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.
Child Nutrition Act
Every five years, Congress will revisit the legislation that authorizes and funds our nation’s child nutrition programs, like the School Breakfast Program (SBP), National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Summer and Afterschool Nutrition Programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), 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. This year, Congress has an opportunity to close the summer meal gap for millions of children experiencing food insecurity by passing a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) bill that builds on the work of the Healthy and Hunger-Free Children Act.
Far too many kids are going hungry when class is not in session despite available programs to help.
- When school is not in session, millions of children who rely on school breakfast and school lunch lose access to reliable, consistent meal assistance.
- Children consume up to 50 percent of their total daily calories at school during the school year – but when classes end and summer begins, children who participate in school meal programs have less food support they can look forward to.
- When children go hungry during the summer, they become more vulnerable to short- and long-term health consequences and summer learning loss (also known as “summer slide”).
- Summer feeding programs do exist to support kids, but they are only as strong as their ability to reach children.
- The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a federal food program that provides snacks and meals during the summer to children who are low-income – and it also has a striking access gap.
- Only 17 percent of children who participate in free or reduced-price lunch through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) participate in summer meals sites.
We urge Congress to pass strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) legislation that strengthens children’s access to food support year round. Feeding Wisconsin encourages additional investments and flexibilities in summer feeding programs to ensure more children have more food when school is out.
We ask Congress to support:
- Strengthen SNAP by extending the benefit boost for all recipients to increase benefits by at least 15 percent for the duration of the economic downturn to provide critical food assistance and to help promote economic stimulus.
- Increase funding for food purchases to support food banks, specifically through an additional $900 million for food purchases through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) until September 30, 2022. Congress should also ensure any additional funding to help support USDA food purchases of commodities impacted by COVID-19 supply chain disruptions are distributed through USDA food distribution programs.
- Extend and expand Pandemic-EBT to ensure USDA has the authority needed to continue this important program through the summer and for future school closings. Extend and strengthen child nutrition program waiver authority to ensure the flexibility needed to continue operations.
- Provide direct, financial assistance to those most at risk of food insecurity by expanding the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, and ensuring that the increased benefits are targeted to those individuals and families with the lowest incomes.
- Invest $543 million in the cold storage and transportation capacity of the nation’s charitable food system.
The Farm Bill
Like Child Nutrition Reauthorization, 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).
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.
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.
The most recent Farm Bill, known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 was signed into law on December 20, 2018 and will expire on September 30, 2023.
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.
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.