Poverty In America: Defining The New Poor

Welfare changes in the 1990s helped slash cash benefit rolls, yet the use of food stamps is soaring today. About 15 percent of Americans use food stamps. The program has become what some call the new welfare.

A big reason why is a deal struck between President Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress in 1996. At that time, the number of Americans who received cash payments — what’s often thought of as welfare — was at an all-time high.

The Clinton overhaul made it much harder to qualify for those payments, and today the welfare rolls are down 70 percent, but that’s only if you define welfare in one way.

“We decided cash assistance is welfare and that’s bad, but we decided food aid is nutritional assistance and that’s good,” says New York Times reporter Jason DeParle. “We made [the food stamp] program much easier to get on.”

Read more and listen to the full story at NPR.org.

Howard Buffett Helps Start Rural Feeding Program

“It should be unacceptable that so many are suffering in such a wealthy country.” —Howard Buffett

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Farmer and philanthropist Howard G. Buffett, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, wants to enlist fellow food producers in a new campaign to fight hunger in rural America.

Buffett and other organizers planned to announce the “Invest an Acre” initiative Thursday. It will encourage farmers around the nation to donate profits from the sale of 1 acre’s crop to the charity Feeding America, which will use the money to support food banks in rural communities where advocates say malnutrition is a serious — if often overlooked — scourge.

“Poverty and hunger in rural America is very much out of sight, out of mind,” said Howard Buffett, who in 1999 established a foundation to help the world’s needy. “It doesn’t jump out at you. It’s not like the brazen images of starving children in Ethiopia … but that doesn’t mean it isn’t just as devastating to people who are hungry.”

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Senate action kicks off uphill battle to pass farm and food bill this year

Fresh North Carolina produceWASHINGTON — The Senate has begun laying the groundwork for a half-trillion-dollar farm and food bill that would end unconditional subsidies to farmers, but House Republicans’ resolve to cut its biggest component — food stamps — by $13 billion a year dims its prospects of passing Congress.

The current five-year farm bill expires at the end of September, and the Senate Agriculture Committee on Friday released a draft of its plan to redesign safety nets that help farmers weather bad times while achieving some $23 billion in deficit reduction. The full committee is to vote next week on the plan, which consolidates conservation programs and takes several steps, such as stopping lottery winners from getting assistance, to make the food stamp program more accountable. Of that $23 billion in savings projected over next 10 years, $4 billion comes from food stamps.

Read more at the Washington Post

SNAP (Food Stamps): Facts, Myths and Realities

What you know (and don’t know) about the SNAP program may surprise you. Feeding America has compiled an excellent resource clarifying many facts and myths relating to the former Food Stamps program.

Read more at Feeding America.

1 in 4 Asheville Area Residents Struggling to Afford Food

Nearly one in every four people in the Asheville metropolitan area is struggling to afford food. That is a disgrace that cannot be tolerated.

The 23.8 percent figure for Buncombe, Henderson, Haywood and Madison counties in 2011 ranked the area as third-worst in the U.S., behind Bakersfield and Fresno in California.

Read the entire editorial at the Asheville Citizen

46.5 million Americans used SNAP benefits in Dec 2011

Not all broken records are a good thing.

Unemploment and underemployment led to a record of more than 46.5 million Americans that used SNAP (Formerly food stamps) benefits in December, 2011. That was an increase of 2.4 million over 2010. Nearly one in seven people participated in SNAP setting a new record of Americans using food assistance.

Read more at frac.org.