SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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THE EMERGENCY FOOD ASSISTANCE ACT OF 1999
SUBCOMMITTEE ON DEPARTMENT OPERATIONS,
OVERSIGHT, NUTRITION, AND FORESTRY
COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
APRIL 7, 2000
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSerial No. 10651
Printed for the use of the Committee on Agriculture
COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
LARRY COMBEST, Texas, Chairman
BILL BARRETT, Nebraska,
JOHN A. BOEHNER, Ohio
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
NICK SMITH, Michigan
TERRY EVERETT, Alabama
FRANK D. LUCAS, Oklahoma
HELEN CHENOWETH-HAGE, Idaho
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
SAXBY CHAMBLISS, Georgia
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
BOB SCHAFFER, Colorado
JOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCWILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
KEN CALVERT, California
GIL GUTKNECHT, Minnesota
BOB RILEY, Alabama
GREG WALDEN, Oregon
MICHAEL K. SIMPSON, Idaho
DOUG OSE, California
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
ERNIE FLETCHER, Kentucky
CHARLES W. STENHOLM, Texas,
Ranking Minority Member
GARY A. CONDIT, California
COLLIN C. PETERSON, Minnesota
CALVIN M. DOOLEY, California
EVA M. CLAYTON, North Carolina
DAVID MINGE, Minnesota
EARL F. HILLIARD, Alabama
EARL POMEROY, North Dakota
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
SANFORD D. BISHOP, Jr., Georgia
BENNIE G. THOMPSON, Mississippi
JOHN ELIAS BALDACCI, Maine
MARION BERRY, Arkansas
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMIKE McINTYRE, North Carolina
DEBBIE STABENOW, Michigan
BOB ETHERIDGE, North Carolina
CHRISTOPHER JOHN, Louisiana
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
DAVID D. PHELPS, Illinois
KEN LUCAS, Kentucky
MIKE THOMPSON, California
BARON P. HILL, Indiana
JOE BACA, California
WILLIAM E. O'CONNER, JR., Staff Director
LANCE KOTSCHWAR, Chief Counsel
STEPHEN HATERIUS, Minority Staff Director
KEITH WILLIAMS, Communications Director
Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia, Chairman
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois,
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
SAXBY CHAMBLISS, Georgia
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
GREG WALDEN, Oregon
EVA M. CLAYTON, North Carolina,
Ranking Minority Member
MARION BERRY, Arkansas
BENNIE G. THOMPSON, Mississippi
DAVID D. PHELPS, Illinois
BARON P. HILL, Indiana
MIKE THOMPSON, California
DAVID MINGE, Minnesota
JOE BACA, California
C O N T E N T S
H.R.3453, to amend the Food Stamp Act of 1977 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to purchase additional commodities for distribution under section 214 of the Emergency Food Assistance Act of 1983 for fiscal years 2001 and 2002.
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Clayton, Hon. Eva M., a Representative in Congress from the State of North Carolina, prepared statement
Ewing, Hon. Thomas W., a Representative in Congress from the State of Illinois, prepared statement
Alford, John T., executive director, Mississippi Food Network
Gay, Gary, director, food distribution division, North Carolina Department of Agriculture
Hall, Hon. Tony P., a Representative in Congress from the State of Ohio
O'Brien, Douglas, director, public policy and research, America's Second Harvest
Richards, Franklin J., II, executive director, the Valdosta Food Bank, Inc.
Watkins, Shirley R., Under Secretary, Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture
THE EMERGENCY FOOD ASSISTANCE ENHANCEMENT ACT OF 1999
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTHURSDAY, APRIL 7, 2000
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Department Operations,
Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry,
Committee on Agriculture,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:00 a.m., in room 1300, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Thomas W. Ewing (vice chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Moran, Walden, Clayton, Berry, Phelps, Hill, Thompson, and Stenholm (ex officio.)
Staff present: Kevin Kramp, subcommittee staff director; Lynn Gallagher, senior professional staff; Wanda Worsham, clerk; Jason Vaillancourt, Callista Bisek, and Quinton Robinson.
Mr. EWING. Good morning, everyone. I am Tom Ewing and I am the vice chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry of the House Agriculture Committee, and I am sitting in for our good chairman, Bob Goodlatte today. I welcome you all to the hearing. I intend to submit my statement for the record and spare all of you the very inspirational reading of that statement, and I will go immediately to our first witness, welcome, Mr. Hall. I will turn the mike over to you unless my colleagues on the panel wish to make an opening statement.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Ewing, Mrs. Clayton and a copy of H.R. 3453 follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. THOMAS W. EWING, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman Goodlatte wishes to apologize to all for his absence this morning. A markup on his Internet gambling legislation was unexpectedly scheduled for this morning in the Judiciary Committee. He apologizes and wishes he could be here.
The purpose of this hearing is to receive testimony and written statements reviewing H.R. 3453, the Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act of 1999. Congressman Goodlatte introduced this bill to increase the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) mandatory commodity purchase account from $100 million to $125 million.
This subcommittee has received testimony detailing the increasing demand on community food banks. Even though our farmers and ranchers are the most productive and efficient in the world, the need for food banks continues. Food banks often meet the needs of their communities by managing donations from the government and the private sector. Most government donations are the product of the Emergency Food Assistance Program. It is a unique program that has the ability to provide nutritious domestic agriculture products to needy Americans while at the same time providing support to the agriculture community. In the welfare reform bill, Congress made TEFAP commodity purchases mandatory because of the integral role this program has in the provisions of food assistance to needy families.
This program is a quick fix, something to get families through tough times. It gives them the support they need, but it doesn't ensnare them into a cycle of dependency for which other Federal assistance programs are infamous. TEFAP purchases also provide much needed support to the agriculture community. While other food assistance programs are much larger, TEFAP has a more direct impact for agriculture producers, while at the same time providing food for those in need.
The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 included hundreds of millions of dollars for Employment and Training Programs aimed at those Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) whose eligibility for the Food Stamp Program was restricted by a work requirement in the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. The money is dedicated to training programs that keep any ABAWD on the food stamp rolls if they participate. Several hearings and reports have said that the money is going unspent because very few are taking advantage of the programs. At the same time, food banks are reporting an increase in demand from the same demographic group.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Why not put the money where the need is? Annually the Secretary reviews the states Employment and Training programs and allocates the money he considers appropriate and equitable. If a state doesn't use the money allocated to them, the Secretary can reallocate the money to another state. H. R. 3453 does nothing to change or restrict that authority. Congressman Goodlatte's bill simply allows the Secretary of Agriculture to spend up to $25 million of unused Employment and Training money on TEFAP commodity purchases.
Congressman Goodlatte is hopeful that the Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act will enjoy resounding and rapid support from this committee, and the House of Representatives. It is important that commodity purchases for this important program are increased.
We have assembled uniquely qualified witnesses that will provide insight into the need for increased TEFAP funding and the current status of employment and training participation of the able-bodied adults without dependents population.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. EVA M. CLAYTON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
Mr. Chairman, I am pleased that we are having this hearing on your legislation to increase funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TEFAP. I have been active with the hunger community in my State and the Nation and know how popular this program is and the role TEFAP plays in providing critically needed food to many hungry individuals. My commitment to alleviating hunger and food insecurity is steadfast and the TEFAP program plays an integral role in the partnership between the Government and private sector efforts to insure that no one goes hungry.
I had hoped to join in supporting your legislation which provides a much needed funding increase for TEFAP. While there is a definite need to increase funding for this worthy and effective program, I would like to note that in the current fiscal year TEFAP has received $98 million in entitlement commodities, the full level authorized. Furthermore, USDA's budget asks for the full authorized amount in the 2001 budget of $100 million and USDA has provided and will continue to provide substantial amounts of bonus commodities to TEFAP. During the 1999 fiscal year, USDA provided over $107.5 million in bonus commodities to TEFAP. In the current fiscal year bonus commodities are again being donated to TEFAP. The addition of bonus commodities together with those bought with appropriated funds brings the total each year to over $200 millionthis is substantial support for TEFAP.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I do support the goal of your legislation and would like to say that I find this legislation much more palatable, than the bill you introduced in the 105th Congress. However, I still have serious concerns about the potential effect this proposed legislation could have on the Education and Training funds for adults between the ages of 18 and 55. These funds are designed to create work for poor unemployed individuals whose food stamp benefits are cut off after just 3 months if they are not in a Workfare Program. Denying funding for workfare slots (food stamps) to people subject to the 3-month time limit not only violates the commitment of the promise of the 1997 bipartisan budget agreement, but it increases the burden and the caseload of the Food Banks which the limited TEFAP program supports.
Indeed, State officials in North Carolina have advised me that the funding guidelines for the Education and Training Program are so restrictive that our counties cannot effectively utilize the program and therefore do not participate. They further advise that with more
funding flexibility they could have a good solid Education and Training program for the 1855-year-old single adults. They specifically mentioned flexibility for job development and job placement and a strong case management component such as the one in the TANF Program.
We are aware that unemployed able-bodied adults not caring for children can be denied benefits if they do not participate in an assigned work or training activity. We all realize that many of these single-adults do not qualify for any other assistance program. I am told that many of the workfare jobs, while designed to keep participants eligible for food stamp benefits, do not allow them to develop skills to secure jobs that will allow them to become self sufficient and financially independent.
H.R. 3453, has good news and bad news. Unfortunately, the bad news far outweighs the good news. The proposed bill increases funding for TEFAP by up to $25 million dollars, for 2 years. That is the good news. At the same time, however, it allocates funds from the Employment and Training Program to pay for the increases in TEFAP. That is the bad news. The reason it is bad news is that, by taking the funds from the Employment and Training Program, you risk interfering with the process of preparing ''able-bodied adults'' for work
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Despite a booming economy, there is still a great need for Food Stamps among many in the 18 to 55 year-old group. Manya growing numberof these ''able-bodied'' adults are malnourished and underfedunprepared for work. If we truly want Welfare Reform to work, if we truly want to move our citizens from poverty to progress, we must be careful about enacting and implementing policies that in effect, ''rob Peter to pay Paul.''
I would caution that before we make legislative changes that could reallocate the unspent funding in the Education and Training Program for single abled-bodied adults, we should look at making adjustments which would provide greater flexibility to fully utilize and maximize the potential envisioned when it was created. Mr. Chairman, I would like to work with you, and Under Secretary Watkins to explore the possibility of expanding the flexibility of the Education and Training Program in conjunction with your efforts to increase the TEFAP funding.
I look forward to the testimonies of the distinguished and committed panelists who have come to share their concerns, observations and ideas.
"The Official Committee record contains additional material here."
Mr. EWING. We will go with you, Mr. Hall.
STATEMENT OF HON. TONY P. HALL, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF OHIO
Mr. HALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I won't read my statement either. I would like for it to be part of the record, of course. I want to thank you and your members for holding this important hearing to focus attention on the plight of those who struggle every day just to make it and to feed themselves and to improve their situation.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This is truly an issue where both Republicans and Democrats can unite. In the world there is about a billion people that face hunger, including 30 million Americans. And according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about one in every 10 households consistently face very difficult choices in trying to feed their families on an inadequate budget. Every report that I have seen in the past few years has shown that requests for emergency and supplemental food have increased greatly, even while the welfare rolls and food stamp participation have decreased. The statistics indicate that many Americans are not earning enough to feed their families properly, and some 80 percent of the food banks report that while they began as emergency food providers, now they are needed to supplement working American's meager food budgets.
Almost two-thirds said that lack of funding and lack of food with their most pressing needs. Given what I have witnessed firsthand, and I am sure many of you have witnessed firsthand over the past few years, I have sought along, with some of you, to increase TEFAP funding, because I know how it benefits those in need and assists food banks in providing nutritional foods that are not always available through private donations.
Together with Representative Emerson, I have introduced the Food Banks Relief Act. That would double the authorized level of TEFAP to $200 million. This would go a long way towards addressing the unmet food needs of hungry Americans.
Additionally, I have what I call good Samaritan Tax Act, that will hopefully get a hearing in the Ways and Means Committee that will give a benefit to small businesses and farmers who donate food, grocery stores. Food is treated differently than almost any other product. If you have a hardware store and you donate hammers and nails to habitat for humanity, you get a certain percentage; but if you donate food, you don't get that percentage. So food is treated differently than any other group.
I am pleased to support the bill that the chairman is in favor of, the Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act. The bill is a step in the right direction, and I want to thank the chairman for his initiative in this. I am convinced that we could solve the problem of hunger in America. I think that we suffer from not only the political will and the moral will, but we probably suffer from the spiritual will to do it, and I am pleased that this committee has chosen to focus our attention on those who need our help.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I want to inform you about efforts to fight hunger by developing leaders, the Mickey Leland, Bill Emerson Hunger Fellows Program is a project of the Congressional Hunger Center of which Frank Wolf and I are co-chairman, and we train a hundred leaders every year forwe send them out for 6 months into the country, whether they be in cities or Indian reservations, and then we bring them back for 6 months to work in the city and learn about policy. Our idea, of course, is to train young leaders for the future so we can whip this problem some day.
We have the ability and we grow enough food. We have the ability to do, and we don't have to be rocket scientists to figure out what to do. We just have to be more willing to do it. I am very proud of the Congressional Hunger Center. Allow me to conclude by informing the committee of the Hunger Relief Act, H.R. 3192. This act has been prompted by the entire antihunger community, and I join with Jim Walsh, Eva Clayton and others in introducing this act. It will essentially do four things. It will increase the shelter deduction. It will increase the vehicle allowance. It will increase TEFAP. It will also restore legal immigrants to food stamp eligibility.
