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Wednesday, February 23, 2005
CONTACT: Ellen Vollinger
PHONE: ( 202) 986-2200 x3016

Federal Nutrition Programs Making Record
Difference for Families, Children and Elderly

FRAC Finds National and State Performance Gaps Remain;
Warns Budget Cut Proposals Could Add to Hunger

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Media Coverage:

- "Concern for nutrition programs"
- "Wyoming families work, still struggle"
- "Hunger persists in Michigan"
- "Anti-hunger group wants to keep programs"
- "R.I.’s hunger problem looms large as assistance programs face cuts"
- "DSS directors weigh in on impact of stricter food stamp eligibility rules under Bush's proposed budget"
- Affording food is hard for 1 in 10 Alaskan families

Federal nutrition programs are making a record difference for families, children and elderly persons in the U.S., according to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) annual report, “State of the States: A Profile of Food and Nutrition Programs Across the Nation.”

“Together, federal nutrition programs like food stamps and school meals are serving record numbers of families and children, helping them succeed at work and learning,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “But the programs still miss millions of needy people. And even more disturbing, the President and some in Congress are proposing budget cuts in these vital programs—cuts that would undermine their effectiveness. Preserving and building on these strong national nutrition programs must be the top priority for the 2005 anti-hunger agenda.”

Proposals to slash the federal budget threaten the nutrition safety net, even though the nutrition programs are not the cause of, and should not be the solution to, budget deficits. For example, despite some modest growth in recent years, over the last decade the Food Stamp Program has shrunk substantially in comparison to the size of the economy and the federal budget. Adjusting for inflation, food stamp spending per poor person fell by 17 percent from 1993 to 2003.

Recent Program Trends

FRAC found that use of federal nutrition resources varies by program as well as by state. A recent general trend in greater take-up of program resources is due not only to the continuing weak labor market, but to national and state policy improvements, and to more innovative education, outreach and enrollment practices to connect eligible people with benefits.

For example, from July 2000 to November 2004, food stamp participation rose from 16.9 million to 25.1 million people. One million more low-income children now receive school breakfast every day than in 1999. The number of children in poor neighborhoods who get federally funded afterschool snacks every day grew by more than one third from 2001 to 2004.

The eight major federal nutrition programs are: Food Stamps, School Lunch, School Breakfast, Summer Food, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), WIC, The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP).

Service Gaps in States Cost People and Communities

Nonetheless, gaps in service exist in all the programs and recent growth trends do not fully make up for prior reductions in the scope of the nutrition safety net. The Food Stamp Program misses more than four in ten eligible people overall, and misses more than seven in ten eligible elderly persons. For every 100 low-income children who eat school lunch each day, only 43 participate in breakfast and only 20 participate in summer food.

State service gaps in the nutrition safety net are especially disturbing given the large numbers of people who are hungry or living on the edge of hunger, facing losses in their health and school preparedness, and whose receipt of benefits could boost their local economies. According to U.S. government estimates, 36 million Americans are hungry or “food insecure.”

Greater Hunger At Risk in Budget Process

The President’s FY 2006 Budget proposes cutting 300,000 people from the Food Stamp Program. It also proposes to cap spending on “discretionary” programs, which could significantly reduce funding for the WIC Program in future years--an estimated 11 percent cut for the budget area which covers WIC. As Congress begins work on its FY 2006 Budget Resolution, possible “entitlement caps” or “reconciliation” instructions directing committees to cut programs under their jurisdiction would add risks of even greater harm to the nutrition safety net and the vulnerable people who depend upon it.

“FRAC’s State of the States report provides the basic data describing our nation’s and states’ use of nutrition programs,” said Weill. “All of us must make sure that the federal, state and local governments meet their responsibilities and that communities are using these resources. Nutrition programs didn’t cause the deficit and cutting them will not solve the deficit – it will just make children, elderly and working families hungrier and sicker.”

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The Food Research and Action Center (www.frac.org) is the leading national organization working for more effective public and private policies to eradicate domestic hunger and undernutrition.

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