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New Food Bank Funding; Mixed Results for Hungry People

This year’s “short” legislative session is designed to create a Supplemental Budget and hear bills that address emergent needs since last year’s “long” session, when the Legislature creates a two-year budget. Early on, lawmakers set expectations that there would be no major policy or budget changes, and this largely held true. Major issues for education, TANF funding, transportation and tax policy were not resolved this session. Yet anti-hunger advocates knew that addressing critical funding needs was necessary, as well as policy changes to give low-income students better access to school breakfast.

Food bank advocates were successful in our request for additional funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which provides critical funds to local food bank coalitions to meet local needs. Securing $800,000 in new funds for this year is a big win in such a limited budget. Thanks to all who contacted your lawmakers on behalf of this request – it made a big difference!

Results for our other priorities this session were mixed, and we know that hungry kids, families and seniors need more help. Restoring full equity to State Food Assistance was not funded, leaving these clients with benefits to buy food at less than 40 cents per meal per day. The legislature did ensure that these benefits will not be lower than they are currently (75% of the federal benefit level), but as the value of federal benefits shrink, so will the purchasing power of state benefits. It’s just not enough to put food on the table for thousands of struggling immigrant households. Thanks to all who spoke up about the need for equity for hungry people.

A small increase in funding for the Farmers Market Nutrition Programs will help more than 7,000 low-income households afford fresh, local produce and connect them to their local farmers markets, thanks to efforts by anti-hunger groups and sustainable agriculture and farmers advocates working together.

Advocates worked with leaders in the House and Senate on a bill that would increase participation in school breakfast by requiring high need schools to serve breakfast after the bell. There was great legislative support, and as one of the lowest-performing states for participation, there is great need for this kind of legislation. Though the bill died in committee this year, this is an issue that will continue to get attention, so stay tuned for more opportunities to get engaged.

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