I would encourage the committee to move this bill as soon as possible. I would encourage and urge the committee to consider including the Hunger Relief Act as part of this bill that is before us today, or maybe some of its provisions. The bill has very strong bipartisan support. It is the top priority of the antihunger community in this country, and I think it will help those Americans who have not benefited from our economic prosperity. I thank you very much for this hearing, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. EWING. Thank you, Congressman Hall.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hall follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF TONY P. HALL, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF OHIO
Mr. Chairman, Representative Clayton and other members of the subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to testify today about the needs of those Americans who are going hungry, even in this time of plenty. I want to thank you for holding this hearing to bring attention to the plight of those who struggle to feed their families and for introducing legislation to help improve their situations.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As members of the committee know, I am deeply concerned about hunger in this country and around the world. I have dedicated myself to promoting effective solutions to this problem, no matter where the ideas originate. As President Reagan once said, ''A hungry child knows no politics.'' This is truly an issue where both Republicans and Democrats can unite against the common enemy of hunger that affects approximately 1 billion people, including 30 million Americans. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 1 in every 10 households consistently faces tough choices in trying to feed their families on an inadequate budget.
Sixteen years ago, I joined with the late Mickey Leland and Bill Emerson, and with Ben Gilman in founding the Select Committee on Hunger. Although the committee no longer exists and two of its greatest champions have diedincluding the previous chairman of this subcommitteethe need is still with us. I was reminded of this again this past weekend, when I went to Minneapolis to the Greater Lake Country Food Bank. On the invitation of our colleague Jim Ramstad, I helped the food bank celebrate its 20th anniversary. It was sad and ironic to celebrate the fact that this response to the needs of hungry people is still needed in the Twin Cities or anywhere else in our proud country.
We heard from Janet Dickey, a single mother of four. Unlike some of those in her category, she did not fall victim to rising divorce rates or have her children out of wedlock. Her husband, Craig, died at the age of 46 after a 2-year struggle with kidney cancer. Prior to his illness, he earned a living wage with a railroad and his family was doing well. After his death, his wife and children lost their home and were forced to turn to the food bank to supplement their tight budget. Without those sacks of groceries, Janet Dickey is not sure how they would have made it through their crisis.
Unfortunately, they are not alone. Every report that I have seen in the past few years has shown that requests for emergency and supplemental food have increased greatly, even while the welfare rolls and food stamp participation have decreased. I am sure that witnesses from USDA and America's Second Harvest will describe the increased need. Additionally, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has documented an 18 percent increase in demand for food and Catholic Charities USA has documented a 38 percent jump. In my own State of Ohio, the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks found a 148 percent increase since 1996, with an average of a 20 percent increase in the past year alone.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC These statistics indicate that many Americans are not earning enough to feed their families properly. Preliminary results from my own survey of more than 200 food banks support this shocking trend. Some agencies are forced to turn people away because the needs are greater than the supply of food. Some 80 percent of food banks report that they began as emergency food providers, but now are needed to supplement working Americans' meager food budgets. Almost two-thirds said that lack of funding and lack of food were their most pressing needs.
TEFAP, The Emergency Food Assistance Program, was designed to assist with this critical problem. Since 1981, the Federal Government's stores of surplus commodities that precipitated the program have disappeared. The need, however, has not. That is why Bill Emerson worked so hard to protect TEFAP on this committee and as vice chairman of the Select Committee on Hunger.
Bill was the champion of TEFAP because it accomplished two things he cared about a great deal: it helped feed hungry people and it aided struggling farmers.
The USDA's Economic Research Service reports that up to 85 cents of every dollar we invest in TEFAP goes to the producers and processors of this food. That makes it one of the best programs for American farmers who remain the most productive in the world, but who also want to make a living feeding the world. TEFAP maintains the historic bridge between farm support programs for many in rural areas, and nutrition programs that benefit people in urban areas and throughout the country.
I understand that the Agriculture Committee is in the midst of conducting field hearings on Federal farm policy. While I am not an expert on agriculture, I would submit that TEFAP is not merely a nutrition program that benefits hungry people. It is also an agriculture program that benefits farmers. Instead of telling them what to grow and how much of it, the Federal Government participates as a buyer in the free market, on behalf of those Americans who are too poor to buy the doof they need. As we have seen over the past few years, the Freedom to Farm Act only succeeds if farmers get a decent price for their crops. By purchasing food for TEFAP, the USDA contributes its purchasing power to the overall market for farmers. They are able to sell more food and the added demandfor 358 million pounds of food in fiscal year 1998boosts prices.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Last December, I again toured Ohio to investigate hunger in a State that is one of the world's most productive. The tour, ''From the Farm to the Table,'' focused on the link between helping farmers and feeding hungry families. Farmers in my district of Montgomery County explained their support for commodities programs, like TEFAP. These sentiments were echoed at the Dayton Emergency Food Bank, which is trying to feed more people with fewer resources.
As a result, I have sought to increase TEFAP funding because I know how it benefits those who are truly in need and assists food banks in providing nutritional foods that are not always available through private donations. Together with Jo Ann Emerson, I introduced the Food Banks Relief Act (H.R. 1324) that would double the authorized level of TEFAP to $200 million. This would go a long way in addressing the unmet food needs of hungry Americans.
Additionally, the Good Samaritan Tax Act (H.R. 1325) would benefit food banks by providing additional tax incentives for those businesses that donate food to private charities.
I am pleased to support the Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act. This bill is a step in the right direction, and I thank you, Mr. Chairman for this initiative. I share the concern about Federal funds languishing unspent when they were meant to be used to help the poor. I applaud your efforts to work with the anti-hunger community to improve this bill so that it does not slash the Food Stamp Employment and Training program.
I sincerely hope that the States will improve their record of designing and funding programs that benefit those who are losing their food stamps. In the meantime though, I believe that food banks are uniquely positioned to help these others meet their food needs. Additional funding for TEFAP will allow them to do just that.
As you know, food banks are in a unique position in the fight against hunger. Located in most communities around the country, they provide food to private charitiesmany of them faith-basedthat are the backbone of current welfare reform efforts. But their backs are bent under with the weight of increasing needs. Most charities receive some sort of government assistance to supplement their worthy efforts; many of them receive TEFAP commodities, donated by the people of the United States of Americatheir very own neighbors.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEM
I am convinced that we can solve the problem of hunger in America. We know what the solutions are and we certainly have enough food. But we continue to suffer the lack of political and moral leadership. I am pleased that this committee has chosen to focus its attention on those who need our help.
I want to take this opportunity to inform you about efforts to fight hunger by developing leaders. The Mickey Leland/Bill Emerson Hunger Fellows Program is a project of the Congressional Hunger Center. It trains emerging leaders by combining direct service with public policy exposure. The result is a cadre of outstanding participants who gain the exposure, expertise and experience to make a difference.
Fellows have served with food banks around the country and with other anti-hunger agencies. Graduates have gone on to achieve impressive accomplishments within their respective humanitarian fields. In fact, Halley Torres Aldeen, a graduate from the second class, is currently writing a report on TEFAP for Second Harvest as she completes her Masters in Social Work. Another Hunger Fellow, Heidi Hattenbach of the first class, was responsible for establishing USDA's ''Fresh Foods Project'' that provides fresh produce to Native Americans through the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, without any additional funding.
A current fellow, Carrie Kilman of Lubbock, TX, spent 6 months working with the South Plains Food Bank in her home town. While there, she witnessed poverty and hunger in her own community that she had never seen before. She met Martha and her 15-year old granddaughter Monique. Martha and her husband worked for over 50 years in and around Lubbock. Now they depend on the food bank for monthly food boxes that provide them with proper nutrition, as they struggle with diabetes and cancer in addition to raising a teenager.
Carrie and her partner, Jana Rumminger, established the first Kids Cafe in the area, an after school program that provides nutritious meals and education for low-income children. They also established a distribution site for the ''Produce for the Plains'' program. It now serves over a ton of fresh produce each week to community residents. These are just a few examples of what dedicated, committed young leaders can accomplish when given the opportunity.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Allow me to conclude by informing the committee of the Hunger Relief Act (H.R. 3192). Four years ago, when welfare was reformed, we made a commitment to working Americans who were playing by the rules and whose wages were not enough to support a family. We said that if people would play by the rules and move into the workforce, that we would provide transitional support to ensure that allows a family working for low wages to maintain dignity. Foremost among these is food stamps. As all of you know, food stamps is the first line of defense against hunger. It was never intended to lift people completely out of poverty on its own, but at least it provides a minimal level of nutrition assistance for the poor.
Prompted by the entire anti-hunger community, I joined Jim Walsh, Eva Clayton and others in introducing the Hunger Relief Act because it would remove certain barriers that prevent working families from fully benefitting from food stamps. Currently, if an individual owns a vehicle valued at more that $4,650, it effectively disqualifies the person from receiving food stamps.
This vehicle allowance has only been increased by $150 since 1977, whereas inflation has tripled. Title II of the bill would simply allow states to increase this limit to match their respective TANF rules. With the possibility of exempting one automobile, working families would no longer have to choose between reliable transportation to get to work and putting food on the table.
An additional provision of the bill would address the barrier of skyrocketing shelter costs that plague all of us, but particularly affect low-income families. Despite the staggering economic growth, demand for adequate shelter has also increased during the same time, especially in the suburbs. The Food Stamp Program currently allows families who spend more than 50 percent of their income on shelter costs to deduct some of this when determining their benefits. Unfortunately, the value of this deduction has been drastically eroded by time and inflation. The Hunger Relief Act would increase the shelter deduction, thereby helping those families who struggle to pay the rent and put food on the table.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The bill would also restore legal immigrants to Food Stamp eligibility. These U.S. residents attempt to do everything right and play the rules. According to the Cato Institute, these potential citizens pay more than $80,000 in taxes than they receive in services from all levels of Government. Occasionally, they too fall on hard times and require a hand up to get back on their feet. Unfortunately, they are no longer eligible for food stamps. The final title of the Hunger Relief Act would increase TEFAP, the exact purpose of our hearing today.
I urge the committee to consider including the Hunger Relief Act, or at least some of its provisions, as an amendment to the Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act. This bill, which has strong bi-partisan support, is the top priority of the anti-hunger community. It would go a long way in helping those Americans who have not benefitted from our economic prosperity.
Clay and Beth Murray of Massachusetts are a perfect example of who would benefit from improving the Food Stamp program and increasing TEFAP, as the Hunger Relief Act would. Last year, they and their two children were evicted from their apartment. Beth was forced to quit her job because of a difficult pregnancy and the subsequent birth of their daughter, Teresa.
Clay worked two full time jobs, but still did not earn enough to put them above the Federal poverty level. A year ago, in better times, the Murrays bought a new car. Now they are not eligible for food stamps, even though their income is low enough to qualify, because the value of their only means of transportation exceeds the program's limit. According to Bread for the World, Clay said that, ''If we had gotten food stamps, we would have been able to keep our little boy in pre-school, pay the electric bill and the phone bill . . . and had the extra money we needed to pay rent so that we wouldn't have been evicted.''
Mr. Chairman and other members of the committee, thank you for allowing me to testify about an issue I care about very deeply. Thank you for considering this important and necessary piece of legislation. Most of all, thank you for caring about Janet, Martha, Clay and Beth and their needs. As public servants, we have no greater calling than to care for the least among us, the Americans who are struggling to feed their families.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. EWING. In identifying the need out there, it is really one of the important parts of this bill is for additional funding for food supplies for food pantries across America; is that correct?
Mr. HALL. That's correct.
Mr. EWING. And there is a mechanism in place now for the distribution of these funds?
Mr. HALL. There is.
Mr. EWING. What percentage increase is this over what we are currently authorized?
Mr. HALL. It is not much of an increase. It is $25 million extra, I believe, for 2 years. So it is a $50 million increase over what we are doing. It is a good increase, I am glad that Mr. Goodlatte has decided to do it. I am certainly in favor of it and a cosponsor of it, but it is an increase of $50 million over 2 years.
Mr. EWING. In your travels, have you noticed besides an increase in demand any particular population or demographic group that are being underserved?
Mr. HALL. Yes. I have noticed in the last 3 years the biggest increase in the number of people asking for food are working people, working poor. And I see it in my district in Ohio, I see it in Appalachia. I hear about it all over the country. The Congressional Hunger Center did a survey of 200 food banks and soup kitchens across the country. We do this every year, and it is universal. In Ohio in the last 3 years the demand has increased by 140 percent. In most places it averages 20 to 25 percent increase around the country. It is not just Ohio, it is every place.
Mr. EWING. Thank you, Mr. Hall. Mr. Thompson.
Mr. THOMPSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Hall, thank you for all of the work that you have done in this area. I just want to make one comment and you jarred my memory when you talk about the Texas inequity in donating food. I have a unique situation in my district where there is an overpopulation of wild pigs and they are causing all types of problems in farming and in residential communities as well. A lot of these under deprivation had to be killed and the Fish and Game in California has been trying to donate the meat from these wild pigs to soup kitchens and to organizations that feed people who need food or are going hungry, and they are not able to because the Department of Agriculture has a provision that this particular wild animal, unlike any other wild animal in California, has to be inspected prior to its slaughter, which is impossible to do for a wild animal, and that is something that we ought to look at.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Right now there are literally hundreds of wild pigs that are being removed from the wild and people aren't able to have the benefit of that food supply. Any help you can provide on that would be helpful.
Mr. HALL. Yes, that is a good statement, a good question. I don't know much about that. You will have your experts here in the Department of Agriculture, but it has to be a great source of food. I don't particularly know what the problem is. It is legitimate food, I am for finding a way to give it away to people that need it.
Mr. THOMPSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. EWING. Mr. Berry.
Mr. BERRY. No questions.
Mr. EWING. Mrs. Clayton, our ranking member on the committee. Welcome.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I apologize for my tardiness. I don't have any questions for my distinguished colleague, Representative Hall, who has been an advocate and a recognized leader in the area of hunger. I am pleased to be associated with him in that fight.
However, we probably have some differences on this program, but that is not unusual that we do. Mr. Chairman, I ask if I can revise and extend my remarks, if I may.
