Federal Policy

Federal policy establishes funding for hunger-relief programming through two major legislative vehicles and an annual appropriations process.

Additionally, other federal programs like Medicaid, Medicare, EITC, and low-income housing vouchers also provide vital services and income supports to our friends and neighbors at risk of hunger. 

Learn more about how these important legislative proposals and potential reforms will affect the people we serve.

Please sign up to be a Feeding Wisconsin Hunger Fighter to get more information and how you can get involved.  

The Farm Bill

Every five years, Congress will work on a Farm Bill, which sets forth the agricultural and hunger-relief policies for our country. Most notably, it sets the funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides food banks and food pantries with free commodity foods, The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which provides free commodity foods for Older Americans with low, fixed incomes, and establishes and funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps and known in Wisconsin as FoodShare or Quest).

Nationally, SNAP is one of the most important tools in the fight against hunger, providing families with the supplemental grocery benefits to buy the food for their families. In conjunction with food banks, community groups, churches and volunteer organizations, SNAP helps to strengthen communities by providing the food and nutrition people need to work toward turning their lives around.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) supplements the food budgets of low-income households with monthly benefits via an electronic benefit (EBT) card used at authorized retail stores. SNAP serves households with gross incomes up to 130% of the poverty line, although some states have opted to raise the gross income threshold. All households must have a net income below 100% of the poverty line.

The most recent Farm Bill, known as the Agricultural Act of 2014, was signed into law in February of 2014 and will expire on September 30, 2018.

Some emerging threats to SNAP may include structural changes through "block grants" that would break the promise that Americans have made to provide our friends and neighbors with this basic nutrition assistance if they fall on hard times. Learn more about block grants here

Child Nutrition Act

Like the Farm Bill, every five years, Congress will revisit the legislation that authorizes and funds our nation’s child nutrition programs, like the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), National School Breakfast (NSB), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CAFCP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

The most recent Child Nutrition bill, known as the Healthy and Hunger-Free Children Act of 2010, expired on September 30, 2015.

While the programs will continue for the time being, we need Congress to mark up and pass a strong reauthorization bill that builds on the work of the Healthy and Hunger-Free Children Act by expanding access to summer meals.

Annual Appropriations Process

Some of the nutrition programs that are authorized through the Farm Bill and the Child Nutrition Act are mandatory programs. This means, that funding is set through the legislative process and generally cannot be cut through annual budgeting cycles.

However, some programs, like WIC and CSFP, are discretionary programs and as such, they are subject to the annual budgeting process where Congress determines and appropriates funds to thousands of federal programs.

This means that important nutrition programs like WIC, which helps pregnant moms and newborns get the vital nutrient building blocks they need for a healthy life, can be cut every year.  

The Administration's FY 19 Budget Proposal

On February 12, the Administration released its FY 19 budget proposal. This budget is an outline of the President's budget priorities and establishes the state of play for the discussions about federal spending. Congress will still have to go through its annual appropriations and budget process to fund discretionary programs. Mandatory programs like SNAP are funded and authorized through the Farm Bill, which is up for reauthorization this year. 

The Administration's FY 19 budget proposes a $213 billion cut to SNAP over 10 years, or a reduction in program benefits by 30%. In addition, it proposes to convert 50% of SNAP benefits into a commodity food box and completely defunds the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, a program that provides low-income seniors with a nutritionally appropriate food box every month.  

Other impacts of the proposed FY 19 budget on nutrition assistance programs:

  • Eliminates all funding for SNAP Nutrition Education.
  • The budget proposes $294 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) mandatory commodity purchases for FY2019, which includes an increase of $5 million due to food price inflation. An additional $54 million is proposed for TEFAP Storage and Distribution funds, which is a $5 million decrease from FY 2018.
  • $23 million to continue summer EBT demonstration projects at current levels.
  • $5.75 billion to fully fund WIC.
  • $23 billion to fully fund child nutrition programs (school breakfast and lunch, summer and after school programs).
  • Reduction to the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit by $10 billion over 10 years.
  • The budget also proposes to eliminate the following programs in addition to those noted above: WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, School Meal Equipment Grants, LIHEAP, CDBG, and CSBG.

This officially kicks off the federal budget and appropriations process for fiscal year 2019.

To learn more about the effects of this proposal and add your name to our petition asking our Members of Congress to fight for a budget that protects and strengthens SNAP, please click here.

Healthcare Reform

We believe that access to high quality, affordable healthcare is a fundamental building block of a healthy and hunger-free Wisconsin.

With the majority of the households utilizing the emergency food system in Wisconsin reporting a member of their family dealing with diet related diseases and facing the tough choices between medical care and food or unpaid medical bills and other household expenses, the need to expand access, lower costs and improve quality is urgent.

The American Healthcare Act (AHCA) was introduced by the House of Representatives on March 6, 2017. As the replacement bill to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), AHCA aimed to reduce healthcare costs for Americans but was pulled from consideration on March 24th, 2017 due to a lack of bi-partisan support.

It was estimated that in a decade, over 200,000 Wisconsinites would have lost healthcare coverage.

After making some changes to the bill, the House was able to pass AHCA on May 3, 2017. It now moves on to the Senate for consideration. 

As the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land, we urge our state to join the majority of other states in expanding the BadgerCare (Medicaid) program and choosing to take the enhanced federal funds that our legislators have chosen to leave on the table.

Wisconsin did not choose to take the traditional Medicaid expansion under ACA where the Federal government would have increased its funding to cover up to 90% of Medicaid expenditures. By choosing to take a hybrid expansion, our state has chosen to pay its own way without the help of Federal funds. While this has expanded coverage to some low-income families, it has also been an expensive choice for the state

By choosing to take the full Medicaid expansion today, our state can still save hundreds of millions a year even with the uncertainty with the AHCA. These funds could be reinvested for a more sustainable and effective state healthcare program that would move us forward toward healthy, hunger-free and thriving Wisconsin communities. 

Tax Reform

On December 22, 2017, the President signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law. The law preserved the tax deduction for charitable giving but by raising standard deduction, the law may reduce the number of people who itemize their returns, thus reducing the number of people who can take advantage of this provision. It also capped the deduction for a single person at $100,000 and $200,000 for a married couple.