The San Diego Hunger Coalition (SDHC) applauds the House for the passage of The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S. 3307) on December 2, 2010, and the signing of the bill into law on December 13, 2010. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has many important provisions that will affect San Diegans receiving assistance. (For highlights of the bill click here.)

While these provisions have merit and are much needed, they should not come at the expense of other hunger programs, namely the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly called Food Stamps. Therefore, the San Diego Hunger Coalition also supports the concern expressed by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) about the reduction in SNAP benefits to help fund this new legislation.

According to FRAC, $2.2 billion in SNAP benefits will be used to fund this legislation, reducing the program’s monthly allotments in late 2013 and early 2014. These cuts, in addition to the cuts made by other bills could mean that a family of four could see their SNAP benefits fall by about $59 starting in November 2013. Given that current SNAP benefits are insufficient to meet many families’ nutrition needs here in San Diego, the impact of any further reduction would mean less access to healthy foods.

A recent, local study by the Supportive Parents Information Network (SPIN) found that families currently receiving SNAP benefits cut back on healthier food, such as fruit, over the course of the month, as benefits dwindle. A further reduction would mean individuals and families will have a more difficult time affording healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables or lean meats.

Although the SNAP (now called CalFresh in California) is underutilized in San Diego County, it is a powerful anti-hunger tool. CalFresh benefits can help fill the gap between emergency food distributions, which are typically once a month and are comprised mostly of non-perishables. CalFresh benefits allow the user to shop for their own groceries, including fresh fruit and vegetables, as needed.

White House officials have stated that President Obama and Congressional leaders have stepped in and made a commitment to restore SNAP funding. To ensure this restoration happens quickly, the SDHC encourages the public to advocate for a commitment to have SNAP benefits restored by calling their local members of Congress. First, thank them for passing the child nutrition bill and second, urge them to fix the SNAP cut.

San Diego County’s representatives in Congress are:

• Darrel E. Issa (R) — 49th District

• Brian Bilbray (R) — 50th District

• Bob Filner (D) — 51st District

• Duncan Hunter (R) — 52nd District

• Susan A. Davis (D) — 53rd District

You can enter your zip code and find your neighborhood’s representative here.

John Lucero Criswell is the Executive Director of the San Diego Hunger Coalition. To learn more about the SDHC, visit www.sandiegohungercoalition.org.

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