Mr. EWING. Without objection.
Mrs. CLAYTON. We are requesting new funds. The bad news is where we have to take the funds in the realization that we have to make these choices and the implications of those choices. I am pleased that we are having the hearing and I am also pleased that the legislation is there and TEFAP is there. I have been active with the hunger community in my state for years and know how popular this program is and the role that TEFAP plays in providing food for many hungry individuals. The TEFAP plays an integral part in the partnership between the government and the private sector to ensure that no one goes hungry. I hope to join you in supporting this legislation, which provides a much-needed funding increase for TEFAP.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC While there is a need for increased funding, I would like to point out that there is indeed already not sufficient moneys, but it should be recognized that $98 million is being spent. Actually the authorization is $100 million, but the appropriators chose not to. There is a request for another $100 million to be spent to provide funds, and again there were donated commodities in the value of $107 million, making the total a little over $200 million.
I do support the goals of this legislation and I want that to be clear. However, I still have serious concerns about the potential effect this proposed legislation could have on employment and training funds for adults aged 18 to 55. These are the people somehow that we are not seeing, so I am going to refer to them as vagabonds and derelicts.
Indeed they are difficult, and for that reason the States have found difficulty in designing the program. However, these funds are designed to create work for poor, unemployed individuals whose food stamp benefits are cut off after 3 months if they are not in a work fair program. Denying funds for these slots to people subject to the 3 month time limit not only violates the commitment of the promise that we made in 1997 in the bipartisan budget agreement, but it increases the burden on the very same groups of people who have to pick up the difference.
Because of the inflexibility, more people are going to food banks, and my church has a food bank, but because they cannot get funds they become actually part of the burgeoning increased caseload. Indeed the State of North Carolina officials have advised me that the funding guidelines for this program are so restrictive that our counties and State effectively cannot utilize the program. They suggest that more flexibility needs to be put in the program. They specifically mention the flexibility of the job development and job placement and a strong case management for such TEFAP program.
I don't think that we ought to give the State an indefinite while to get their act together, but I think it would be ill-advised to take away a certain amount of money without giving a chance for these programs to be in place. I believe caring for children, indeed they will be denied their funds and can be denied after 3 months. Particularly if they have no other programs to go to, these people are then without any resources.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My caution or my reservation is to be one who is standing up indeed for those individuals, not suggesting that the sponsor of the program is not, too. I am just saying that a caution is to make sure that we are doing everything that the education and training program can provide.
Mr. Chairman, I have a longer statement that I will put in the record, but I just wanted to have this dialog, since my colleague and friend, Representative Hall, is here. I wanted him to know what my reservations are.
Mr. EWING. Thank you, Mrs. Clayton. Your statement will be in the record.
Mr. Hall, did you want to comment?
Mr. HALL. I would just say that Representative Clayton and I have been partners on many pieces of legislation, almost every hunger, antihunger legislation that has come out in the past few years. We have been together onand on this one I would just say I was supportive of this, because as I understand this legislation, what it does is it says that there is not a cut in these funds, it just says if these funds are sitting in the State and are not used, therefore, they can be used for TEFAP.
We have a lot of states that don't use all of their money. For example, Ohio, it is not the same funding area, but Ohio has $500 million in TANF funds, and this is crazy. This money came out of the Welfare Reform Bill, and all of the money sent to the States they were supposed to use it. If they don't go elsewhere, I think Congress will go back and grab that money. What this bill does is take money that would not be used. I am sure Mr. Goodlatte doesn't consider it a cut. I don't. It is not going to be used for the programs it was designed for. Therefore, it can go to TEFAP. I think that is what the bill says.
Mrs. CLAYTON. I hope we can support it together. I just didn't want toas well intending as this seems to be, and I know there is nothing but good intentions are on your part, as well as Mr. Goodlatte's, but to remove those funds and not to prepare for the possibility of the States needing them for this critically hard-to-place group of people puts the Nation and the States at some peril.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I know how difficult it is to deal with these people. Many of the recipient-eligible persons don't even apply for it as they should. That is their responsibility. They go to the food banks because it is easy to deal with the food banks because there you don't have a whole lot of bureaucracy. So in some ways, because we have created such a cumbersome program, we have almost forced people to go to our food banks and increase the demand.
You are right, there is a greater demand there. The greater demand is not only this group of people, it happens to be working people. The papers are full of them. So if we can find a way that we can assure that we have some flexibility to protect that possibility, I would want to be the first one to join with you. I am willing to work with you. Just let me say that I am open to do that. This is the first bill that you and I haven't been shoulder to shoulder. I am looking for a way to do it.
Mr. HALL. You have made some very good points. Thank you.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. EWING. Mr. Hall, in your testimony, you expanded upon where you would go with changing some of the criteria for food stamps and some of the people eligible. But you support this bill even though it is more focused, and more directed towards one signal problem, and that is lack of proper funding.
Mr. HALL. I do. I would hope this would not be the only bill that we would pass this year for the hunger community. I support it certainly. The Hunger Relief Act of which Representative Clayton and I are cosponsors on, we consider this, along with a lot of other people, as the key hunger bill. But most of us in the antihunger community would love to have this bill as well.
Mr. EWING. Mr. Phelps?
Mr. PHELPS. No questions, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. EWING. Mr. Hall, I appreciate your being here today and if there are no questions, we will call the second panel.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HALL. Thank you.
Mr. EWING. Thank you. The second panel is Shirley Watkins, Under Secretary, Food Nutrition and Consumer Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Welcome.
STATEMENT OF SHIRLEY R. WATKINS, UNDER SECRETARY, FOOD, NUTRITION, AND CONSUMER SERVICES, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Ms. WATKINS. Thank you, Mr. Ewing and to the members of this committee. It is my pleasure to appear before this subcommittee to discuss H.R. 3453, the Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act of 1999.
Mr. Ewing, I would like to submit my written statement for the record and take this time to make some brief comments, if that is OK.
Mr. EWING. Without objection, your full statement will be put in the record.
Ms. WATKINS. Thank you. I would like to say at the outset that all of the programs that food nutrition and consumer service are enormously valuable and effective and unique in their own rights, and they are all parts of the crucial nutrition safety net that we provide to millions of needy families and children across this country.
Despite some of the wide differences in the funding and the levels and the rates of participation, we do not want to give anyone the impression that smaller programs, and while we administer 15 programs and the Food Stamp Program being the largest, we would not want anyone to think that any program is less important than the others. They all serve a specific need that otherwise would go unmet.
For example, this administration has sought increases for the commodity supplemental food program, CSFP, which serves relatively a modest number of families per month, and it is about 376,000 per month, and those are primarily the elderly population or seniors. We are also looking for additional funding for the nutrition program for the elderly, which provides reimbursements for 20 million meals a month, and that program has been static for many years, and we are looking at ways to increase that funding.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is also important to note that we have taken $98 million in TEFAP for 2000 and will manage to distribute an additional $90 million by careful use of our bonuses and other cost saving measures. It must also be noted that in 1999, that FNCS purchased $89.9 million in commodities and an additional $107.5 million in bonus commodities because of this administration's strong commitment and concern for ending hunger in this country.
This administration has worked very long and very hard to improve America's nutritional health by improving and expanding our programs, and we have been able to establish priorities which have kept the well-being of people in this country in the forefront of our policies and our initiatives.
Secretary Glickman and I are sincerely committed to our vision in FNCS of leading America and ending hunger and improving nutrition and health.
Just as Congressman Hall stated earlier, the Secretary and I believe that we can end hunger in this country with the current nutrition assistance programs that we have. We recognize that despite the strong economy, there are people who are still left behind and we are concerned about that.
Mr. Chairman, this bill has two separate provisions. First, there is an increase in the authorized funding level for TEFAP, the Emergency Food Assistance Program by up to $20 million for 2 years; and the second one uses unspent food stamp employment and training programs to pay for this purpose.
While the Goodlatte bill would provide a welcome infusion of commodities, it would decrease administrative funding as a percentage of funding available for commodity purchases. So while there are going to be more commodities, there would not be funds to administer that program. As I am sure you will hear from the other witnesses, TEFAP continues to serve a vital role in supplementing our nutrition assistance programs. No one disputes the need for TEFAP, and USDA's fiscal year 2001 budget request supports TEFAP at a substantial level. In the welfare reform legislation, TEFAP-authorized funding for commodity purchases was raised to $100 million annually through 2002, and that is a significant increase in funding.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Another part of welfare reform, however, is helping food stamp participants get and keep employment. Congresswoman Clayton stated it very eloquently. For the first time ever, welfare reform imposed new food stamp participation limits on unemployed adults. While everyone who can work should work, we all agree no one willing to work should lose critical nutritional assistance for the lack of suitable opportunities. That is why as a part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, P.L. 10533, the administration worked with Congress to forge a bipartisan agreement to provide the additional training and employment opportunities to individuals that are facing food stamp time limits. The additional funding is designated to create work opportunities that will enable people who are willing to work to keep their benefits when private sector jobs are not available to them.
As you are aware, we at USDA issued guidance to States after a delay and much lengthy negotiations on February 20, 1998. States were required to submit their 1999 plans for E&T by August 15, 1998 to be implemented in October of 1998. To be specific, October 1. It takes some time, once there is legislation, for that legislation to be implemented in the States. And that is why I wanted to share that information with you.
Mr. Chairman, this bill could adversely affect State's ability to provide employment and training opportunities to those able-bodied adults without dependents, the 18 to 50 who are subject to the food stamp programs 3-month participation limit. Recognizing that funding available to States during the beginning would probably not be fully expended by all States, Congress authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to reallocate those unspent E&T funds appropriately and equitably among the States to ensure that adequate ABAWD funding in subsequent years.
H.R. 3453 does not change E&T funding authorization levels. E&T is authorized through fiscal year 2002. Assuming that the fiscal year 2002 authorized level is extended, current projections of expected E&T funding in the bill is unlikely to affect the spending on actual employment and training activities in the first 5 years after its adoption.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC However, in shifting the $25 million per year from E&T to purchase commodities will increase TEFAP outlays by up to $25 million per year to a total of up to $125 million over a 5-year period. The ABAWD population is comprised of an especially vulnerable, hard-to-serve population, and they are rarely eligible for any other benefits. We are aggressively working with States, and my deputy, Julie Paridis, is in States this week working aggressively to ensure that the additional E&T work opportunities are being made available.
While it has taken time to get the E&T programs up for ABAWDs and get them off the ground and coordinated with the new activities that are already existing in State employment programs, we believe that the States are making progress and we expect those spending levels to increase.
Mr. Chairman, we remain committed to working with the States to ensure that the continued growth and success of the food stamp employment and training program works. I would be pleased to work with you and this subcommittee to ensure that available resources are targeted wisely in support of our nation's nutrition assistance programs. I began my statement by saying that all of the programs that we administer at USDA, all of those nutrition assistance programs for people in this country are essential.
And I have never liked to pit one program against the other because they do serve such a needy population and our nutrition and nutrition education programs are the cornerstone of reaching our goals to eliminate hunger in this country and improving the health of the people in this country. I would urge that any moneys that should become available for these nutrition assistance programs need be directed to the initiatives that have been identified in the President's budget, such as restoring the food stamp eligibility to legal immigrants and easing the restrictions on vehicle ownerships so that families do not have to choose between nutrition assistance and a vehicle to help them to get to work.
Also, we have requested money for outreach and nutrition education for food stamp recipients and the restoration of evaluation analysis so that funding could go to FNS.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, I see these as critical issues and would look forward to working with this committee to ensure that we can do the best for the people who are most in need in this country. This concludes my testimony and I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Watkins appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. EWING. Thank you very much.
Mr. EWING. In your comments if I understood them right, one of your problems with this proposal is that it doesn't provide for any addition for administrative costs?
Ms. WATKINS. That is one of the objections to the proposal.
Mr. EWING. How much additional administrative funding would you think is necessary to carry this out?
Ms. WATKINS. The authorization is $50 million, but we have never received that amount for the administration of the TEFAP program. It has stayed flat and constant at $40 million.
Mr. EWING. But do you believe that your department can distribute additional funds to the same people without a larger administrative budget?
Ms. WATKINS. Right now we hear from States that they need more administrative money for TEFAP. So obviously if you increased the amount of commodities, you are going to need more administrative money to do that.
Mr. EWING. We are increasing the amount of funds for commodities. I am not sure that correlates into additional requirements. I think we have to be careful to keep administrative costs in line with the program. The bottom line is and should be service to people. I am having a little difficulty understanding.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WATKINS. You are exactly right. It would be service to people and if there were an increase in administrative funds, you would look somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million.
Mr. EWING. But $10 million shouldn't be necessary for a $25 million increase in the program.
Ms. WATKINS. Perhaps not for the $25 million that the bill States. But you would have to if you wanted a specific amount, I could ask the staff to provide that for your use.
Mr. EWING. But this bill authorizes additional funds up to $25 million. The appropriators, I am sure, every year you submit to them your requirements for administrative costs. They would have the opportunity to increase that as they see fit; is that correct?
Ms. WATKINS. That is correct and the appropriators have chosen not to increase that administrative funding over the last couple of years.
Mr. EWING. We must assume that the case for that increase hasn't been made then, but that would be my take on that. In this situation where we are trying to take $25 million out of the fund that is not being used, your figures from your department show that the unused carry over for the year 2001, it continues to grow and yet there is need out there for additional money for commodities. I guess I am having a hard time understanding why your department would be objecting to this, which is just a 2-year program, when the funds in unused carryover funds continue to grow.
Ms. WATKINS. Mr. Ewing, I stated in my presentation that we were negotiating on the language for E&T funds for an extensive period of time. We got the information out to States and that came back in October 1999, so that they could begin the implementation. It is very difficult for States to go ahead and begin the training for the ABAWDs and work on the training for them and get them to where they need to be without giving them the appropriate guidance.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Once we gave them that guidance, then they began working on it. But at the same time they were also working on TANF and that was a major priority for many of the States.
