In case you missed it, Melinda R. Newport, MS, RD/LD, the Director of WIC and Child Nutrition Programs for the Chickasaw Nation, delivered testimony before the House Agriculture Committee Nov. 16, 2016 on the importance of the SNAP program and reported on the outcome of the Packed Promise project.
Funded by a USDA grant (Demonstration Projects to End Childhood Hunger), Packed Promise allows participants to shop online for food benefits that are shipped directly to them. Participants receive a 25-pound box of shelf stable food and a $15 FRESH check to purchase fresh produce from WIC retailers and farmers markets.
Newport noted the importance of the close partnership between the Chickasaw Nation and Feed the Children in carrying out the project. Feed the Children’s experience in bulk food ordering, packaging, and delivery was leveraged to establish a viable food access point for children across rural Oklahoma. Also, its logistics expertise and food buying power allow more children to be served for less money spent.
As of November 2016, Packed Promise had shipped 793,000 pounds of food to families in need and had redeemed $261,000 in FRESH checks – all to help vulnerable Oklahoma families. Read Newport’s full testimony here.
For too many families across our country, hunger is an ever-present reality. There’s not enough money to pay the bills. Food stamps help many people, but they often don’t bridge the gap to the next paycheck. People who never thought they’d have to ask for help find themselves appealing to family, friends, and churches for assistance to get by. And yet each morning, they get up and keep going—going to work, sometimes a double shift; caring for children, maybe with medical needs; finding the resourcefulness to make it through another day. Their persistence is amazing, but it shouldn’t happen in the richest nation in the world.
Consider Cassondra, single mother of two bright and spirited young children. Samuel is your typical rough-and-tumble three year old. And Carmen, the two year old, is Cassondra’s “miracle baby”: hospitalized at birth, on a ventilator for the first two-and-a-half weeks of her life. She’s healthy now—a little delayed in some of her milestones, but full of spirit. “They evolve into beautiful kids every single day,” Cassondra says with obvious pride. “And I love it. I love being a mom.”
Cassondra has a steady job in a canning factory. She works the night shift, but calls it the “graveyard shift” with a laugh because she’s tired all the time. She was lucky recently to get three days of overtime. That will help with expenses, but still, the money runs out. Food stamp benefits last her about half the month. From time to time, she has to pawn her belongings to make ends meet.
When they go to Walmart, Sam asks for toys he sees in the checkout counter. What child doesn’t? But Cassondra has to tell him “no.” “There’s countless times that I’ve broken down crying because I didn’t have anything for the kids, or for myself. But I would rather them eat and me go without than me eat and them go without.”
No mother should have to make that choice.
Tosha’s story is both similar and different—hunger has common themes, but a million different faces. Tosha is the mother of four children ranging in age from 8 to 14. Like Cassondra, she bursts with love and pride when she talks about them. Like Cassondra, she worries when the money runs out, and pawns her belongings to make the dollars stretch.
“I just try to show my kids I’m strong, I can do it, we’ll figure it out,” Tosha says. “They don’t even know half the time what’s really going on, but it’s very hard. Our cabinets have been empty several times.”
For most of us reading this, an empty cabinet means life got busy and hectic—a quick trip to the grocery store and our shelves are stocked again without another thought. But for too many women like Cassondra and Tosha, empty cabinets are a sign of shame. Holidays can be excruciating. Two Christmases ago, Tosha remembers, the family wasn’t even able to afford a special meal—they ate just like any other day. The kids got a few presents, but they had to wait until January for them, when the family was on better financial footing to afford them. “A month later kind of takes the fun out of Christmas,” she said.
Tosha suffers from kidney issues, so she’s not able to work. Thankfully, her husband got a job—not a great one, but it’s something. And like Cassondra, Tosha is thankful for food stamps, but they rarely last the month.
These stories hurt our hearts. And we believe they hurt God’s heart as well.
That’s why we’re proud we’ve partnered with Feed the Children this year — an organization fighting every day to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. Visit Feed the Children’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages and give them a like or a follow, so you can learn more about their work.
Today in Washington D.C., Feed the Children asked Congress to support multi-sector collaboration. Jonathan Webb, Director, Foundation Partnerships at Feed the Children, testified at a public hearing beginning at 10 a.m. at the Longworth House Office Building. His testimony, “The Role of Nonprofits in Addressing Hunger,” was delivered to the Full Committee on Agriculture as they discussed, “The Past, Present and Future of SNAP: The World of Nutrition and the Role of the Charitable Sector.” The complete line-up of speakers is here.
Here we offer a summary of his remarks to Congress to keep you informed of Feed the Children’s progress in furthering public-private partnerships to support efforts in identifying, creating and scaling up newer and more effective strategies for ending hunger.
The testimony and recommendations were written by members of our Program Impact Department and Government Relations Department, with input from other Feed the Children staff and are available in their entirety here.
Today I’m in Washington D.C., offering a “call-to-action” testimony asking Congress to change how our country addresses childhood hunger.
As we know, the public sector can’t do it alone—and the nonprofit community can’t do it alone. Public-private partnerships are the true key to decreasing the number of individuals currently relying on the hunger safety net provided by the federal government. We know the current safety net is not enough to end hunger in the US, so we are promoting solutions to ensure that fewer Americans will need that safety net.
We are offering three recommendations to Congress that will foster innovation, collaboration and improved measurement of results and impact in order to decrease the need for the federal safety net, improve food security and nutrition, and make the safety net more cost-effective.
First, we are recommending that Congress establish a Food Security and Nutrition Social Innovation Fund. This fund could be created from the USDA’s existing resources to foster a stronger network of anti-hunger partners and promote the multi-sector collaboration necessary to yield smart, innovative solutions to hunger.
Such a fund will allow us to break down the walls that often exist between various sectors– community leaders, nonprofits, academics and governments—and have prevented us from looking at the big-picture issues that define hunger. Leveraging the skill sets from these constituencies will help us collaborate on creative solutions that go deeper than simply increasing access to direct service. This $370 million fund would help support a formal “community of practice” and innovation grants to help scale-up the most cost-effective program models that can help defeat hunger.
Second, we’re requesting better access to federally funded demonstration projects. Currently, nonprofits are severely limited in how we combine efforts with the federal government, especially with the difficulty in leveraging USDA grants.
Feed the Children is recommending that Congress encourage nonprofits to bid collaboratively for demonstration projects that test new and effective approaches to improving food security and nutrition programs, as well as administering federal nutrition programs. In order to further encourage program innovation among nonprofit organizations, Congress should dedicate increased funding to targeted demonstration projects, and take actions that will permit necessary flexibility in federal nutrition programs.
And third, we recommend federal grant applications from Congress require measurement of results and impact of programs, using standardized food security and nutrition indicators that will help to assess which programs are having the best results. The federal government—in collaboration with its partners—needs to study, measure and replicate success.
We look forward to the results and next steps that emerge from today’s testimony and Feed the Children’s recommendations.
Feed the Children staff pictured in the image above: Kim Baich, Kevin Hagan, Tom Davis, Jonathan Webb, Trevor Moe, and Jayme Cloninger