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.
Fiscal Year 18 Appropriations
The House of Representatives
On July 17, the House Budget committee released their blueprint for an FY 18 spending plan. As expected, the plan calls for $10 billion in cuts to agriculture programs in the Farm Bill. After markup, the committee passed the FY18 budget resolution along party lines and uses the reconciliation process that would force cuts across many important programs.
This includes reconciliation instructions to the House Agriculture Committee to find at least $10 billion in cuts, likely to come from SNAP.
Feeding Wisconsin is opposed to this resolution and is calling on the House to reject the bill when it comes to the floor. There has been no floor vote scheduled yet.
This is a critical time to weigh in with your members of Congress, to build momentum against the House budget and ensure the resolution does not pass.
In mid-July, the Senate Agriculture Appropriations committee passed their version of the FY18 Agriculture appropriations bill by a voice vote.
The Senate legislation recommends $145.4 billion in discretionary and mandatory funding, $4.85 billion above the President Donald Trump’s budget request and $7.9 billion below the FY2017 enacted level.
The $20.525 billion bill is $20 billion above the House version.
We will post more analysis after the mark up of the bill is complete.
President's FY 18 Budget Proposal
On May 23, 2017, the President will release his outline for mandatory program spending in the FY 18 budget, which will likely include an unprecedented cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is known as FoodShare in Wisconsin. The cut, estimated to be $193 billion over ten years, would amount to be over a 25% cut to the food purchasing benefits for families with low-incomes, and would greatly increase the risk of hunger for the nearly 700,000 Wisconsinites participating in the program.
On March 16, 2017 the President released the framework for the administration's FY 18 budget. This budget is an outline of the President's budget priorities and establishes the state of play for the discussions about the federal government's discretionary spending, which only amounts to about 30% of the federal budget.
While some discretionary nutrition programs like WIC seemed to have survived, there are numerous other programs supporting low-income individuals that were cut or eliminated. The budget proposes the elimination of the Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and other affordable housing programs.
The elimination of LIHEAP would lower overall SNAP benefit for people receiving a small amount of heating assistance. Funds from CSBG and CDBG provide vital funding for community organizations that help to provide services to families and seniors with low-incomes, including Meals on Wheels.
It would also eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service that funds the AmeriCorps and VISTA programs.
This officially kicks off the federal budget and appropriations process for fiscal year 2018.
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.
The House and Senate are moving swiftly to pass comprehensive tax reform in 2017. Please read our blog on how the current tax reform proposals would adversely affect government's and non-profit sector's ability to fight hunger, improve health and strengthen communities.
The tax deduction for charitable giving
The tax deduction for charitable giving is the lifeblood of hundreds of thousands of important charitable organizations through the nation. It helps to magnify the generosity of our citizens and encourages them to get involved in and become stakeholders in important local issues, like hunger and food insecurity. It is available to all tax payers who itemize their tax returns and is capped at 50% of the taxpayer's adjusted gross income.
Recent tax reform proposals would change the century-old charitable tax deduction, reducing the incentive for giving. One such proposal would raise the standard deduction, which would reduce the number of people who itemize their returns, and cap the deduction for a single person at $100,000 and $200,000 for a married couple.
By raising the standard deduction, fewer people will itemize their tax returns, which may reduce the amount of people making donations. The proposed cap on deductions will affect major donors, as a a married couple donating $1 million dollars will only be able to realize one-fifth of the benefit.
It is estimated the these changes to the charitable tax deduction could reduce giving by $17 billion nationwide.
Our participating food banks and the over 1,000 affiliated food pantries and meal programs located in and serving our friends and neighbors in all 72 counties of our state depend on the generosity of local communities to invest in fighting hunger.
We know the inspiring generosity of Wisconsinites throughout our state. We are beneficiaries of it. At the same time, the data show that the incentive for charitable giving matters. December is the busiest month to receive donations, with a bulk of the donations coming in during the last three days of the year.
With the continued pressure for non-profits to deliver essential services, the charitable tax deduction must be strengthened and expanded, rather than narrowed.