As an example, we had one State who chose originally, because of TANF, not to go ahead and implement the E&T for ABAWDs. This time last year they had made the decision not to do that. Not to ask or use any of the ABAWD funds, but they have already begun for 2000, they decided to devote all of their resources to guaranteeing and the qualifying education for the E&T funding, and they plan to use all of their funds.
I think that is fairly typical for most of the States, and that is why you see the difference in the carryover funds from the States because it was difficult for them to go ahead and begin to use that. In addition to that, our capabilities of providing the necessary statistics and data for them on ABAWDs was also a barrier for States. So considering the barriers that the States had and with us now working aggressively with them, I think we will be able to eliminate that. You are correct, there were some unspent funds, without a doubt. But we are working with States to ensure that those people who are most in need of job opportunities, that we can work with them and we are also working with the private sector and nonprofit organizations so that people know how to work with this population.
As Congresswoman Clayton said, this is a difficult group to work with, and they are also difficult to find. We are trying to help the States to ensure that this can be taken care of. I hope that answers your question.
Mr. EWING. Well, it doesn't. My time is up and I don't have enough time for that answer, but it just seems to me very clearly that the money is there. The fund is growing. The need is established and we are in the bureaucratic snafu here when we should be using this money to get to people who need it. And it is a 2-year authorization. At the end of that period you stillyour fund, the unused fund is growing according to your figures, not my figures or the staff figures but your figures. I don't think that there is any reason to see that fund grow while there is a need out there.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. Clayton.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think I agree with most of what you said.
Mr. EWING. Oh, my goodness.
Mrs. CLAYTON. I am just trying to find out, one, if there is a need and the funds are there, you should find a way to use them. The only way that we disagree is the way of how to safeguard funds when needed for this difficult group. I probably have less empathy and sympathy, Secretary Watkins, for the fact that States haven't used it than you have, and I think, in part, we may have created that difficulty, I am not sure. In spite of the late consultation, I think it is difficult to consult effectively on a flawed program when it is so restrictive, all of the talk in the world will not make it implementable in the way that it should be.
If you use these figures, you do have funds, but taking $25 million from these funds is the problemno, that is not the problem. The problem is not taking the $25 million from the balance, the problem is putting in place an authorization to use a large amount of money without finding some way to curtail and make it relevant to the needs in the State. Automatically the bill assumes that we will take $25 million away from this program without any consideration of the need of the program. And you base that obviouslyyou know in 1999 there was a balance, and in 2000 there is supposed to be a balance, and we are projecting in the year 2001 we will have a balance.
You said that you are working with the States. There may be a way that we can project how much we can do without making any harm to this program. The issue is how do we do good without causing other people to suffer rather than just having a protective position. Are you in a position having worked with the States to know if we can have some savings and what those would be?
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WATKINS. Right now we don't have those figures for you, Congresswoman Clayton, but we would be glad to provide those for you. One of the things that has been troublesome for us is trying to work with the States in helping them, and that is why we have people working for the last 2 weeks on an intensive effort to look at what States can do in the way of training for these programs.
We are confident that the States can utilize the funds, but they have to be given some guidance and some help and some support in doing this. We are trying to share with them models that have already been used. As I indicated, we had one State that decided that they were not going to use that funds and that concerned us. We have been working with them and now they are going to be using their entire grant which is almost a million dollars for the purpose of E&T.
If that State is using its entire amount of money as we work with the other States, I think we can almost guarantee that those States are going to be using the amount of money that we have allotted for the employment and training. To take the money away and then not be assured that we are going to have the funding necessary to ensure the States, that just creates another problem for the States.
Mrs. CLAYTON. I don't mean this as disrespectful of the State, I think it gets to be a little cushion there that they can project in the future, using this money because the carryover has been for 1998 and 1999 and 2000is the carryover cumulative or does it go back?
Ms. WATKINS. No, it goes back. The Secretary was given the authority to carry that money over. It does not go back to the general fund if that is what you are asking.
Mrs. CLAYTON. That is what I am asking. Are the States able to withhold them? Can they make a claim for the money that if they plan to put the programs in place?
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WATKINS. If they plan to put the program in place, they can hold that money.
Mrs. CLAYTON. So you should have proposals to put claims on that money if they don't want it to go back into the Secretary's funds?
Ms. WATKINS. We would reallocate it to the States where the needs are if it came back.
Mrs. CLAYTON. I am trying to make a case that there may be moneys that we can give to them providing you can put restrictions on the moneys needed would be addressed. And the reason I have difficulty with the program is I know it is so easy to not deal with these people at the State level for a variety of reasons, in part because we didn't design the program so it could be effectively used. Food stamp people are not the best people, in all due deference, put training programs in.
The States are doing better jobs with putting training in with TEFAP because they understand that is predicated on their getting the money. On the other hand, the State does not do a good job in trying to find job slots for the food stamp program. The mentality isn't there to do it. They haven't had the experience. So the question is are they serious about doing it to the extent that they now have an act that they can claim the money.
To the extent that the money is available rather than go back to the Secretary's general fund or to the discretionary fund, I think food banks and shelters need the money. I don't think that they need it at the expense of pulling the rug out from under someone else, and particularly this vulnerable group.
I want to stand up for this vulnerable group. I support most of the food network people. I am saying wait a minute, somebody ought to claim something for these poor people who are hard to place. But, correspondingly, there ought to be a responsibility on the States, they ought to tell you, here are proposals we plan to put in place for these people, not just give them by year over a long period of time. I think the department has the responsibility of pushing that, and we ought to be soliciting a more definitive response from the States and not allow them at the end of the year to use that program. I know that I have been preaching to the choir.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. EWING. Mr. Stenholm, we are glad to have the ranking member here. Do you have a question or comment that you would like to make?
Mr. STENHOLM. I have a couple of questions.
What has been the trend of E&T spending? Have the State uses of the funds increased as the States have become more familiar with the program and have had time to implement the Welfare Reform Act of 1997? You talked a moment ago about a trend.
Ms. WATKINS. I was, Mr. Stenholm. With the program plans that the States are submitting, we would expect continuations of the provisions, and we expect the spending to require the carryover funds that we have initially requested for 2002.
The States are submitting their plans for use of the E&T funding, and for us working with the States on how they can use the funds and giving them some best practices, we see this more effective for the States as they move forward in using the E&T funds.
It's correct that States have not necessarily, in the food stamp area, worked very aggressively on education and training. This has not been a specialty of theirs. I would say the same thing as nutrition and education and would say that that wasn't necessarilyand they didn't perceive that necessarily as a part of the food stamp program. But we are working to try to change that so that people understand what their roles and obligations are. That is why we have such a massive campaign going on now showing them what some replication projects are and how they can use the E&T money.
I think that is an obligation that we have in helping States to work more effectively.
Mr. STENHOLM. Do you have any information how USDA would assess the rate of E&T spending in States that have taken the pledge to offer slots to all of the affected populations in their States? I understand that the pledge States are not subject to the same reimbursement rates of other States. Would it likely be of more use of the E&T funds for the target population if this pledge option were opened up to more States?
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WATKINS. If we could look at that, the average slot rate, and right now that $175 for the full ABAWD and $30 for the unfilled slots, if we could remove that slot rate for the States that they pledge to offer for the ABAWDs over 1999, we have several States, and there will be some additional States, Oregon and Colorado, who plan to offer that. I think we can provide you the list of States who have already made some pledges, and we would be glad to provide that for the record.
Mr. STENHOLM. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, just one comment. I have a few concerns about this legislation. One of the questions that I have is if this is called ''emergency,'' and if we truly have emergency needs, and we do, there are needs for feeding, it looks like we would use a little different mechanism. It is my understanding if this bill were to pass and become law, the money would not be available for feeding people until June or July of 2002. Therefore, one of the things that troubles me is declaring this an emergency.
It seems like we might be able to deal with it a little more forthrightly in that and I would be more interested in that at this time. I am trying to make up my own mind, but the E&T spending, I know we are having a lot of reports now that we may be about to start utilizing this training as more and more folks run out their string of how long they can avail themselves without a job, and the needs are going to increase. Again, I come back to the question, I have a hard time saying that we wouldn't want to accomplish them to feeding, but this legislation doesn't accomplish that until June or July of 2002 and that bothers me a little.
Mr. EWING. Thank you, Mr. Stenholm. You may be absolutely correct and we need to check that.
Mr. STENHOLM. It looks to me that is the practical effect.
Mr. EWING. It doesn't get there very fast if that is the case.
Mr. PHELPS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Under Secretary Watkins. Thank you for appearing today.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In your inclusive remarks you brought up a point that reminded me of problems that I have experienced in not only the State legislature, but as a Member of Congress in trying to reach out to the needy population goes back to the underlying cause of them not being able to be independent like we would like, is the transportation problems. Trying to have a mode of transportation to get to work if and when they have located a job. You mentioned something about easing restrictions. Can you be more specific what is needed there?
Ms. WATKINS. On the vehicle and easing restrictions on that, what we have proposed in our fiscal year 2001 budget for the vehicle so that States could use the same provisions for food stamps that they used for TANF for a vehicle, and States are using different measures for the vehicle provision, and that is what we are proposing in the President's budget.
Mr. PHELPS. I understand that there are some car dealers in my district I became aware of that are providing through some kind of incentive, vehicles for this population at a very much reduced cost with, I guess, assistance from this department and funding. Is that a program that is identified in this legislation?
Ms. WATKINS. It is not identified in the legislation, but I just have to tell you if they gave them a vehicle under the current food stamp provisions, they would not be eligible for food stamps if they had a vehicle that cost more than $4500. That is why we are looking at the changes in the provision.
Mr. PHELPS. What would be the threshold change for the $4,500?
Ms. WATKINS. We are waiting for the States to make that.
Mr. PHELPS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. EWING. Mr. Walden.
Mr. WALDEN. Under Secretary Watkins, in your testimony, continuing to work with the States to ensure additional E&T work opportunities are made available and that you are committed to work with States to ensure the continued success and growth of the food stamp training programs. The State of Oregon has recently submitted a proposal to the Secretary to form a demonstration using food stamp training and employment that they offer to temporary assistance for needy families, clients to all food stamp recipients, especially able-bodied adults without dependents. Are you familiar with that request, and if so, if you can give me an update where it is in the process? If not, if you can get back to me on that.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WATKINS. Mr. Walden, I am familiar with the Oregon request and I have a meeting with the staff tomorrow for us to go and review Oregon's proposals for waivers, and we can get back to you after the decision is made on that.
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you, I look forward to hearing from you.
Mr. EWING. Secretary Watkins, the caseload for the able-bodied adults without dependents has dropped faster. Do you think USDA's inability to get guidelines through the States for a couple of years is the reason that there is a disproportionate caseload drop with this particular program?
Ms. WATKINS. Mr. Chairman, we were late in getting some of the proposals out to States in the form of regulations, and I think we do have a need to get more information. One of the things that has hampered us in getting information on where these able-bodied working adults is our inability to provide the evaluation and analysis and we don't have the capability of that funding to get that information so that we can identify and help States to be more successful, so that has been one of the barriers for us.
We don't have the funding level any more or the authority to do that analysis and evaluation. So we have not been able to, so far at the department, to even help States to identify where it is, and the only information they have is what is at the State level. So there are some barriers there. Yes, we have had some problems.
Mr. EWING. Thank you. Mrs. Clayton, do you have other questions?
Mrs. CLAYTON. Again, I just want to go over the funding allocation and authorization. This time I am talking about the employment and training program rather than the TEFAP program. All of us have these charts. Do you have this chart before you?
Oh, you gave us the chart.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WATKINS. So I hope that I have it.
Mrs. CLAYTON. It shows
Ms. WATKINS. Is this the one with the food stamp and employment training
Mrs. CLAYTON. Yes. The expenditure line and that is what States are using now, the case can be made that they are underutilizing it, and for the reason that you stated and for whatever reason, I was glad to hear our colleague from Oregon say that they have a proposal before you. So there is a trend for States presenting to you a more expanded program. But even in your own projections and for this year, you don't know what the expenditure will be, I gather the $160 million is a projection that that is what will be spent?
Ms. WATKINS. That is a projection.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Again, I would assume you are taking into consideration what the States are recommending, $175 million?
Ms. WATKINS. That is exactly right.
Mrs. CLAYTON. From 2004 these are your projections?
Ms. WATKINS. That's correct.
Mrs. CLAYTON. If that is so in the legislation now, if implemented, it was implemented this year, it would become effective when? The current legislation that we areit is a 2-year piece of legislation?
Ms. WATKINS. Two years.
Mrs. CLAYTON. H.R. 3453 is 1 year to be effective
Ms. WATKINS. 2001.
Mrs. CLAYTON. If we use your chart for that and begin toand it has a cutoff period ofit is once you authorize something in law and it has a sunset, does it go out of business? It won't go out of business, right?
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WATKINS. There is no sunset provision in this bill.
Mrs. CLAYTON. I think that is the problem. It is not the availability of money. The $25 million seems likeyou could afford the $25 million.
Ms. WATKINS. But there is no sunset provision.
Mrs. CLAYTON. So that is the problem.
Ms. WATKINS. And it could continue.
Mrs. CLAYTON. The problem is that there will be projected a balance and certainly more than the $25 million, and some if they need to have reserve. So the question is how do you put limits on an unknown quantity beyond the 2 years if you authorize the bill? Obviously authorization and appropriation don't mean the same. TEFAP has been authorized up to $100 million and has yet to be funded fully for $100 million.
Now if we authorize it up to $125 million, that authorization goes beyond the source of the funding. The source of the funding is identified to be 2 years for the unused employment and training program. So I guess my question is the identification of the money is the source of the fund has a limitation, but the authorization doesn't. I guess I am notI should know this, but the authorization has to come out of our function, right? So if we authorize it, we are not limited to having it out of food stamps? Are we contained by the authorization to only get the money from food stamp moneys? Can anyone help me on that?
