Recent data shows how rates of food insecurity decreased during the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to emergency funding from Congress provided to the SNAP, TEFAP, WIC, School Free Lunch program, and Meals on Wheels, among others. Now that the public health emergency benefits have ended, schools, senior programs, community food pantries, and food banks continue to have high demand for their resources, despite other signs of economic recovery. Food banks have even been established on our college and university campuses and our military bases. It is time for Congress to strengthen and increase funding for critical nutrition programs.
During Hunger Action Month, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs is hosting a National Day of Service on September 30 with local clubs, districts, and state federations taking action to End Food Insecurity and Hunger in the United States. To complement this effort, GFWC clubwomen are contacting their members of Congress to urge reauthorization and increased funding for programs addressing hunger and food insecurity that help seniors, families, children, active military, and others.
The Meals on Wheels program is subject to annual appropriations, and we urge Congress to prioritize nutrition, health, and wellbeing for our seniors by increasing funding for the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program in the FY 2024 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill. More than 10 million seniors are threatened by or experience hunger and 1 in 3 seniors live alone. Over 80% of Meals on Wheels participants report that the services they receive improve their health, help them feel more secure, and allow them to live independently. None of this would be possible without federal funding for the programs and volunteers to deliver the meals.
Congress is working to reauthorize the Farm Bill which includes the Emergency Food Assistance program (TEFAP) which is a federal nutrition program that moves food from farms to food banks. USDA purchases healthy foods – fruits, vegetables and other staples from U.S. growers and producers and distributes items to the Feeding America network of food banks. Advocates are calling for reauthorization and increased funding for food purchases, storage, distribution, and infrastructure grants to help food banks keep up with the rising need for food assistance and food costs. States should be allowed to prioritize projects for donated food from restaurants or food purchased at a low cost from local growers and producers.
Also authorized in the Farm Bill, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides benefits through electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards which can be used to purchase groceries at retailers nationwide. The SNAP program helps people with very low income, families on tight budgets and seniors on fixed incomes, while supporting local stores. Current eligibility rules and enrollment processes need to be improved for greater access to benefits, SNAP must focus on ensuring affordable access to nutritious foods, state flexibility must be preserved to respond to local economic conditions, and state employment and training programs must be adequately funded if work requirements are going to continue to be required.
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) provides boxed meals which help address diet-related health conditions often experienced by older adults who are facing food insecurity and who are at risk of hunger. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age 5 who are found to be at nutritional risk. The National School Lunch Program provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free meals to children each school day in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions.
GFWC calls on Congress to increase funding for Meals on Wheels and make this a strong 2023 Farm Bill by supporting people facing hunger and food insecurity.