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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Coalition calls for pols to reject changes to nation's anti-hunger programs
2017-01-23

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Dear Senate and House Members of the Illinois Delegation:

The undersigned Illinois organizations write to thank you for your unwavering support of federal nutrition programs and to urge your resolve to protect and strengthen these programs against any benefit cuts or changes in entitlement structure in 2017 and beyond.

Far too many people in this country are struggling with hunger — 42 million, including 13 million children. Many of these people turn to government and private charity programs to prevent hunger, but our local food pantries and congregate meal programs report they are already at capacity and will be unable to respond adequately to federal cuts.

At the start of a new year, it is important to remember that hunger is a year-round struggle for children, low-wage working families, seniors and persons with disabilities. Older adults and disabled residents face hunger when they must choose between paying for heat or food, or getting medical treatment. Low-wage working families need nutrition supports to make ends meet.

While the depth and breadth of hunger is vast, families in our communities would be much worse off if it were not for the nation's profoundly successful and cost-effective anti-hunger programs: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ( SNAP ), the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs ( NSLP ); the Child and Adult Care Food Program ( CACFP ) that provides nutrition in child care, adult care, afterschool snack and supper programs; Summer Food programs; The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant and Children ( WIC ); Senior Nutrition Programs ( under the Older Americans Act ); and the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program ( TEFAP ).

These national nutrition programs reduce hunger and poverty, improve health and learning, boost productivity, create jobs and economic growth, and strengthen our communities. These programs help seniors, children, people with disabilities, veterans and active duty military families, low-paid workers, unemployed and underemployed adults across Illinois—in rural, urban, and suburban areas.

Effective Federal Anti-Hunger Programs Have a Significant Impact on the Economy and Health Outcomes

Federal anti-hunger programs are essential, not only to prevent hunger and some of the worst outcomes of poverty, but also for communities and retailers who depend on low-income shoppers to buy nutritious food with benefits.

Slashing the anti-hunger safety net would be devastating for Illinois.

— It is in the best interest of Illinois to connect eligible households with SNAP and maximize the amount of federal dollars entering state and local economies. SNAP benefits are 100% federally funded and for every $1 in SNAP benefits there is an economic return of $1.71. Program cuts and the loss of entitlement from restructuring SNAP would significantly impact jobs in the farming and retail industries in Illinois and the state already has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

— The impact of SNAP on health has been demonstrated as early as in utero; babies of expectant mothers who receive SNAP are up to 23% less likely to have low birth weights. Among children, SNAP participation has been linked to a lower risk of anemia and other nutritional deficiencies, and lower likelihood of being at developmental risk or overweight.

— Federal anti-hunger programs are most important during economic downturns, a lesson we learned during the Great Recession. Moody's Analytics found that expanding SNAP was one of the most effective uses of economic stimulus money. Undermining the federal right to anti-hunger benefits weakens the ability of the programs to respond to recessionary times.

A SNAP Block Grant Would Be Less Effective in Combating Hunger

2016 marked the 20th anniversary of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 ( PRWORA ). PRWORA established state block grants for family income support programs through the Temporary Aid to Needy Families ( TANF ) program. In Illinois and throughout the country, this structural change has caused great harm to children growing up in families with little or no cash income to meet basic needs. Even those who played a central role in crafting PRWORA have recently suggested that its impact on children and families has been too harsh.

Experience with TANF has shown that turning SNAP into a block grant program would guarantee that SNAP would serve fewer households, decrease benefit amounts, become unresponsive during tough economic times, and enable cash-strapped states to direct the block grant to purposes other than combating hunger.

We call on our Illinois Delegation to stand together to reject cuts or structural limitations ( block grants ) to our nation's core anti-hunger programs including SNAP, NSLP, CACFP, WIC, SNP, and TEFAP. These critical programs are based upon deep and long-standing bipartisan support — rooted in the prevailing notion that nobody in our nation should go hungry. We urge the Illinois Delegation to do everything in its power to protect and strengthen these federal nutrition programs, ensure they are fully funded, and take steps to assure that all hungry people in our country have access to the nutrition they need to live a healthy, active life.