My staff told me apparently not.
This particular bill, do we have any constraints in
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman, I am not sure that I can totally answer the question, but let me give you my understanding. We can authorize the expenditure of any amount of funds for any purpose. The authorization is what is required and it is to actually spend the funds. One of the unique characteristics of these E&T funds is that until they are spent, they are not scored against the budget.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Therefore, that is one of the things thatI'm trying to sort through this myself. I am still undecided or have some problems with the legislation, one that I mentioned before. If it is truly an emergency, I would be much more in support of appropriating the $25 million in the emergency supplemental than dealing with this in something that is prospective. But they're the authorization, this committee, this subcommittee can certainly recommend to the full committee and the full committee recommend to the House that we authorize the expenditure of this, and do it in a way that Mr. Goodlatte's bill has suggested that it be done and have no budgetary effect until we get into the agriculture appropriations. And then we have to appropriate the money for that purpose.
Mrs. CLAYTON. You don't have to identify in the bill the offset?
Mr. STENHOLM. No. It is helpful to do it, and I suspect the way to pay for this and is being suggested is to appear to be budget neutral, and that is something that we all like to do from time to time.
Mr. EWING. That is really the reason, is that we have the pay-go rules, and if we were just to increase authorization by $25 million without finding a source for those funds, we have a bigger problem.
Mrs. CLAYTON. I think I have exhausted my questions. I know that you are surprised at that, aren't you?
Mr. EWING. Not at all.
Secretary Watkins, thank you very much. We appreciate your coming down and spending some time with us.
Ms. WATKINS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and to this committee. We look forward to working with you in ways that we can enhance our nutrition assistance program. Our goal is to end hunger in this country and we want to work with you in any way that we can.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. EWING. Thank you.
Our third panel, I would invite them to come forward to the table, Mr. Doug O'Brien, director of Public Policy and Research, America's Second Harvest, Chicago, IL; Mr. Gary Gay, director of commodity operations, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Butner, NC; Mr. Frank Richards, executive director, the Valdosta Food Bank, Valdosta, GA; and Mr. John Alford, executive director, Mississippi Food Network, Jackson, MS. We will start with Mr. O'Brien. I welcome you all and thank you for coming to visit with us today about this important topic.
STATEMENT OF DOUGLAS O'BRIEN, DIRECTOR, PUBLIC POLICY AND RESEARCH, AMERICA'S SECOND HARVEST, CHICAGO, IL
Mr. O'BRIEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We are delighted to see a fellow Illinoisan today, and thank Representative Clayton for joining us last month for a press conference.
Quickly, I want to introduce to other members and staff what America Second Harvest is. We are a network of more than 200 regional affiliate food banks which provide more than 1.3 billion pounds of food and grocery products to an estimated 350 subsidiary food banks and 46,000 local charitable agencies. Our food banks provide services in all 50 States and Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia and in nearly every U.S. county. I hope that I can have my entire written testimony entered into the record.
Mr. EWING. Without objection.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I would like to talk about the bill because I think there is a great deal of misunderstanding about what the legislation would do.
The bill does not pit TEFAP against food stamp E&T. The money in food stamp E&T, if it is utilized by the States in any given year, would effectively prohibit the money then going into the TEFAP program. The idea being of the $200 million in food stamp E&T, if it is utilized by the States, that would mean a provision of $200 million in food assistance to hungry Americans, and we fully support that. The problem occurs when the money is not utilized by the States. What we are seeing in our network and as the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported in December, that increased demand for emergency food assistance is growing across the country and it is growing between 14 and 36 percent. A study done by Tufts University on hunger and poverty found that in no instance was demand for emergency food going down. In fact it is going up across the board. So we see this legislation, Mr. Goodlatte and Mr. Hall's legislation, as using money that would otherwise go unspent for hunger relief activities.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I also want to correct one other thing that was raised. Our understanding is that States have to get their food stamp E&T plans into USDA prior to the beginning of the fiscal year. So in this case the money would be submitted or the plans rather by the States would be submitted by October 1, 2000 for fiscal year 2001. The Secretary is then required to reallocate funds and it is only after the States have requested these moneys and received a reallocation for these training slots, only if there is unspent money, would TEFAP receive any money.
So I think it is important to not say that this pits TEFAP, which is an essential nutrition component, for charities against the E&T program.
My organization believes very strongly in the food stamp E&T program, and it is an essential component in helping low income people, who may lose their food stamp benefits, from running into dire consequences. But the fact is that we are turning away 1 million low income needy people because the local charity they turned to had no food. It is not worrying so much what happens in 2006, it is what is happening right now in 2000 and 2001 and full reauthorization.
I would also like to suggest as well that it is our understanding that the bill would cease at 2002. TEFAP is subject to reauthorization. In the last farm bill, had TEFAP not been authorized in the last farm bill, I am not sure that there would be a TEFAP program for us to be talking about.
Lastly, Mr. Chairman, I want to add that this provides food assistance to many States. In North Carolina, for example, if the Goodlatte bill were to be enacted, it would provide half a million dollars in new TEFAP funding to the State of North Carolina, providing up to $680,000 meals for low income people.
Again, that money would not flow unless the food stamp E&T funds were going to sit and be carried over. If the food stamp E&T moneys are used, TEFAP doesn't receive a dime. But if the money is not going to be used, it would go to TEFAP and we have provided for the record the amount of funds that will go into your State in the amount of meals provided to hungry Americans who otherwise would go without if this bill is enacted. Thank you.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. O'Brien appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. EWING. Mr. Gay.
STATEMENT OF GARY GAY, DIRECTOR, FOOD DISTRIBUTION DIVISION, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER SERVICES
Mr. GAY. Good morning, Congressman Ewing and members of the subcommittee. Greetings from the State of North Carolina. I am Gary Gay, director of the food distribution division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture Consumer Services. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today about the Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TEFAP. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture is responsible for distributing nearly 51 million pounds of USDA commodities annually to programs such as TEFAP and the National School Lunch Program.
In addition to my position with the State of North Carolina, and I am president-elect of the American commodities distribution association, ACDA. ACDA is the nonprofit professional trade association devoted to the improvement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's commodity distribution system. ACDA members include State agencies that distribute USDA purchased commodities, agricultural organizations, recipient agencies and allied organizations such as Second Harvest.
I would also like to commend this committee for their commitment to TEFAP and other programs that are part of the USDA's commodity distribution system. This subcommittee has a long and honorable history of supporting these programs. You are continuing the tradition of past chairmen such as Congressman Leon Panetta, Representative Stenholm and the late Congressman Bill Emerson. I would also like to thank Representative Clayton for her long-standing support for these programs. It is my sincere hope that the there will be an increase in the amount of money available for TEFAP purchases.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The level of TEFAP purchases has varied significantly over the years. Even though the level of commodity purchases fluctuate, one aspect of the program has been growing, demand for TEFAP commodities has increased. To combat this problem, a number of States provide additional funding for commodity purchases because the need is so great. Other witnesses are in a better position to outline the reasons for the increase in demand, and I am sure this issue will be addressed in their testimony. TEFAP reaches 220,000 households in North Carolina. The food package that a family of 1 to 3 receives is valued close at $13.30 and a family of 4 or more receives $26.60 worth of food. This package does not completely meet a family's need but it helps. Each quarter as we receive requisitions for TEFAP food from our emergency feeding organizations in each county, I am reminded that requests from each county far exceed what we are able to give to the counties in TEFAP commodities.
I would urge the subcommittee to consider increasing the amount of money that is available for TEFAP administrative funding. While $50 million is authorized for administrative funding, no more than $45 million has been appropriated in recent years. Virtually all of this money is passed on to recipient agencies such as food banks to help offset the costs for storing and transporting commodities. Distribution and storage costs have increased over the last several years, but the amount of money appropriated for this purpose has been stagnant. Increasing administrative funding would help reduce the burden on recipient agencies who are already finding it difficult to meet the growing demand for this program.
I would like to suggest two technical no-cost changes to TEFAP that would make the program easier to operate and more efficient. First, I suggest changing the statute to allow States to carry a portion of their administrative funding for one fiscal year to the next. This is necessary to pay for distribution of food that is purchased by USDA in one fiscal year, but not delivered to States until the first quarter of the following fiscal year. The problem has been resolved for other nutrition programs, but it continues to hinder the effective operation of TEFAP.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Second, I recommend that Congress authorize USDA to act as the purchasing agent for States that supplement their TEFAP programs. As I mentioned previously, a number of States supplement their TEFAP operations with State funds. If the department could act as a purchasing agent for these States, it would give them the option of benefiting from USDA's enormous buying power, and hopefully receive more product. USDA offers a similar service to States as part of the National School Lunch Program.
A final point, I would thank the leadership of this subcommittee for cosponsoring the Emergency Commodity Distribution Act of 2000, H.R. 3614. This legislation is not directly related to TEFAP, but it would be of great assistance to the National School Lunch Program by creating a change in how USDA calculates the value of commodity assistance provided to schools.
Mr. Chairman, again thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Gay appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. EWING. Thank you, Mr. Gay.
STATEMENT OF FRANKLIN J. RICHARDS II, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE VALDOSTA FOOD BANK, INC.
Mr. RICHARDS. I would like to talk about what is going on on the front lines of hunger relief. I come from south Georgia to explain a little about the Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act and how it provides food for much needed south Georgians. Hunger is a major issue in rural Georgia as there are a lack of jobs that pay a living wage. Despite a booming economy and declining welfare caseloads, many elderly, infants and needy individuals are having difficulty getting enough food to eat. The Valdosta Food Bank has around 535,000 people that live in the 10-county area that we serve.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In 1999, our pantries, soup kitchens and shelters reported serving 223,393 people at least once during the year. These numbers included 95,947 children and 28,565 elderly people. These numbers are staggering in a community as small as south Georgia, but the same is true across the Nation. The America's Second Harvest network of food banks of which my food bank is a member, distributed more than 1 billion pounds of food to over 26 million people in 1999 alone. The reason for the problem of hunger in south Georgia is simple. A family of two people working full-time 40 hours a week only earns $21,424 a year. By the time you take out $5,998.72 for their average taxes, $8,400 for average rent, $3,600 for an average car payment, which is required in rural Georgia, and $1,200, which is required for insurance, and the average of $1,560 for power and phone, you are left with $665.28 for the entire year for your food budget, medical care, child care or anything like that.
In 1999, a General Accounting Office study on food stamps found that the need for food stamp assistance had not diminished in the face of declining food stamp and welfare caseloads. Rather, needy individuals and families are increasingly relying on food banks for food rather than food stamps. I know that food stamps are hard for people to obtain and often people have to wait weeks to receive minimal help.
I know in my county, the local human services department is in trouble for their food stamp distribution program. The Valdosta Food Bank has seen a 16 percent increase in the amount of food we distribute in the last year and the 235 agencies that are scattered about our 10 counties have reported similar increases. As poor Americans transition from welfare to work, and as their benefits are cut or reduced, they are finding that their wages are not sufficient for their basic needs. Too often a working poor family must cut their food budget. In a month where a child needs a new pair of shoes, that can mean that a family member goes hungry for days. According to the USDA food insecurity index, 9.7 percent of all Georgia households are food insecure. This is equal to the national average of 9.7 percent. In addition to these numbers, Georgia's poverty rate is 14.3 percent above the national average of 13.2. These numbers show when you visit a local soup kitchen or kids cafe in our community. The Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act would increase TEFAP commodity donations to food banks and other local hunger relief agencies by increasing mandatory TEFAP commodity purchases by $25 million in fiscal year 2001 and 2002.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If enacted, H.R. 3453 would provide 32 million additional meals to hungry Americans. The grant to Georgia would be $2.6 million in Federal TEFAP funding. H.R. 3453 would increase this amount by as much as $650,000 providing more than 830,000 additional meals for the poor and needy in Georgia. With TEFAP commodities, food banks are able to leverage USDA commodities with privately donated food to provide millions of low income Americans with nutritious wholesome meals. Any reduction in TEFAP funding would literally take food away from food banks and from the mouth of hungry people making it more difficult for local charities to relieve hunger in their communities.
TEFAP commodities truly stretch the budgets of our local agencies. These highly nutritional shelf stable foods provide a source of nutrition. The commodities program is a vital part of the food bank and needs to be increased to help the agencies in south Georgia and across America. This bill would ensure that food is ready to flow into our community. The people of south Georgia encourage you to support the Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act. It is vital to the establishment of a safety net in our community before the end of the year and before the end of welfare this year. Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Richards appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. EWING. Mr. Alford.
STATEMENT OF JOHN T. ALFORD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MISSISSIPPI FOOD NETWORK
Mr. ALFORD. Thank you for the opportunity to testify about what is going on in the part of the Nation where I live and work. I am John Alford, the executive director of the Mississippi Food Network located in Jackson, MS. We operate a private nonprofit food bank affiliated with the National Food Bank Organization known as America's Second Harvest. Our food bank in Jackson distributes TEFAP products to member organizations located in all 82 counties of our State. We also have a subsidiary food bank in Monroe, Louisiana, which distributes TEFAP to 12 parishes in northeast Louisiana. The poverty rate in Mississippi percentage-wise is next to the lowest in the Nation. The poverty rate among individuals is 18.3 percent, almost 40 percent worse than the national average. 14 percent of Mississippi households are hungry.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Again, almost 50 percent worse than the national average. In a typical month, 65,000 individuals receive food assistance from our 340 nonprofit religious, social service member organizations located in our communities and neighborhoods throughout this area. We have see an increase for the last 3 years. Forty-seven percent of the people that our charities serve are children. Twenty-one percent are 65 and older. The rest are working poor. The data I have concerning the impact of welfare reform on employment indicates that only about half of those who no longer receive food stamps have found employment. Those living in the more rural areas are having a much more difficult time finding employment than those in the more populated areas. Compounding the difficulty is an increase in immigration to Mississippi by Hispanic individuals securing minimum wage jobs in poultry and in construction.
