For a hard copy, e-mail me your street address.
Act on the Act
The Coalition's legislative efforts are now focused on getting the House's
version of the Community Food Security Act enacted as legislation in the
Senate. As of this writing, the bill is to be sponsored by Senator Leahy (D-
VT, and minority chair of the Agriculture Committee, and hopefully Senator
Lugar (R-IN, chair of the Agriculture Committee) and others. We are working
over the next couple of weeks to get as many co-sponsors as possible.
Enactment of Senate legislation will help ensure passage of the Act when the
House and Senate go to conference. The Senate version will ask for $4
million a year, and hopefully will propose the same funding mechanism as the
To support this effort, please call your US Senators immediately and ask
them to express their support for Senator Leahy's CFS Bill. Also ask them to
co-sponsor the bill. You may refer to HR 2003, or if you would like a faxed
copy of the Senate legislation, contact us (See the "For More Information"
box for our addresses). Time is of the essence! Thanks.
FOOD BANKING: NEW IDEAS FOR THE 90S
The times are a-changing for many food banks across the country. For the past
decade or so, food banks have focused on meeting the emergency food needs of
an ever increasing amount of hungry people. With conservative business
leaders (with links to the food industry) as board members, food banks have
in many cases shunned an advocacy role for a business model. Or as one food
banker put it, "We're in the business of charitable food distribution."
Nevertheless in recent years, a series of factors have encouraged an
increasing number of food banks to take on projects that are a departure from
their usual scope of operations. Let's take a look at these factors.
Nutrition: The nutritional value of food bank donations has long been
questioned. Highly processed and high fat foods, such as government surplus
commodities, routinely compose a significant portion of food bank donations.
Health concerns combined with the addition of nutritionists to many food bank
staffs have raised interest in distributing more fresh fruits and vegetables
to low-income communities.
Reduced Donations: The advent of new more efficient management techniques
such as total quality management and just in time delivery in the food
processing and supermarket industries has substantially reduced corporate
food donations. Similarly, government commodity donations have diminished
and promise to do so even further with the cost-cutting mood of Congress.
These concerns have led food banks to seek out new innovative forms of
providing food as well as to redefine their role within the food system.
Burn-Out: After 15 years of "emergencies", the emergency food system is
becoming institutionalized. The level of hunger has not abated significantly
since the "crisis" of the early Reagan era, and food bankers are continuing
to see many of the same hungry faces year in and year out. This situation has
led some food banks to consider prevention-oriented programs that attempt to
put themselves "out of business."
These factors have led food banks to increase their presence as community
institutions, and develop food security related projects. Many of these
projects revolve around gardening and farming while others focus on education
The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank's Green Harvest program is a
comprehensive and ambitious foray into food production and distribution.
Green Harvest has evolved since its inception in 1991 from a community
gardening and gleaning program to include a community supported agriculture
farm and three farm stands in public housing projects.
Central to the philosophy of the food bank is a belief that the food bank is
part of the community and has a social responsibility to make best use of its
far reaching distribution network. The development of farmstands in isolated
housing projects is an excellent example of the way in which the Food Bank
utilizes its projects for multiple purposes and grounds them in community
organizing. The farmstands not only achieve their objectives of increasing
access to fresh foods, but also accomplish nutrition and environmental
education goals through cooking demonstrations and farm tours.
Like the Pittsburgh Food Bank, the Capitol Area Food Bank in Washington, DC
also operates a community supported agriculture farm and farmstands. From the
Ground Up operates three gardens/farms on 12 acres, producing over 60,000
lbs. of food last year. About 35% of the produce goes to the 125 members of
the community supported agriculture arrangement, who subsidize much of the
operating costs for the rest of the program. Another 10% or so is sold to
restaurants and health food stores, and the other 50% is sold at well below
market price through the seven farm stands.
As with the Pittsburgh model, these farm stands were designed to increase
community access to fresh foods in isolated areas. They also serve as
economic development vehicles, providing part time jobs and profits for
community organizations and churches. Leigh Hauter, director of the program,
notes however that one of the primary reasons for the farmstands is to make
connections and organize low income communities, while helping them to
better understand questions of food security and environmental
In Los Angeles, the 1992 civil disturbances proved to be the impetus for the
L.A. Regional Foodbank to become a more active force in its low income
community through the development of a community garden. With federal urban
greening funding, the Foodbank developed the 7.5 acre patch adjacent to its
warehouse. Increased self-reliance is only one benefit for the garden's 150
members. Located in a neighborhood devoid of parks, the garden has become an
important community place for meetings and celebration. Birthday parties and
barbecues are common on weekends.
