Bread for the World Celebrates Nutrition Gains in Farm Bill
Washington, DC, May 2, 2008 -– Bread for the World today welcomed the agreement reached this morning by congressional negotiators over the $10.361 billion increase for national nutrition programs included in the farm bill over a ten year period. Negotiators, however, still have to reach an agreement over the commodity payments portion of the farm bill.
The food stamp program accounts for $7.8 billion of the increase for national nutrition programs. Currently, 26 million Americans receive food stamp benefits; with an expected increase to 29 million because of high food prices. "They can claim a sizeable victory with this agreement in the nutrition title," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "Food stamps remain our first line of defense against hunger for the working poor across the country, and today is a great day for those who are most in need."
He hopes that the congressional negotiators will be as successful in reforming the commodity titles in the farm bill just as they have been in increasing the national nutrition programs.
"Even before the recent spike in food costs, 90 percent of low-income families who participate in the food stamp program ran out of benefits by the third week of the month. With food costs rising, they run out even earlier," said Rev. Beckmann.
The timing for an increase in funds for nutrition programs could not be better, since the number of people going to food banks has increased by 20 percent in the wake of soaring food prices. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) also received a significant increase and indexing for inflation.
Under the agreement hammered out early this morning, the minimum monthly benefit for food stamps increased from $10 to $14 and the standard monthly deduction for a family of three or fewer has been increased to $144 monthly. These two benefits will be implemented in step with the U.S. consumer price index which will prevent their losing ground to inflation in the future.
"Speaker Pelosi, and Representatives Rangel, DeLauro, and Peterson did the lion's share of heavy lifting on championing this proposal, and we are deeply grateful for their valiant efforts. I'm certain many hungry folks across the country will be grateful as well when they see their food stamp benefits go just a little further," said Rev. Beckmann.
One disappointing aspect of this morning's agreement was the decision to cut the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program by $800 million.
"We hope a sizeable portion of the previously-proposed $860 million set aside for the McGovern-Dole initiative finds its way back into the legislation before it becomes law," said Rev. Beckmann. "This program not only helps feed hungry kids; it encourages them to be in school and provides the nutrition they need to grow and learn. What could be more important?"