Those who have found employment are often working two jobs, averaging a total of 35 hours weekly, with a rate of pay averaging $5.77 per hour. This annualizes to $10,500 less than minimum wage and less than the TEFAP poverty guideline for one person, not to mention for a single parent situation.
Since October 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, 2.6 million pounds of TEFAP product has been distributed in Mississippi and 273,000 pounds in northeast Louisiana. TEFAP provides approximately one-third of the food distributed. We encourage our local distributing organizations to consider TEFAP as supplementing other donations, and not as being the sole source of food.
Eligibility for assistance is based on legitimate need, with no discrimination of any kind. For individuals being fed at congregate sites, such as soup kitchens, the criteria for TEFAP is being located in predominantly needy areas. For those being served by food pantries who receive food to prepare at home, eligibility is determined on an individual basis. Each client's eligibility is reexamined at least quarterly. Records are maintained. Reports from member organizations to the food banks and from the food banks to the State agencies are monthly. Monitoring visits to the various sites occur at least annually.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act would increase TEFAP commodity donations to food banks and other local hunger relief agencies by increasing mandatory TEFAP commodity purchases by $25 million in fiscal year 2001 and in fiscal year 2002. Once enacted, H.R. 3453 would provide more than 32 million additional meals to hungry Americans. This could provide more than 480,000 additional meals to the poor and needy in Mississippi. In the long run, welfare reform may, for a large number of people in Mississippi, ultimately receive its goal of encouraging work instead of welfare. But in the meantime, we need for you to enact H.R. 3453 so we can do what is needed for these disadvantaged folks as they find their way from welfare to work.
In conclusion, I hope you are aware that although we are discussing providing more food, it's really about far more than just food. Hunger will bring the needy into the approximately 50,000 neighborhood and community outreach centers in America. Ones there, many centers provide a wide variety of personal services in addition to food. Mentoring, tutoring, nutrition, family counseling and health screening are typical of such services.
We need this increase in TEFAP. If you will do all you can to get H.R. 3453 enacted, I will do all I can to insure that the food it provides gets to the needy in my area.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Alford appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. EWING. Thank you and thanks to the entire panel.
Mr. O'Brien, how are your commodities purchased within TEFAP?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Each State is given a grant by the Federal Government and those States order X amount of food per their grant. If Mr. Goodlatte's bill were enacted, that would increase roughly 25 percent that mandatory grant each State would get. Again, States choose the type of food that they want. Eighty-six percent of all of the food that we distribute is privately donated food. The TEFAP is essential because it is part of the distribution food that we know that we can count on. It is set by Congress.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The States allotment doesn't change terribly much. It is a key amount of food that we get, and a 25 percent increase in that cornerstone food would be very important to hunger relief efforts in every State.
Mr. EWING. Do you know what kind of food that you are going to get from TEFAP?
Mr. O'BRIEN. USDA publishes in the Federal Register a list of commodities available. They are required, by statute, to be wholesome nutritious commodities. They are protein, meat, fish, vegetables. There is also bonus commodities which we receive from USDA based on agricultural surpluses and the Secretary since 1995 has more thanhas increased the amount of bonus commodities that go through our network by 400 percent. So again, we have wholesome, high-quality food through this program. We know pretty much in advance, but the States order what their needs are.
Mr. EWING. Can you quantify in dollar figures the existing needs of your food bank?
Mr. O'BRIEN. In 1997, we conducted a survey of 28,000 low income people at emergency feeding sites all across America. In addition to that, we also interviewed 12,000 charitable agencies. We asked them what was their unmet need. Roughly half of all of the church pantries in our system said that they were stretching food resources. When we asked them how much did they need to make it up, it came to 900 million pounds nationally that we are falling short of.
These church pantries and soup kitchens operate on a triage system. They get the food from the State commodity office. They get the food from the food bank sometimes in the same shipment and they distribute to low income people. The problem is that as the month goes on between the next delivery, they typically are stretching resources because demand is so high. As Frank Richards from Valdosta said, the GAO report showed that while food stamp and TANF participation rates are falling, people are not leaving the system.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC GAO said demand for food assistance has increased in recent years indicating the drop in food stamp participation is not solely the result of a strong economy. According to these data, the need for food assistance has not diminished, rather, needy individuals rely on sources of assistance other than food stamps. They are coming to a church pantry or soup kitchen. It is better to use this money right now so we can meet part of the unmet need.
Mr. EWING. To the rest of the panel or to any of you, actually, when we talk about people who are hungry, are these people who don't have what they want to eat or just don't have the minimal nutritional diet that is needed to sustain themselves?
Mr. ALFORD. In the area that I serve, while I think the average family size in Mississippi, Mr. Chairman, is something like 2.7, the family size of the group that we serve is between 4 and 7. They just really don't have enough to make ends meet. They have to choose among the working poor, they are having a hard time finding employment because our State is so rural and that is typical of rural opportunities where job opportunities are not so great.
In the elderly their medical bills continue to climb. I think for the most part, and they can be picky. They will compare their bags and say I got two creamed corn. They are just like we are in that respect. I think for the most part, they do not have adequate funds to meet their needs.
Mr. GAY. In North Carolina, we see an increase in the working poor and in the rural parts of the State, the elderly. They are always there. They spend the night in their car to be there first in the line for the distribution in the morning. I have seen them pass out in the heat, 90 degrees and they are standing in line to get the food, or the cold rain and the sleet. You say are these people hungry, yes, they are.
Mr. ALFORD. Like Mr. Stenholm referred to earlier, irrespective, and I am not belittling your question, irrespective that brings them there, they are there today while we are here. Whether or not they are aware of all of these fine programs, Federal and local and State programs, they are there every day needing assistance as we speak. It is a very real situation is what I am saying.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. EWING. This is, again, a question to any on the panel, but this isn't probably a need that is ever fully met or that will ever go away, regardless of how good the economy is, we will always have the elderly and we will always have some who fall through the cracks; is that correct?
Mr. RICHARDS. That's correct.
Mr. ALFORD. I have visualized in my own mind the impact of welfare reform. As people lose various benefits or if they relocate from one part of the State, I visualize the demand on the private sector that it climbs and hopefully it will taper down. I think we can all expect that at some point there will be a lot less people coming for public assistance when the full impact of welfare reform is felt. We are in that bell curve situation where a 2-year benefit will help us while we areI am not sure that we have reached the top of the bell curve. We are seeing the number of people coming to our charities as slowly increasing. I think even a 2-year appropriation of $25 million is important enough to justify my coming. We are still in the upswing of this bell curve.
Mr. EWING. Thank you.
Mrs. CLAYTON. I want to thank you all of you for your testimony and to say to Mr. Gay, who is the director of our commodity program in North Carolina, welcome. I know that you indicated that if this program was put in place, North Carolinans would increase. It is a well-designed program and it is also a program that people feel comfortable with. People come.
Mr. Alford, you have mentioned the bell curve. I think there is a relationship between those people who cannot get or refuse to go other places who now may come to you and others similarly structured. You have an open arm and people know your heart is there so they come. Also correspondingly, we have almost forced this extra burden on you by not making these other programs work.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am doing a lot of research under the economy where everyone else is beating the drums, and I am celebrating for them, but I am also from rural America and I happen to know that in rural America we are not prospering as well as the rest of us and there are people who need food and housing and there are people who are working and who need food and housing.
I want to tell you, Mr. O'Brien, I appreciate your research because we have used it often and I am amazed about the large percentage of people who return your survey. That is almostI think it was almost 59 or 50 percent. That is unusual to have that. It is that kind of data that can give us the current information I think that would be helpful. Your research, the service, the manner in which people receive the assistance that you give all speak to the immense of you providing compassionate and effective service. You certainly have my support.
Also beyond that, I am aware because of my visiting centers and my doing the research, there is increased demand in centers by the working poor. In fact, I ran over to the floor to speak on the floor, I am doing research on housing. People making $60,000 are in housing shelters out in Silicon Valley. It is amazing. They work every day and in shelters, can't afford rent and getting food assistance and working. Something is happening if you areI know North Carolina $60,000 is middle class but certainly in the rural areas, 32,000 jobs were lost in North Carolina last year. 32,000 jobs were lost. Many of those people need food and many need housing. When you begin to have that kind of dichotomy in the economy while everybody is beating the drums how great it is for the e-commerce and I am excited about that, too, but I have the burden, and I think my calling and the reason that I am here is to speak out for those who don't have someone to speak out for them and those are people who are not prospering from this economy.
I think Mr. Stenholm focused on an emergency, there is a need. You demonstrated the need. The question is how we respond to that need without undermining. I want you to know that we want to speak to this emergency. You demonstrated a need. You are effective. People use you over and above others and also it is an excellent model for both the public and private, the $100,000 authorization and the grants.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman raised the concern about administration. I think the 100the $100 million, excuse me, also had a provision that you use up to $50 million of grants going to nonprofits and distribution and transportation. So far the appropriatorsI guess last year it was $45 million. The year before it was $40 million. There is a need for administration. Second Harvest has been very effective in getting corporate America to be good partners in this. That is why this is such an ideal program. It brings out the best in the private sector and the nonprofit and the faith-based and the government working together.
We want to see this go. I want to make that point. We want to see how we respond to this emergency. We also have a corresponding burden not to undermine anything, and particularly for the most difficult people to find. Sometimes it is like being the parent of many kids, sometimes the kid who gives you the most problem needs more attention. That is how you have to begin to think about this 18- to 55-year age group. I commend each of you and thank you for the work that you do because I know that you do it not only because it is a job and a promotion but because you believe in it. I don't have any questions. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. EWING. Thank you, Mr. Clayton.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Gay, how do you make your decisions on what commodities to purchase?
Mr. GAY. USDA would give us a grocery list, pretty much. We look at putting together food package and we want to balance it out to make sure that they get meats and vegetables.
Mr. RICHARDS. One of the things that we do in Georgia, the commodities program will send out a list to all of the 8 food banks in Georgia, and we are given an opportunity to go down the list that will be available that year and we can pick and choose items that will round out our inventory. We may have a major producer that produces peanut butter, as we do in Valdosta. The State takes the pool of different products that are put together and the ones that are the most needed, they go by that list to order the commodities. It is a very good system.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ALFORD. The same thing. We also buy food with private donations.
Mr. GAY. I can give you the food package that we are distributing in the State. Applesauce, canned beef stew, dates, canned pears, dried pinto beans, canned salmon, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, dried potato flakes, trail mix, vegetable soup.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Chairman, he hit most of the commodities out of my district. A greatly balanced meal. Thank you.
Mr. EWING. What about staples like peanuts and sugar?
Mr. GAY. You talk to Secretary Watkins about that.
Mr. RICHARDS. Being from Georgia, we have plenty of peanuts.
Mr. EWING. Mr. Phelps.
Mr. PHELPS. Along with those products you need dentists. I have been very much taken by your testimony, all of you, especially the examples that are facing us in our Nation in the greatest prosperity that we have witnessed, and it is unbelievable that that this is happening. One of the greatest ironies, and, Mr. O'Brien, I'm also from Illinois along with Mr. Ewing, but I am at the southern tip, and down State Illinois is a rural farming community. The greatest irony that I face is the very farmers, small family farmer that has probably produced the surplus that may have caused the problem for getting the proper price for their commodities qualifies for food assistance. What a great irony. I don't know exactly how toand these are very proud people that have never been on public aid and don't want to go on and somehow make it. I guess what I am asking, I see the statistics that you have given us that private donation and charitable donations and all of this is up 19 percent or more, and yet the requests are increasing also. Are we identifying people or are they just hearing about it more or where were these people before? Where do we finally see success?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I think it is a consequence in part from the new economy and the 1996 Welfare bill. The fact of the matter is that food stamps were reduced and people were taken off and the food stamp benefit was reduced. What is most troubling is that we have had an enormous increase in the number of working poor people. The research that Mrs. Clayton was referring to, nearly 40 percent of the people we serve are employed. And of those who are employed, half are working full-time. So across the board, there are many more working families. It is not uncommon in rural areas to seeactually, it is unfortunate, it is not uncommon, to have a farmer who grows the food have to go to his church pantry or have his kids go to the church pantry to get enough product to get through maybe a week or something untiljust to get by. I think that is the troubling reality that we are seeing.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is not just that people are leaving welfare and there is a great deal of evidence to suggest from a number of States that people leaving welfare are turning to us. In Wisconsin and South Carolina, for examplein Wisconsin 32 percent of former welfare recipients ran out of food and in South Carolina, 17 percent. They turn to a charity or food bank to get by. We are getting hit by people leaving welfare voluntarily or involuntarily, and we are getting people who are not doing well in this economy and are working and trying to make ends meet and simply are not putting food on the table.
Mr. PHELPS. You would not identify the distribution system being a problem?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No. Transportation costs as I think for every industry is high, and for food bank it is no different. We try to get donated food and USDA has played a very important role in getting donated trucking and things like that. If we get the food, we move it out. That is the idea. And we are in the business of turning away donations so we get Halloween candy, and we will get Easter candy this time of the year, but we need the TEFAP, the salmon and applesauce.
Mr. PHELPS. How many outlets do you have ?
Mr. O'BRIEN. We have eight in Illinois. Your part is served by Evansville, IN, Springfield and St. Louis. TEFAP, I might add, in Illinois works fabulously well. It is a good program and it is highly valued by the food banks and needy people who receive those products.
Mr. PHELPS. Thank you. Mr. Richards, the two family members working and minimum wage and having less than $700 left for food is real, and those are things that we need to look at in helping us make this decision in supporting this. Thank you very much.
Mr. EWING. Mr. Moran.