The garden has been so successful (with an 80 person waiting list), that the
food bank will be developing the second adjacent 7.5 acre parcel. The
Foodbank now has two community gardening persons on staff, and is planning to
assist pantries in developing their own gardens.
Four hundred miles to the north in Oakland, the Alameda County Community Food
Bank has been attempting to foster relationships between local growers and
residential treatment programs. Motivated by a desire to help support small
organic farmers while educating low-income consumers on seasonal eating and
the environmental impacts of food production, the Food Bank project is the
vision of staff nutritionist Leslie Mikkelsen. She notes that, "I feel that
we have a role in the local food system. Because we are concerned about food
security we should be concerned about preserving agricultural
The project has run into a few snags since its inception six months ago.
Having run out of funding, the Project has yet to convince a treatment
program to purchase directly from a farmer. Leslie thinks that this is
because they have focused on high-priced organic produce and farmers who
don't produce sufficient variety to meet the needs of the treatment programs.
She notes that any future effort will most likely include larger scale
growers (100-200 acres) and focus on local rather than organic agriculture.
These are just a sampling of the many food security projects that food banks
across the country are undertaking. In Atlanta, the Food Bank has developed
an educational program with a Hunger 101 curriculum as well as hosts a
community forum on affordable housing every month. The Greater Boston Food
Bank operates the Kitchen Works Program which adds value to bulk and surplus
foods to make nutritious alternatives. In Hatfield MA, the Western
Massachusetts Food Bank operates a CSA farm much like the ones in Pittsburgh
For other food banks interested in taking on similar projects, a few common
themes run through each of these organizations' experiences.
* Financial sustainability: Find a way to keep the Project from draining the
food bank's resources. Funders often like these kind of projects. Revenue
generating arrangements like CSAs can provide an important subsidy.
* Vision and Plan: Having an eye for where you're going can keep your project
on-track and free from multiple side distractions.
* Step by Step: Most successful projects added one component at a time. Don't
try to solve all the problems at once. They'll wait for you.
* Know Your Limitations: A couple food banks had to put a halt to their job
training components of their programs once they realized that they weren't
equipped to be providing the life skills training that the workers needed.
For more information:
Joyce Rothermel; Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, 412-672-4949. Doris
Bloch; LA Regional Foodbank, 213-234-3030. Bill Bolling; Atlanta Community
Food Bank, 404-892-9822. Leigh Hauter; Capitol Area Community Food Bank, 202
526 5344. Leslie Mikkelsen; Alameda County Community Food Bank, 510-568-3663.
Maria Markham; Greater Boston Food Bank, 617-427- 5200. David Sharken;
Western Mass. Food Bank, 413-247-9738
FROM THE FIELD
National Association of the Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, October 18-21;
Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mark Winne, 203-296-9325.
The American Community Gardening Association's Gardening: Pathways to
Community, October 5- 8; Portland, Oregon. Leslie Pohl-Kosbau, Portland Parks
and Recreation, 503-823-1612.
The Marin Institute's Safe Communities: Toward a Comprehensive Urban Agenda,
October 5-8; St. Helena, South Carolina. Sheila James, Marin Institute,
The 1995 Western Region Community Supported Agriculture, November 12-14; San
Francisco. Jared Lawson, CSA West, 408-459-3964.
Northeast SAWG, "Annual Harvest Fair Conference," October 10-11; Hebron, MA.
Kathy Ruhf, New England Small Farm Institute, 413-323-4531.
The California Sustainable Agriculture Working Group's Rural-Urban
Partnerships for a Sustainable Food System, December 2-3; Menlo Park. Kai
Siedenburg, CALSAWG, 408-458-5304.
The National Congress for Community Economic Development' A Vision for Change
through Community Economic Development, October 5-7; Portland, Oregon.
The E. F. Schumacher Society's 15th Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures
featuring Cathrine Sneed, Paul Hawken, and Kent Whealy, October 21; New
Haven, CT. E. F. Schumacher Society, 413-528-1737.
Projects and Studies
Nationwide: The University of CT's Food Marketing Policy Center recently
released a comprehensive study of the lack of supermarkets in 21 inner
cities. Entitled, "The Urban Grocery Store Gap," it is available from Ronald
Cotterill at 203-486-1927.
