December 18, 2014

Congress Managed to Help Poor and Hungry People Despite Brinksmanship

Washington, D.C. – The 113th Congress concluded its term yesterday, a term that experienced hyper-partisanship and a government shutdown. Despite the political hurdles and low approval rating this Congress faced, crucial anti-hunger and anti-poverty legislation was passed.

“There has been a strong appetite to cut funding for programs that help those who have little voice in Congress,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “Despite this brinksmanship, this Congress did make significant progress towards ending hunger and poverty by ensuring that vital domestic and international programs are adequately funded next year.”

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) had been continuously under attack, culminating with a farm bill from the House that proposed nearly $40 billion in cuts and would have pushed at least 2 to 4 million people off the program. The final farm bill had less than $8 billion in cuts, ensuring no one was needlessly kicked off the program.

Last week Congress passed a major spending bill, funding most government programs through September 2015. This includes $6.23 billion in funding for WIC, $25 million for school equipment and breakfast expansion grants, and $2.8 million to expand the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which ensures low-income seniors get adequate meals.

“We had a real David and Goliath triumph in ensuring that the Coast Guard Authorization legislation included absolutely no provisions negatively impacting food aid,” said Beckmann. “A few shipping companies wanted to line their pockets by stealing the food from the table of hungry families around the world. We went up against a multi-million dollar lobby undeterred and told Congress this was unacceptable, Congress agreed with us.”

Along with the Coast Guard Authorization legislation, Bread helped ensure $35 million in the 2014 budget to reduce the need to monetize food aid, or sell food aid commodities to fund development projects, and $80 million in the 2014 Farm Bill to purchase food locally where it is needed, as well as added flexibility to the food aid program

“This was accomplished while Congress was plagued with brinksmanship. I am hopeful that the next Congress will build on these victories and make ending hunger a priority,” concluded Beckmann.

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