Mr. MORAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. How many of these food pantries are religious based? Is that the norm?
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. O'BRIEN. It is the norm. More than 70 percent are.
Mr. MORAN. This is seen as a further mission of a local church or an interdenominational effort?
Mr. O'BRIEN. That's correct, yes.
Mr. MORAN. I was interested in the listing of States and you rank your States based upon food insecurity. Are there characteristics that differentiate those that have high food insecurity versus those that do not? Is there some piece of information from which we could glean what is working and what is not working?
Mr. O'BRIEN. If you could visualize the map of the United States and if you were to place an L from Washington down to California, then following the southern border to the Gulf, that is where we have the highest proportion of food insecurity as identified by USDA and Census. I am not sure what similarities Mississippi would have, for example, with the State of California or New Mexico with Washington State. As my testimony reflects, you have a State like North Dakota which has very low food insecurity rates, roughly 4.5 percent, whereas New Mexico which is also a very rural State has the highest, better than 15 percent.
Mr. MORAN. That struck me and looking at Kansas, we range toward the top, above the U.S. average, and I am not sure why we are different than the State of South Dakota. We are a lot alike, and I don't know whether we have policies in place economically obviously States can be different but I don't know whether we have policies in place perhaps at the State level that affect the level of hunger that occurs in each State.
Perhaps anecdotally, although statistics are fine, too, the Chairman mentioned we always have those who fall through the cracks. Do we have a sense of how many people were notwhose needs are not being met?
Mr. O'BRIEN. We have very good data on that. When we asked agencies how many people are you turning away, the projections of actual agencies asked, and there were 12,000 agencies which provided in information, they themselves were turning away 115,000 people aggregate in 199798. When we project that out to our entire network of those 12,000 representing the roughly 46,000 agencies that we serve, it is a million people who go to one of these faith-based organizations and as I have stated before, a minister or rabbi or a priest or nun will go to extraordinary efforts to not turn people away. They see this as essential to their faith mission. They will shake down their congregation and chase business leaders not to have to close that soup kitchen or reduce the amount of food that they give to a needy family. Yet we are turning a million people away.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The United States Conference of Mayors in December released their report in which they showed that fully one fifth of all requests for emergency feed in U.S. cities is not being met.
Mr. MORAN. There is a significant number who are making no request whose needs are not being met?
Mr. O'BRIEN. That's correct. The food insecurity data show that people skip meals. That is true with elderly and families with children.
Mr. MORAN. What percentage are children being served by food pantries?
Mr. O'BRIEN. It is better 30 percent. We serve in our network and we are the largest hunger relief charity with the food banks, Harvester serves Kansas City and Kansas Food Bank Warehouse in Wichita serves the rest of the State, 8 million, better than 8 million kids across the country are served by our network which is half of all low income children in the United States.
Mr. MORAN. Any evidence that the school breakfast program has had an impact on the demands or meeting nutrition needs?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Not so much of school breakfast. The success of that program is in helping low-income kids not just do better in school, but also meet their nutritional needs. The summer feeding program is a problem. Quickly, about 70 percent of the children we serve are households that we serve with children that are enrolled in the School Lunch Program, and only about 13 percent get summer feeding. It is not surprising that nearly half of all agencies say they see many more kids in the summer. They come to the local pantry.
Mr. MORAN. My final question, Mr. Chairman, is do you see the more services that are provided, the more demand there is for those services? Is there a relationship between demand and the accessibility to a food pantry?
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. O'BRIEN. Commonsense tells me there has to be. But by the same token, our network is largely volunteer-driven. People have very busy lives. People just don't open a soup kitchen or pantry if there is not a need. They hear that there are people in trouble and or they see a bigger need in the neighborhood or the synagogue. People create these agencies where there is a need, otherwise people wouldn't spend the time to show up.
Mr. MORAN. I thank you for your testimony and for the service you do. I often indicate to my constituents what happens in Washington is a lot less important than saving people and improving the condition of lives, and that is what a local volunteer does at home. This hearing is where some help from the Federal Government, from the government combined with volunteer efforts, can make a significant difference, and I thank the Chairman.
Mr. EWING. Thank you, Mr. Moran. Kind of a follow-up question, and if I am not on the right track here, please don't hesitate to tell me. The fact that demand is going up is not necessarily a bad indication. Part of our welfare reform program was people were before either had to be on welfare or had to have a job. Now we are trying to move people from welfare into work at whatever level they can access that. Do you think that the increase that you are seeing in your demand is becauseyou are helping the working poor. That is a responsibility that we all take very seriously, but you might not have that increased demand if people who were getting public assistance couldn't have a job or we didn't have these programs to move people from public assistance into some type of employment?
Mr. O'BRIEN. We are serving more working people and we are working some people that left welfare and I think some policy makers assume that is a success of welfare. Some people suggest that the decline in food stamp caseload is a cause for success. If you look at other data, though, and the USDA food insecurity numbers from 1995 to 1998, shows that the same number of people in 1995 that were food insecure are food insecure in 1998.
What we are seeing is an increase demand for our services. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has reported the two largest increases from the recession in the 1990's in the last 2 years. I think which are charities are really kind of stuck is that we want to see the efficacy of the food assistance safety net. Those programs are essential. Food stamps works at providing a better food package or food security for a household. The problem is that the benefit level is low and if you work, the benefit level is even lower.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So a family turns to us. What is troubling is not only are we serving people who just kind of need us periodically, but now we are serving the chronically unemployed and people who will always fall through the cracks. You have the working poor families and elderly people. We are simply being inundated.
Mr. Goodlatte, who has visited the food banks in his district, can tell you in rural areas the dependence on the food banks and the TEFAP program, which maybe 50 percent of the product that they have is key, so we don'tand the thing that is important about these people is that food stamps and TEFAP don't stand in opposition. As the USDA report showed, they are complements to one other where food stamps benefits run out, or while you are waiting, you can go to a church pantry and get by.
I think this is the goal of this committee and the goal of our organization should be that no American should be hungry when we are the most agriculture-really rich nation in the history of mankind. Food stamps is a strong and good program that does a great deal of good. As people wait for that application process, or they don't want to enroll as many elderly people, they should be able to go to the church pantry and we make sure that they are stocked.
Mr. EWING. Anyone else?
Mr. ALFORD. Mr. Ewing, I would think that in the 380 distributing charities that we have in Mississippi and in part of Louisiana I would suggest that there are more unpaid volunteer church religious and good Samaritan-type people than there are actually, in my opinion, we have more people working to help us collectively with this program than we have on anybody's payroll.
Again, I would certainly encourage you members to the committee to stimulate any sort of a program that encourages the private sector and public sector. We have been Southeastern Regions's food security summit and one of the things that Mr. Conrad is going to be promoting is Federal State private partnerships, is to provide more food security throughout the country. I am trying to put in a plug for that while I'm here. Thank you.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. EWING. Anyone else? Mr. Moran.
Mr. MORAN. Mr. O'Brien, would you provide me with the name of somebody in the State of Kansas that would have knowledge of the food pantry system statewide?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Absolutely.
Mr. MORAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. EWING. Thank you to the panel. It was very interesting and enlightening. The Chair would seek unanimous consent to allow the record of today's hearing to remain open for 10 days to receive additional material, supplemental written responses from witnesses to any questions posed by the panel. Without objection, so ordered. The hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:08 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned, subject to the call of the Chair.]
[Material submitted for inlusion in the record follows:]
Statement of Gary Gay
Good morning Chairman Goodlatte and members of the Subcommittee. I am Gary Gay, director of the Food Distribution Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today about The Emergency Food Assistance Program and H.R. 3453, which would increase TEFAP commodity purchases. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture is responsible for distributing nearly 51 million pounds of USDA commodities annually to programs such as TEFAP and the National School Lunch Program.
In addition to my position with the State of North Carolina, I am president-elect of the American Commodity Distribution Association (ACDA). ACDA is a non-profit professional trade association devoted to the improvement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's commodity distribution system. ACDA members include state agencies that distribute USDA-purchased commodities, agricultural organizations, recipient agencies, and allied organizations, such as Second Harvest.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman Goodlatte, I would like to start by commending you for your commitment to TEFAP and the other programs that are part of USDA's commodity distribution system. This subcommittee has a long and honorable history of supporting these programs, and you are continuing the tradition of past chairmen, such as former Congressman Leon Panetta, Congressman Stenholm, and the late Congressman Bill Emerson. I would also like to thank Representative Eva Clayton for her long-standing support for these programs.
It is my sincere hope that H.R. 3453 will be enacted into law and there will be an increase in the amount of money available for TEFAP commodity purchases. The level of TEFAP commodity purchases has varied significantly. For example, in recent years the overall TEFAP budget, which includes administrative funding, has ranged from a low of $65 million in fiscal year 1995 to a high of $172 million in fiscal year 1997. As part of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Congress amended TEFAP's authorizing statute to provide $100 million annually in mandatory commodity purchases. This step was intended to ensure a constant and predictable flow of commodities and eliminate the reliance on the yearly appropriations process. In addition to these funds, TEFAP has received a significant amount of bonus commodities over the last several years. As you know, bonus commodities are purchased through USDA's price support and surplus removal programs. However, the volume of bonus commodities available fluctuates from year to year depending on agricultural market conditions, and these products, although important, are not predictable.
Even though the level of commodity purchases has fluctuated over the years, one aspect of the program has been growingdemand for TEFAP commodities has increased significantly. To combat this problem a number of states provide additional funding for commodity purchases because the need is so great. Other witnesses are in a better position to outline the reasons for this increase in demand, and I am sure this issue will be addressed in their testimony.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In my home State of North Carolina, TEFAP reaches all 100 counties. In the last fiscal year, TEFAP served 220,000 households in North Carolina. The food package that a family of 13 receives is valued close to $13.30, and a family of 4 or more receives $26.60 worth of food. This package does not completely meet a family's need, but it does help to make ends meet. Each quarter as we receive requisitions for TEFAP food from our Emergency Feeding Organizations in each county, I am reminded that requests from each county far exceed what we are able to give to the counties in TEFAP commodities.
I also urge the Subcommittee to consider increasing the amount of money that is available for TEFAP administrative funding. While $50 million is authorized for administrative funding, no more than $45 million has been appropriated in recent years. Virtually all of this money is passed on to recipient agencies, such as food banks, to help offset the costs of storing and transporting commodities. Distribution and storage costs have increased significantly over the last several years, but the amount of money appropriated for this purpose has been stagnant. Increasing administrative funding would help reduce the burden on recipient agencies who are already finding it difficult to meet the growing demand for this program.
The increase in demand exposes an interesting paradox: despite having one of the best economies in a generation, the need for emergency food assistance continues to grow. Hungry Americans are not the only ones who are being left behind by our economy. Like TEFAP recipients, a significant number of America's farmers are not reaping the benefits of our Nation's economic success. I mention this because it ties into an often overlooked but important function of TEFAP, which is to support farm prices. TEFAP commodity purchases, like all of USDA's food assistance programs, have a dual role. These purchases enable USDA to provide nutritional assistance to needy Americans, while at the same time providing much needed assistance to the agricultural community by supporting farm prices. While other food assistance programs are much larger, the importance of TEFAP commodity purchases should not be overlooked because they have a more direct impact on the bottom line of agricultural producers. According to USDA's Economic Research Service, producers receive between 27 and 85 cents of every dollar expended on TEFAP purchases. By way of comparison, the Food Stamp Program has significantly less of an impact on producers. ERS estimates that producers receive less than 7 cents of every food stamp dollar.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The agricultural community in general has long recognized the importance of TEFAP, and has been a strong supporter in the fight to maintain the program's funding. The importance of TEFAP and all of USDA's commodity distribution programs to the agricultural community has been magnified due to the United States' commitments to reduce subsidies for domestic agricultural producers under international trade agreements. TEFAP falls into a category of what have become known as Green Box programs, which are exempt from these commitments and allow the United States to support domestic producers by purchasing food for distribution to needy Americans.
In addition to increasing commodity purchases, I would like to suggest two technical, no cost changes to TEFAP that would make the program easier to operate and more efficient. First, I suggest changing the statute to allow States to carry over a portion of their administrative funding from one fiscal year to the next. This is necessary to pay for distribution of food that is purchased by USDA in one fiscal year but not delivered to States until the first quarter of the following fiscal year. This problem has been resolved for other nutrition programs, such as the National School Lunch Program, but it continues to hinder the effective operation of TEFAP.
Second, I recommend that Congress authorize USDA to act as the purchasing agent for states that supplement their TEFAP programs. As I mentioned previously, a number of states supplement their TEFAP operations with state funds. If the Department could act as the purchasing agent for these states, it would give them the option of benefitting from USDA's enormous buying power, and, hopefully, receive more product for their limited dollars. USDA offers a similar service to states as part of the National School Lunch Program.
A final point I would like to make is to thank the leadership of this Subcommittee for cosponsoring the Emergency Commodity Distribution Act of 2000 (H.R. 3614). This legislation is not directly related to TEFAP, but it would be of great assistance to the National School Lunch Program by correcting a change in how USDA calculates the value of commodity assistance provided to schools.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, again, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have.
Testimony of Douglas O'Brien
Good morning Chairman Goodlatte, Representative Clayton, and Members of the Subcommittee. I am Douglas O'Brien, Director of Public Policy and Research at America's Second Harvest, the National Network of Food Banks. I am pleased to be here today to discuss the Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act (H.R. 3453), and the legislation's potential impact on food banks and the needy Americans they serve. I am also pleased to be joined by my distinguished colleagues from our food bank network, Mr. Frank Richards II of Valdosta, Georgia, and Mr. John Alford, of Jackson, Mississippi.
On behalf of America's Second Harvest, I want to express our deep gratitude for your long-standing attention to the needs of hungry Americans and the private charitable sector which serves them. Because of your efforts and those of your colleagues on this Subcommittee, America's food banks have more nutritious, higher quality and greater quantities of food for the needy.