San Francisco: The San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners Alemany Urban
Youth Farm provides an integrated model for an urban farm. It includes
community gardening, youth job training, a vinegar product microenterprise
components, as well as a greenhouse, orchards, and appropriate technology.
For more information, contact Muhammad Nuru, 415-285-SLUG
Los Angeles: Venice High School has teamed up with the environmental
organization Earthsave, Common Ground Gardening Program, and some of the
best-known chefs in Los Angeles to implement the Healthy School Meals
Program. This program will educate students on the environmental impacts of
their food choices, assist the food service director in providing healthy
alternatives in the school cafeteria, and revamp the school's extensive
garden. For more information, contact Susan Campbell at Earthsave,
SANET is a computer network dedicated to sustainable agriculture concerns. To
sign up, e-mail to email@example.com In the body of your e-mail, write
PANUPS is the newsletter of the Pesticide Action Network. It covers many
sustainable agriculture and pesticide related issues. To sign up, send e-mail
to firstname.lastname@example.org, and write in the body of the text <subscribe
Farm Bill Review covers a broad range of agricultural and nutrition concerns
related to the Farm Bill. To subscribe, e-mail to email@example.com, and in
the body of the e-mail write <subscribe farm bill>
SNE_DSFS is an e-mail group for, but not limited to, members of the Division
of Sustainable Food Systems of the Society for Nutrition Education.
Information is shared on topics such as sustainable ag, food processing, food
and ag biotechnology, CSA's, etc. To sign up, send a message asking to
subscribe to firstname.lastname@example.org .
WELFARE REFORM ANALYSIS
Ed. note: Given the potential impact of proposed welfare reform legislation
on the food security of low-income individuals, as well as its pressing
nature, we have chosen to focus this page on the welfare reform debate and
legislation currently making its way through Congress. This article presents
a synopsis of the Dole bill- the one most likely to be acted upon, followed
by a summary of the negative effects that this bill would have on low-income
persons. If passed, this bill would have to reconciled with the House version
(HR4) in conference committee, and then signed or vetoed by the President.
Frank Tamborello, Southern Calif. Interfaith Hunger Coalition
Senator Dole's proposal is called S. 1120. It contains a total of $16 billion
in food stamp cuts over five years. The cuts include an across the board
reduction in benefit levels, a reduction in the allowable standard deduction,
a repeal in increases in the minimum benefit level, a repeal in the increase
in the value of a vehicle that the household may own, and a change requiring
energy assistance to be counted as income in determining food stamp
In addition, the Dole bill includes an option for a state to decide to block
grant the food stamp program. Once the state
did this, it could not return to the federal food stamp program. Benefits
would have to be in the form of coupons, commodities, or through electronic
transfer (not cash). 80% of the block grant funds would have to be used for
food. Some Senators may offer amendments to increase state legislation
involvement in the decision to choose block grants over the federal program.
Dole's bill cuts the child nutrition programs by over $2 billion over 5
years. Most of the cuts are reductions in reimbursement rates for children
who pay full price for school to provide child care under any circumstances.
Among the expected amendments: reduction of federal funding if a state does
not maintain its current level of welfare spending, and additional funding
for child care.
Ed Bolen, CFPA
We urge you to contact the White House, 202-456-1414, to express your
opposition to any legislation that contains the following components.
Block Grants: Block grant proposals, for AFDC as well as Food Stamps, would
remove the entitlement status of these programs which is a guarantee that
those that fulfill all eligibility requirements would receive aid. In the
current proposed legislation, people who need help may not get it because the
state could simply run out of money. Without entitlements, a state recess,
local plant closure or natural disaster would result in more need for
assistance without any guarantees.
Loss of funding: All proposals include deep cuts to nutrition and cash
assistance programs, and remove a state maintenance of effort requirement
that would allow states to cease funding AFDC and other programs.
Removal of Federal Standards: Especially for nutrition programs, federal
rules ensure equal access and program quality.
Time Limits for Aid: The five year time limit is arbitrary, doesn't take into
account individual situations and needs, and ignores the deeper need for job
training and child care.
Denial of Aid to Legal Immigrants: Denying benefits to recent immigrants and
those that are unable to make it through the citizenship process is
discriminatory and based on the myth that immigrants are draining our
Child Exclusions: Denying aid to unmarried teenage mothers, children born to
women on assistance and cutting benefits until paternity of the children is
legally established unfairly punishes the children and struggling families.