low-income women and young children in the United States," said Escarra. "Our Network can not replace the lost benefits and contact with healthcare that this program has been so successful at providing."
The Farm Bill, which passed the House in late July and is currently being debated by the Senate, would provide much needed relief to food banks and hungry Americans. The nutrition title of the Farm Bill provides policy direction and funding for TEFAP, the Food Stamp Program and authorization for CSFP. The House-passed Farm Bill and the version that was approved by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee would increase mandatory funding for TEFAP from $140 million annually to $250 million annually. This increase would provide nearly 215 million pounds of food or 168 million additional meals per year to hungry Americans for the next five years. Both versions of the bill would also strengthen the Food Stamp Program and reauthorize CSFP.
"Every day that goes by without a Farm Bill is a day that food banks shelves are going emptier," said Escarra. "I urge Congress to approve a Farm Bill as soon as possible and provide sufficient funding for nutrition programs in the Fiscal Year 2008 Appropriations process to ensure that we can keep feeding the millions of people coming into our agencies each week for food."
America's Second Harvest is also calling upon the private sector to support us through food and financial donations this holiday season and help us meet a continued projected shortfall of food inventories this year. You can donate or sign up to advocate for America's Second Harvest or your local food bank by visiting http://www.secondharvest.org.
America's Second Harvest-The Nation's Food Bank Network is the largest charitable domestic hunger-relief organization in the country with a Network of more than 200 Member food banks and food-rescue organizations serving all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The America's Second Harvest Network secures and distributes more than 2 billion pounds of donated food and grocery products annually; and supports approximately 50,000 local charitable agencies operating more than 94,000 programs including food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, after-school programs and Kids Cafes. Last year, the America's Second Harvest Network provided food assistance to more than 25 million low-income hungry people in the United States, including 9 million children and nearly 3 million seniors. For more on the America's Second Harvest Network, please visit http://www.secondharvest.org/.
|SOURCE America's Second Harvest|
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