Food Choices – Families of Corporations?

SUPER COMMITTEE CHOICE: NEED VERSUS GREED

New Report Shows Staggering Hunger and Food Insecurity Nationwide While Federal Funds Feed “Big Ag” Profits.

Washington, DC – American families are stretched to the limit by record-high unemployment rates and a prolonged recession. A new report, Food Choices: Families or Corporations, and an online petition Need vs. Greed, highlights the reality before policymakers charged with reducing the federal deficit: support food programs that keep tens of millions of Americans from going hungry or continue subsidies for wealthy “Big Ag” corporations.

Released by the Praxis Project and the Alliance for a Just Society (available at http://allianceforajustsociety.org), the report details the critical role the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s family nutrition programs play in feeding one out of eight Americans. The report also sheds light on the $95 billion in federal subsidies and contracts the federal government gives to Big Ag.

A national coalition of community organizations is collecting petition signatures that will be delivered with the report to the super committee prior to its November 23 deadline.

“When 48.8 million people have to choose on a daily basis whether to go hungry or pay the rent, food and nutrition assistance should not be on the chopping block,” said Makani Themba-Nixon, Executive Director of The Praxis Project. “The super committee must decide whether it will continue to support struggling American families at a time of economic hardship or continue to funnel billions of dollars to wealthy corporations and landowners.”

The super committee is scrutinizing the Farm Bill as a place to enact cuts in its attempt to trim $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit. The Farm Bill authorizes funding for many of the USDA’s nutrition programs, but it also includes massive subsidies to Big Ag.

The report and petition both urge legislators to protect safety net programs and made specific policy recommendations to the super committee including:

  • Protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the free and low-cost National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and the supplemental grant program Woman, Infants and Children (WIC). Cuts in food and nutrition programs would harm families already negatively impacted by the economic downturn.
  • Retain SNAP’s status as an entitlement program rather than convert it into a block grant. Cutting SNAP would not only be disastrous for families, but for the economy, as well. For every $1 in payments to families, $1.72 circulates back into the economy.
  • Shift USDA subsidies and commodity contracts toward promoting healthy, local, sustainably produced foods and seek to align food prices with national nutritional priorities to create a fair playing field for healthy food.
  • Encourage USDA food procurement programs and institutional food providers to consider the benefits of locally and sustainably produced, healthy and fair trade foods and to take steps to incorporate these into their programs.
  • Promote equity, justice and appropriate competition in the food and agriculture industries and prioritize expenditures that recognize the established link between nutrition and health.

These critical programs are a stark contrast to the billions of dollars allocated in the Farm Bill to Big Ag. The USDA subsidizes agricultural producers with direct payments, loans and crop insurances, including:

  • Riceland Foods, Inc., a transnational corporation with revenues of $1.3 billion in 2009, received $554 million in subsidies in 1995-2010.
  • In 2005, Tyson Foods, the largest meat producer in the US with revenues of $26 billion, received $46 million in USDA commodity contracts.
  • Smithfield Foods, the fourth-largest meat producer, with $11 billion in revenues, received $18.2 million in contracts.

“At a time when the need for food and nutrition programs is at an all-time high, we need all Americans to join the movement demanding Congress prioritize families over big corporations,” said LeeAnn Hall, Executive Director of The Alliance for a Just Society. “The super committee has a vital choice in front of them, and we urge them to think about the men, women and children who rely on these programs for sustenance. The senators and representatives on the super committee should understand how important these programs are: a third of them represent districts with the highest rates of families facing food insecurity.”

Alongside an appalling 367 percent increase in long-term joblessness rates since 2007, the demand has grown for food and nutrition programs like SNAP, NSLP and WIC. Of the 435 congressional districts, 84 percent or 368 have at least one in six households with children struggling with food hardship.

“Idaho is no different from the rest of the country. Over the last year, we’ve seen a 10.2 percent jump in the number of families receiving food aid,” said Adan Ramirez, spokesperson from the Idaho Community Action. “We’re depending on the men and women we’ve elected to represent us in Washington to reject greed and protect the needs of our community.”

Not only do these significant nutrition programs offer a safety net, they also act as a key economic stimulus. Every dollar of food stamp benefits for the 46 million Americans currently enrolled puts money into local economies, creating a ripple effect for more than 200,000 retailers.

A full copy of the report is available online at www.thepraxisproject.org and http://allianceforajustsociety.org.

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The Praxis Project is a national, nonprofit organization that builds partnerships with local groups to influence policymaking to address the underlying, systematic causes of community problems. Committed to the closing of the health gap facing communities of color, Praxis forges alliances for building healthy communities.

The Alliance for a Just Society is a national coalition of eight state-based grassroots community organizations that execute regional and national campaigns and build strong state affiliate organizations and partnerships that address economic, racial, and social inequities. The Alliance includes The Center for Intercultural OrganizingColorado Progressive CoalitionIdaho Community Action Network, Indian People’s Action (Montana), Maine People’s AllianceMake the Road New YorkMontana Organizing ProjectOregon ActionProgressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, and Washington Community Action Network.

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