We stand ready to work with you to achieve this goal. The organizations that have signed on to this letter are prepared to offer district-level data and participant stories on how important these programs are and to work with you in every way we can to protect and strengthen these critical programs. Please let us know how we can help.

For more information about this statement, please contact: Kimberly Drew, Heartland Alliance, at kdrew@heartlandalliance.org; Alicia Huguelet, the Greater Chicago Food Depository at ahuguelet@gcfd.org; Dan Lesser, The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law at danlesser@povertylaw.org; or Cristine Pope, Illinois Hunger Coalition, at cristinepope@yahoo.com .

Sincerely,

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Chicago Jobs Council

Greater Chicago Food Depository

Heartland Alliance

Illinois Hunger Coalition

Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law

[Listed in Alphabetical Order]

A Just Harvest

A Safe Place

AgeOptions

AIDS Foundation of Chicago

AIM Center for Independent Living

All Chicago

Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County

Alternatives, Inc.

AMITA Health

Asian Human Services

Between Friends

Casa Catalina Basic Needs Center

Casa Catalina Food Pantry

Casa Central

Catholic Charities - Diocese of Joliet

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago

Center for Changing Lives

Central Illinois Food Bank

Central States SER, Jobs for Progress, Inc.

Champaign County Health Care Consumers

Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition

Chinese American Service League

Christian Community Health Center

Common Pantry

Community Alternatives Unlimited

Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois

Community Crisis Center, Inc.

Community Health Partnership of IL

Community Organizing and Family Issues ( COFI )

Cook County Health and Hospitals System

Cornerstone Community Outreach

CUMALI

Eastern Illinois Foodbank

Ecker Center for Mental Health

Edwardsville Bread for the World Group

Erikson Institute

EverThrive Illinois

EZRA Multi-Service Center

Family Rescue

Fathers, Families and Healthy Communities

Featherfist

First Presbyterian Church

First United Methodist Church

Ford Heights Community Service Organization

Growing Home

HCS Family Services

Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

Health and Disability Advocates

Hesed House

Housing Forward

Humanitarian Service Project

Illinois Action for Children

Illinois Association of Area Agencies on Aging

Illinois Association of School Social Workers

Illinois Collaboration on Youth

Illinois Public Health Association

Illinois-Iowa Center for Independent Living

Independence Center

Jane Addams Resource Corporation

KAN-WIN

La Casa Norte

Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center

Lakeview Pantry

Lee County Health Department

Legal Council for Health Justice

Leyden Family Service

Life Span

Loaves & Fishes Community Services

March of Dimes

Margaret's Village f/k/a Institute of Women Today

Metropolitan Family Services

Moraine Valley Community College

Mujeres Latinas en Accion

MYSI

NAMI Illinois

New Moms

Niles Township

North Side Housing & Supportive Services

Northeastern IL Agency on Aging

Northern Illinois Food Bank

Northwestern Illinois Center for Independent Living ( NICIL )

Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry

One Hope United

Open Door Clinic of Greater Elgin

Ounce of Prevention Fund

Patient Innovation Center

Pilgrim Congregational Church United Church of Christ

Plant Chicago

Prairie State Legal Services Inc.

Pride Action Tank

Project IRENE

Project Oz

Puerto Rican Cultural Center

Respond Now

Sankofa Safe Child Initiative

Schaumburg Township

St. Louis Area Foodbank

St.Ailbe Men's Ministry Food Pantry

Stephenson County Health Department

Teen Living programs

The ARK

The Boulevard

The Friendship Center

The Harbour

The Inner Voice, Inc.

The Lighthouse Shelter

The Night Ministry

Tri-State Food Bank

United Latin@ Pride

United Way of Illinois

Unity Parenting and Counseling, Inc.

Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation

Voices for Illinois Children

Wayne Township Pantry

West Suburban Community Pantry

Willow Creek Community Church

Windy City Times

Winfield Township

WINGS Program, Inc.

Woodstock Institute

YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago

Youth Outreach Services Inc.


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