Advocacy Priorities

As need continues to grow and programs that serve the hungry need constant and consistent support, it is vital we do all that we can to ensure that vulnerable people have the food they need.

1690158_10153962344106730_6019714007767015544_nThe Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) advocates for policies that support the fight to end hunger. As need continues to grow and programs that serve the hungry need constant and consistent support, it is vital we do all that we can to ensure that vulnerable people have the food they need. The following is an overview of GBFB’s 2016 advocacy priorities.

Federal Advocacy Priorities

1) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/Food Stamps)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps millions of low-income Americans put food on the table, providing benefits that are timely, targeted, and temporary. SNAP responds quickly to changes in need, growing in response to increases in poverty and unemployment and shrinking as need abates. The program is targeted at our most vulnerable citizens, predominantly serving households with children, elderly, and disabled members. SNAP benefits provide a strong work incentive, phasing out as participants get back on their feet but not by the full additional dollar earned.

2) The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is a means-tested federal program that provides food commodities at no cost to Americans in need of short-term hunger relief through emergency food providers like food banks, pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. TEFAP advocacy is driven by Feeding America, who disseminates advocacy related materials to GBFB. In turn, GBFB calls or writes to legislators in Washington, D.C. in line with Feeding America’s talking points. GBFB also has strong working relationships with our USDA administrators, both in the USDA Regional Administration Office and in the Department of Education.

3) Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) serves about 595,000 low-income people each month across the country, and is the only USDA nutrition program that provides monthly food assistance specially targeted at low-income seniors. The program is designed to meet the unique nutritional needs of participants, supplementing diets with a monthly package of healthy, nutritious USDA commodities. With one in 12 households with seniors at risk of hunger nationwide, CSFP prevents vulnerable seniors from having to choose between food and other basic needs.

This is the first year that CSFP will be administered in Massachusetts, and GBFB will be the only food bank participating during the pilot phase. In 2015, we plan to work with our community partners to serve approximately 2,400 seniors each month with a yearly total of 750,000 pounds of nutritious, supplemental food in the form of USDA commodities.

Additional Resources:

4) Child Nutrition Reauthorization 2015
Every five years, Congress must reauthorize child nutrition programs. During this process, Congress will debate new funding levels, ways to strengthen and improve the programs, and develop new policies to make sure our nation’s children have access to healthy, nutritious food. The current bill, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, is set to expire on September 30, 2015. GBFB, in conjunction with Feeding America, will be focused on strengthening the following programs included in the bill:

Read Feeding America’s policy paper, Nourishing Our Children Beyond the School Day, which outlines their vision for Child Nutrition Reauthorization in 2015.

5) The Charitable Deduction
Potential changes to incentives for charitable giving in the tax code have been an ongoing part of deficit reduction and tax reform discussions, including a proposal offered by President Obama that would cap the charitable deduction at 28 percent for high-income taxpayers, as well as other proposals to establish a hard-dollar aggregate cap or minimum threshold for claiming itemized deductions.

The charitable deduction is an important and effective incentive for giving, strengthening the nonprofit and philanthropic sector’s capacity to meet the needs of our communities.

Congress restores giving incentives for 2014 tax year:
The Senate signed off on legislation (H.R. 5771) on December 16, 2014 to reinstate retroactively dozens of expired tax provisions, including the IRA charitable rollover and the enhanced deductions for donating land conservation easements and food inventory. While taxpayers will be able to employ these provisions in the upcoming filing season for the 2014 tax year, the package will expire again in roughly two-weeks’ time, on January 1, 2015. The House passed the measure on December 3 and the president signed it into law on December 19.

State Advocacy Priorities

1) Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP)
MEFAP is a critical piece of state legislation that provides a consistent supply of quality, nutrient-rich foods and locally grown fresh produce to citizens of the Commonwealth in need through the Food Bank Coalition of Massachusetts (four MA food banks) and their network of 845 food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters they serve.

GBFB oversees the contract to purchase these food products that feed over 800,000 residents. This program supports local farmers and vendors who produce and sell eggs, dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables along with shelf stable commodities. 100% of MEFAP funding goes directly to feeding hungry people.

GBFB staff meets regularly – and more frequently during budget season – with state legislators and lobbyists in an effort to protect MEFAP funding. GBFB administers MEFAP for the state and leads the lobbying efforts. Last year our efforts were rewarded when the state granted a $1 million increase for MEFAP in its budget. This year, we are lobbying for a $3 million increase in MEFAP, to $20 million.

2) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

  • Although benefits are federally funded, the SNAP program is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA). DTA is reimbursed 50% of its administrative costs by the federal government.
  • Since 2001, the SNAP caseload has increased by 300% while front line DTA staff declined by 30%.
  • SNAP benefits are provided to nearly 750,000 residents of Massachusetts – low income families with children, persons with disabilities, and seniors.
  • Massachusetts SNAP Gap: The SNAP Gap is the difference between the number of people receiving MassHealth who are likely SNAP eligible and the number of people actually receiving SNAP. In Massachusetts, the size of this gap is about 570,000 people. For many years the state has administered these programs separately. This means the application process and collection of documents is duplicated for both Masshealth and SNAP. This creates more work for the state and for clients. Most states implement a single eligibility system. Significant federal dollars are available for systems improvements. It’s time to close the SNAP Gap in Massachusetts! Click here to learn more about how we are trying to close the SNAP Gap by creating a common application between SNAP and MassHealth.

For a downloadable version of GBFB 2016 Advocacy Priorities, please click here.

Hunger-Relief Advocate Additional Resources

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