Tag Archives: food stamps

This Thursday: Learn About LA’s New Food Policy Task Force

We have a wonderful problem at MAZON… we’ve had so many donations in honor of the High Holy Days that we’re completely swamped just trying to process them all.

These funds allow us to support organizations like Hunger Action Los Angeles, who sent us the following regarding their monthly meeting this Thursday. These meetings are a great place to brainstorm ideas & learn about steps and events by various organizations and individuals to end hunger in Los Angeles and statewide (through collaboration with the California Hunger Action Coalition).

If you can’t make the meeting or live outside of Los Angeles, there are some fantastic snippets about food waste & conservation in a major metropolis and increased food stamp access in California towards the end. Frank Tamborello of Hunger Action Los Angeles also runs a weekly e-newsletter, “To All Those Interested In Food and Justice” chock full of hunger information & news articles. Check out this week’s issue, and learn of even more ways you can help hungry Angelenos & Californians!

Take it away, Frank…

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Filed under Hunger Advocacy, Hunger Fighters, MAZON Grantees

Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force – A MAZON Success Story

Image courtesy Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force

Image courtesy Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force

The Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force envisions that in a “state as abundant as Idaho, hunger will not exist“, and works to put public and private resources into action statewide to eliminate hunger and provide food security for all Idahoans. MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger understood the challenges and possibilities of ending hunger in Idaho and invested start-up funds in 2007 to support the new Idaho task force.

Over the past two years, with continued support from MAZON, the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force experienced important successes, including: completing a profile of hunger in Idaho – county by county; raising awareness about food insecurity; reducing barriers to participation in food stamps; conducting advocacy work to support reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act and WIC; and organizing a statewide Summit on Hunger and Food Insecurity. In August 2009, the task force requested one-time-only bridge funding from MAZON – which was granted. Because of leveraging MAZON’s funding, the Task Force just learned in September 2009 that the Idaho food stamp program would donate $10,000 to support their work.  Although the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force is young, it has a very big agenda and MAZON is very proud to partner with them!

Written by Elaine Himelfarb, MAZON Program Officer for the Southwest, Mountain Plains & West Regions. She can be reached at ehimelfarb@mazon.org.

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Fighting For Easier Food Stamp Access In California

The following was written by Marla Feldman, MAZON’s California Program Manager. She can be reached at mfeldman@mazon.org.

With unemployment on the rise and food pantries seeing 40% more people seeking emergency food assistance, it is critical that California moves to a semi-annual reporting system which will ease the burden on food stamp participants and allow them to continue to receive the food assistance that they need.   California is one of the last states to make this important change, as 48 other states in the country already have a semi-annual reporting system.   The California Food Policy Advocates has drafted a letter to the USDA, signed and supported by many MAZON CA grantees, to urge them to reject the extension of California’s waiver to make participants report household changes every quarter and to report with more forms than federally required.  If USDA rejects the waiver extension, the Department of Social Services will be more likely to move towards semi-annual, simplified reporting, which will increase access to this vital program.   To learn more about this important effort, please see the USDA sign-on letter attached.

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Forthcoming Documentary: Food Stamped

I consider my week on the Food Stamp Challenge to be a defining moment in both my work here at MAZON and my personal hunger education (if you’ve noticed, I can’t stop talking about it on this blog). With record numbers of people in the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – the new name for the Federal Food Stamp Program), the Food Stamp Challenge is a rare opportunity to experience first-hand how vital these programs are, and how deeply hunger & nutrition affects all aspects of day-to-day life.

A new documentary, Food Stamped, follows married couple Shira & Yoav Potash – she a nutrition educator in low-income schools, he a documentary filmmaker – as they undergo the Food Stamp Challenge of living on $1/meal:

The film screens as a work-in-progress June 20th at the JCC East Bay in Berkeley, CA, including filmmaker Q&A and panel discussion. More details on that event and the film can be found at http://www.foodstamped.com.

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How Low Can You Go…And Stay Healthy?

Recently, NPR aired a series entitled “How Low Can You Go?”, in which listeners, website users, and chefs share recipes which can feed a family of four for under $10. The first episode of the series features Spanish celebrity chef José Andrés preparing a chickpea & spinach stew.

