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food, nutrition, and health news


Farm Bill

Food Policy in the new year – 2014!


  • After two years of struggle, a compromise Farm Bill passed in the House last week. Some of the major changes include $8 billion in cuts to SNAP Benefits, elimination of direct payments to farmers, and a bump in crop insurance payments, among other things. The bill also includes incentives for nutrition incentive programs and farmers’ market programs. [NY Times, NPR]

Update as of Tuesday 2/4/14 at 12:04pm PT – The Farm Bill just passed 68-32 in the Senate. 

  • San Francisco is preparing to put a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages on the ballot in November. Supporters held a kickoff meeting in SF this past weekend as they prepare for what will likely be a tough battle against the beverage industry, aka Big Soda. The finalized language for the ballot measure is expected to be released on Tuesday and will impose the tax on distributors (as opposed to a sales tax). On the other side of the Bay, the city of Berkeley is also considering a similar tax that will be a penny-per-ounce on sugary drinks. [SF Examiner]
  • The Navajo Nation recently passed a 2% sales tax on junk food, including sugary drinks. Navajos, as well as other Native Americans, are at particularly high risk for diabetes and obesity. The tax affects sales of junk foods on their reservation, which spans a large area across Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. Importantly, the legislation also eliminates the sales tax for healthy foods as a way to incentivize purchases. [Food Safety News]
  • Drought conditions in California are hitting fruit & vegetable farmers hard. This marks the third dry year in a row, and the state has declared it will not be allocating water to farmers during the drought emergency. The drought conditions have been compounded by the lack of a Farm Bill, which would normally provide funds for disaster relief. [SFGate]

*image via Newseum

Save SNAP from cuts in House Farm Bill


Have you been following the 2013 Farm Bill saga? In short, the Farm Bill (technically called the Food, Farms, and Jobs Bill) provides federal funding for a 5-year period that covers everything from crop subsidies, conservation, farmers’ market programs, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps). The SNAP program, along with SNAP-Education, makes up approximately 80% of spending in the Farm Bill. The bill, originally slated for renewal in September 2012 (yes, this should have been the 2012 Farm Bill), has finally made it past its first hurdle in the Senate.

Last week, the Senate passed a version of the bill that cuts $4.1 billion to SNAP over a period of ten years. The House version, headed for a vote this week, packs an even larger blow to SNAP – to the tune of $20 billion in cuts. More people than ever receive SNAP benefits currently (an average of 46 million every month in 2012) and these cuts are a major threat to the millions of Americans that rely on food stamps in low-income families and communities.

As the bill nears a vote either Wednesday or Thursday this week, we must act together in order to prevent cuts to SNAP and support food access for millions who rely on this program. Reach out to your representatives in whatever way you can and let them know that protecting SNAP benefits is of the utmost importance.

How can you help? First, you should participate in National Call-in Day TODAY, June 18, 2013. Then, look at the options below.

Call the toll-free hotline at 866-527-1087

Listen to the pre-recorded message and enter your zip code when prompted.  Once you are connected to your Representative, state that you are a constituent and give your name and the town you are calling from.  If you are a food pantry or other food distribution program, be sure to give the name of the local agency you are affiliated with.

Let them know you are calling about the Farm Bill and deliver this important message:

As your constituent, I am asking you to vote against the House Farm Bill due to the cuts to SNAP.  With so many families still struggling to put food on the table, it is important to protect and strengthen programs like SNAP and TEFAP.  I understand the need to reduce the deficit, but increasing hunger is not the way to do it.

Take it to Twitter:

Spread the word by sharing with your local networks and on social media to take action on preventing cuts to SNAP.

Sample tweets

  • Call Your Rep & Tell Them to Vote No on A Farm Bill That Cuts SNAP 866-527-1087. #SNAPworks
  • Fight Hunger. Tell Your Congressman to Vote No on A Farm Bill That Cuts SNAP. 866-527-1087. #SNAPworks

Send a Letter to your Newspaper’s Editor:

Draft, adapt, and send a letter to your editor using the framework below to illustrate how the SNAP cuts through the Farm Bill impact you and/or your community:

Dear Editor,

The US House of Representatives is currently debating the next Farm Bill. This five-year bill not only addresses agriculture policy, but also sets the policy and funding for the largest federal program the supports vulnerable families facing hunger – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps.)  The current House version of the Farm Bill contains devastating cuts SNAP that would negatively impact over 2 million individuals that utilize the program to ensure their family has food on the table.

[Insert story of local impact here. Could be the story of an individual that relies on the program. Could be about how your food pantry has seen an increase in demand and cannot fill in the gap that the cuts would create.]
Our community and our country is only as strong as our programs that protect the most vulnerable.

I urge Congressman/woman [insert name] to vote no on a Farm Bill that cuts SNAP.


(Individual or Organizational Signee)

For more information, check out the Food Research and Action Center. You can also contact your representative and senators through Feeding America (which also provided the toll-free number for National Call-In Day).

*above image and scripts provided by the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance

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