The recipe isn’t for everyone –Andrés recommends using dried chickpeas (which must be soaked overnight, then rinsed & boiled for an additional hour) and several commenters on NPR’s website note that Spanish olive oil, sherry & saffron aren’t exactly common kitchen items – but this isn’t the point. For increasing numbers of food insecure families, a $10 dinner (regardless of what’s in it) is a luxury, and many think the only way they can afford to feed their family is with macaroni, spaghetti & fast food combos – dishes full of calories, but with nutrition even lower than their price. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else – during MAZON’s Food Stamp Challenge last year, I lived off potatoes, ramen noodles & frozen burritos, and as a result became dazed and sluggish. I was only looking for calories; I just assumed fresh food & nutritious meals were out of my price range.

Andrés’ recipe leans towards the fancy, but it feeds four for less than $10. And it’s pretty healthy. If NPR’s series and recipes inspire even one family to go low and still go healthy, then that’s worth setting alarms & checking the beans.

One more thing; NPR recorded José Andrés & his recipe at DC Central Kitchen, where Andrés volunteers. For the last 20 years, DC Central Kitchen has recycled tons of food in the Capitol area that would otherwise go to waste. Their program entails culinary job training that empowers homeless & hungry people with professional skills while helping nourish their peers & strengthen their community. We are proud to include them amongst our grantees, and wish them the best on their 20th anniversary. You can learn more about them at: http://www.dccentralkitchen.org/

NPR’s original feature is available at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102854605&ps=cprs

MAZON’s Food Stamp Challenge video blogs are available at: http://www.youtube.com/mazonusa

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All Religions Teach: End Hunger

The Jewish holiday of Passover begins at sundown on April 2, 2007.  Jews around the world with gather around a seder table to recall the Israelites liberation from their bondage of slavery.  As a community, we will reflect on what freedom truly means, not only for our ancestors, but also for all people, many of who are enslaved today in our society, including those who are hungry.

In our world, hunger does not just affect one culture or one religion, and all of our faiths and sacred traditions obligate us to work toward a solution.  Although our religious stories vary, the teachings about helping others are quite similar.

Christianity teaches that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Taoism urges us to help by proclaiming, “Extend your help without seeking reward.  Give to others and do not regret or begrudge your liberality.  Those who are thus are good.”

The Qu”ran states:  “The poor, the orphan, the captive-feed them for the love of god alone, desiring no reward, nor even thanks.”

And, at this time of year, during the Passover seder Jews recite, “Let all who are hungry enter and eat.”

Our different faith traditions teach us that it is our civic responsibility to help hungry people by providing them with the resources necessary to help each individual and family to become self-sufficient in society.  And our assistance is needed now more than ever.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture over 35 million Americans, including 12 million children, are hungry or are at risk of hunger.  We also know that hunger goes beyond our country.  Today, 852 million people in the world are malnourished; over 150 million are children under the age of five.

But, in the face of their overwhelming tragedy, we can help to make a difference in the lives of so many that are hungry by building partnerships between the public and private sectors.  In the short-term, our faith communities provide immediate relief to those in need, but that can only do so much.  We must also strive to end hunger, to eradicate it completely.

Food banks, soup kitchens and food pantries are working hard to help those who are hungry today, but are also advocating for change on behalf of their clients.  Federal food and other entitlement programs are constantly being cut, limiting crucial resources for hungry families.  Four out of 10 of those eligible for the Food Stamp Program are not receiving benefits.  This has the dual consequence of keeping people hungry and slowing the economy, since every dollar spent on the Food Stamp Program generates about $1.84 in economic activity.  It is imperative that federal nutrition programs continue to be made available and accessible to help the fight to end hunger.  This, in concert with our philanthropic efforts, is our best strategy to ensure that we end hunger for good.

This Passover, I am reminded that although we are not physically bound in slavery, we are not completely free until the world is rid of hunger and poverty.  Let”s work together to give those who are hungry an opportunity to be free from bondage and allow them to “enter and eat.”

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