I would like to begin by introducing the organization I am representing: America's Second Harvest is the nation's largest hunger relief charity, and one of the ten largest nonprofits in the nation. Chronicle of Philanthropy, *Philanthropy 400,* 11/99. America*s Second Harvest is rated as the nation*s tenth largest non-profit organization (IRC 501(c)(3)), and the largest hunger relief charity in the United States. According to same, America*s Second Harvest has 99.3% efficiency rating - meaning that 99.3% of total revenue is spent on program services - one of the highest of any national charity.
Our mission is to ''feed hungry people by soliciting and judiciously distributing food and grocery products through a nationwide network of certified affiliate food banks, and educate the public about the nature of and solutions to the problems of hunger.'' Our network is compromised of nearly 200 regional affiliate food banks, which provide more than 1.3 billion pounds of food and grocery products to an estimated 350 subsidiary food banks and 46,000 private charitable agencies, operating 95,000 local social service programs. America's Second Harvest food banks provide assistance in nearly every U.S. county, in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Last year, through the generosity of private donations and the grant of Federal commodity donations, our network provided food to an estimated 26 million low-income Americans, including 21 million people who were aided at emergency feeding sites such as soup kitchens, food pantries, and emergency shelters. America*s Second Harvest, HUNGER 1997: The Faces & Facts and Network Activity Report - 1998 Edition.
Our network of emergency food providers are witnesses for the ''other side of the story'' in the U.S. economy. With much attention being paid to strong economic growth and productivity, a rising stock market, low-unemployment, historic high rates of homeownership, and dramatically falling welfare caseloads, one would assume that the problem of hunger in our nation was finally beginning to subside. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Last summer, the Census Bureau and USDA released a landmark four-year study of household food security in the United States. USDA, Household Food Security in the United States 1995-1998 (Advance Report), 7/1999.
What that study shows is that roughly 1 in 9 Americans, 31 million, are food insecurethat is hungry or at risk of hunger. Thirty one million people, in perhaps the strongest economy in our country's history, go hungry so their children can eat, or turn to a church pantry to get by until pay-day, or simply are unsure where they will get their next meal. The USDA study found an average of 9.7 percent of U.S. households are food insecure, with rates varying greatly state-by-state, from a low of 4.6 percent of households that are food insecure in North Dakota, to a national high of 15.1 percent in New Mexico.
Similarly, the U.S. Conference of Mayors released in December 1999, their annual report of hunger and homelessness in the cities and found that requests for emergency food assistance increased an average of 18 percent, with 85 percent of cities registering an increase. US Conference of Mayors, 1999 Survey of Hunger & Homelessness in Selected US Cities., 12/1999.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Similarly, as reported by GAO, Catholic Charities USA, experienced a 38 percent increase in emergency food requests among reporting agencies in 1998. GAO, The Food Stamp Program: Various Factors Have Led to Declining Participation, (GAO/RCED-99-185), 7/1999.
The problem of increasing hunger is not confined to US cities. In our network, requests for emergency food assistance are growing faster in the suburbs and rural areas than anywhere else. For example, a study conducted by the Utah Food Bank, found a 24 percent increase in the number of people served from 199798, and the Oregon Food Bank providing food to more than 680 regional food providers in the state reported a 14 percent increase over the same period.
Of approximately 10 national and state or local studies reviewed by the Tufts University Center on Hunger and Poverty, recent increases in the number of clients served by emergency food providers rose from 14 percent to 36 percent. Paradox of Our Times: Hunger in a Strong Economy, Tufts University, Center on Hunger & Poverty, 1/2000.
In no instance was there a reported decline in services.
With food stamp and TANF rates dropping to 20 year lows nationwide, the food security status of former welfare recipients is also being examined by researchers. With food stamp caseloads falling more than 30 percent in the past four years, some policy makers have assumedincorrectlythat the economic and food security needs of former recipients are being met. According to an Urban Institute national study, 38 percent of former welfare recipients ran out of food and did not have enough money for more. Families Who Left Welfare: Who Are They and How Are They Doing?, Urban Institute, 1999.
In Wisconsin, 32 percent of former welfare recipients stated they did not have enough money for food and in South Carolina, 17 percent of former welfare recipients reported that had no way to buy food after leaving welfare. Tufts University, Center on Hunger & Poverty, 2000.
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A 1999 GAO report looking at the falling food stamp caseloads stated: ''demand for food assistance by low-income families has increased in recent years, indicating that the drop in food stamp participation is not solely the result of a strong economy . . . according to these data, the need for food assistance has not diminished; rather, needy individuals are relying on sources of assistance other than food stamps.'' Food Stamp Participation, GAO/RCED 99-185, 7/1999.
In addition to increased need for food assistance, we are also finding a transformation in the demographic profile of food insecure people. For example, soup kitchens which have historically served the homeless now increasingly serve working poor families with children. In fact, according to our 1997 Hunger Study, one in five people in a soup kitchen line is now a child.
We are seeing disproportionately higher percentages of women, children, and elderly people at emergency feeding sites than are represented in the general US population. They are typically the poorest of the poor, with more than 86 percent with incomes below the Federal poverty level, and more than 11 percent with no income in the past month at all. HUNGER 1997: The Faces & Facts.
Working poor households represent nearly 40 percent of emergency food recipients, and of those working nearly half work full-time. Similarly, the US Conference of Mayors 1999 report found that that 67 percent of the adults requesting food assistance were employed. These are people who are working, paying taxes and contributing to the productivity and economic prosperity of our nation, but are reaping few of the rewards.
Evidence of high rates of food insecurity and the changing demographic profile of low-income and hungry people in our country should cause alarm with members of this Committee. The evidence shows that for too many families, to leave welfare for a job does not guarantee one will have enough food to feed a family. Often, the hungry and needy turn to emergency food providers like those in the America's Second Harvest network for help. We are the ''end-stage'' coping strategy for many families in desperate need. Unfortunately, the request for aid are exceeding our food resources.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Mayors' reported last December that 21 percent of requests for emergency food aid went unmet. At many local charities, the depth of the emergency food shortage is profound. We estimate, that in 1997, approximately 16 percent of requests for emergency food aid went unmet. Nearly half (46 percent) of all local agencies reported that they were forced to stretch food resources in the past year. Emergency food pantries experienced shortages most often, with nearly 60 percent reporting that they have had to stretch food at some time in the past year, and 17 percent stretching food resources monthly. ibid.
In the worst instances, local charities can no longer stretch food resources and are forced to operate on a sort of ''triage'' system, serving only the most needy, or the charity simply closes its doors. Our research found that a median number of 20 people were turned away last year by those food programs lacking sufficient food resources to serve them . In 1997, an estimated one million people were turned away and denied emergency food assistance because the local charitable agency had no food available.
Mr. Chairman, it should be noted that it takes a serious and nearly insurmountable shortage of donated food to force a charity to turn a needy person away, or, worse yet, close a soup kitchen, pantry or emergency shelter. The director of a soup kitchen or church food pantry will go to extraordinary efforts before they will accept that they must turn someone away or close their doors for even a short period of time.
That is why I am here today. Although private donations of food to food banks and other emergency food providers are up 19 percent this past year, it remains insufficient to meet the needs of needy and hungry families in our communities.
In 1998, America's Second Harvest food banks distributed approximately 1.3 billion pounds of food to local charities, with a 7.3 million pound average per network food bank. More than 84 percent of all the food and grocery products distributed throughout our network is provided by the private sector. Two-thirds of all private sector donations to food banks come through local activities such as canned food drives, church and synagogue sponsored activities, local grocery retailers and wholesalers, local food manufacturers and processors, and farmers who make available their fields for a ''second harvest'' for the needy in their communities. The remaining one-third of private food donations are provided by more than 500 national food and grocery companies, agricultural and fishing cooperatives, and other major donors. Principally, private sector donations received by Second Harvest from major donor companies constitute *unsaleables,* food or grocery products which do not meet the industry*s quality standards. Typically, unsaleables are so categorized due to cosmetic defects and similar marketing issues. In nearly all instances the donation of unsaleables are a consequence of surplus or error in the food manufacturing or marketing process. As companies work to make the production process error free, and with enhanced technology now uniformly in use in the grocery industry (for example, point of purchase scanners, bar coded inventories, and precise sales tracking, to cite just a few), errors and surplus have been greatly reduced. (For more information on trends in food industry donations, please see the testimony of John Block, President Food Distributors International, before the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Nutrition and Foreign Agriculture Hearing *Review of the Public-Private Partnership of Food Banks,* 9/11/98; Committee on Agriculture, No. 105-24).
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America's Second Harvest currently has more private sector food donors than at any other time in our organization's history. Yet, despite this widespread support, private donations of food have not kept up with the demand for emergency food assistance and emergency food stocks remain woefully short of demand.
Since 1983, the United States Department of Agriculture has supplemented private domestic hunger relief efforts through commodity donations made through the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). TEFAP is the cornerstone program in the charitable efforts to feed America's hungry, and is the ''bridge'' between public and private hunger relief efforts.
TEFAP is a unique community based and community supported Federal nutrition program, which relies on volunteers at food banks and local agencies to prepare and distribute federally donated agricultural commodities to hungry people in those communities.
At the urging of food banks and others, major reform of TEFAP was undertaken by the Congress in 1996 with the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (P.L.104193). That legislation combined TEFAP with the Soup Kitchen/Food Bank Program, and authorized $100 million in annual mandatory commodity purchases. The effort to strengthen TEFAP and extend its benefits was led by the late Mr. Emerson and the members of this Subcommittee. We are very grateful for those efforts and the considerable increase in food which this Committee's work made possible.
Federal commodity donations to food banks more than doubled after the passage of the 1996 welfare reform law, from approximately 85 million pounds of commodities in 1996 to 220 million pounds in 1998.
TEFAP serves the public good in two primary and important ways: high quality, nutritious food gets to hungry Americans in an efficient manner utilizing the efficiencies and volunteer labor of the private sector, and the agricultural economy is strengthened through surplus commodity removal and providing a non-competitive market for farm products. A 1994 USDAEconomic Research Service report stated ''although TEFAP's sector-wide farm impacts are small because the program is small, producers of the commodities donated through TEFAP can be significantly affected ... as a surplus disposal program TEFAP returned to farmers approximately 85 cents for every dollar of Federal TEFAP expenditure.'' Comparing the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Food Stamp Program, USDA-ERS Agricultural Economic report Number 689, 6/94; page 7.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC TEFAP provides increased farm income and serves as direct connection between America's farmers and hungry Americans in a manner which few Federal programs can.
In fiscal year 1998, TEFAP commodities (purchased and bonus) represented more than 16 percent of all the food supplied through the Second Harvest network. More than 220 million pounds of TEFAP food the equivalent of 172 million mealswas distributed through America's Second Harvest food banks in 1998. We estimate that a similar levels of TEFAP commodities (210 million to 225 million pounds) will be distributed through food banks in FY 2000, depending on Section 32 purchases by USDA. Though USDA commodities represent a proportionally small amount of the total food distributed through our network, TEFAP commodities are critical in that they help stabilize a massive system of unpredictable donated supplies that are typical in a charitable network such as ours.
In rural areas, TEFAP is even more important. Although much of the US food supply is grown in rural areas, much of the raw product is processed elsewhere, closer to transportation hubs and terminals. Similarly, rural areas often lack a significant grocery store base from which to draw surplus product at the retail level. For many rural food banks in our system, TEFAP commodities can represent between 30 percent and 50 percent of all the product they provide to the needy. One rural food bank director recently told me, that without TEFAP she would not have a food bank right now.
The types of food most needed by local charities, primarily meat, dairy, fish, fruits and vegetables, and grain products, are almost exclusively the commodities provided through TEFAP. Those are also the least likely types of food to be donated in significant quantities or with any kind of regularity. This year, nearly two dozen types of nutritious commodities will be available to food banks through TEFAP mandatory commodity purchases.
In the area of bonus commodities, those purchased by USDA under the Department's Section 32 surplus commodity removal authority, we anticipate Federal donations will exceed $100 million, doubling the amount of commodities food banks have to distribute to local charities, and keeping the Federal commodity donation level in FY 2000 close to the FY 1999 levels.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Unfortunately, food banks and other local feeding charities cannot rely on bonus commodities to make up for TEFAP and private food shortages. With the passage of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 1999, school lunch commodities were reduced, necessitating an increase of bonus commodities to make up for the shortfall in that program. The increase of bonus commodities to school lunch, and away from TEFAP, will mean less food at food banks, church pantries, and soup kitchens. Therefore, America's Second Harvest is supporting Mr. Goodling's Emergency Commodity Distribution Act of 2000 (H.R. 3614) which will help ensure that mandatory commodities go to schools and as many bonus commodities as possible will flow to food banks.
We are also strongly supportive of Mr. Goodlatte and Mr. Hall's Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act (H.R.3453).
The Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act (H.R.3453) will increase TEFAP mandatory commodity purchases by $25 million in FY 2001 and 2002. If enacted, more than 32,000,000 additional meals will be provided nationally to people in need at a time when local charities are turning too many people away for a lack of food.
H.R.3453 provides increased TEFAP food spending by creating another allowable use of unspent and unobilgated Food Stamp Employment and Training (E&T) funds. H.R. 3453 increases TEFAP only if there remains unpsent Food Stamp E&T funds after states have applied for the E&T funds, and after the states have also had a second chance at the E&T funding through the reallocation process. Then, only after all E&T funding requests have been met, would TEFAP receive additional food purchasesup to $25 million, if such funds were available.
According to earlier USDA estimates, up to $100 million in Food Stamp E&T funds go unspent each year. A 1998 GAO report found that of the $212 million available to states in Food Stamp E&T grants, less than 30 percent, or $60.2 million, was utilized by the states. GAO, The Food Stamp Program: Information on Employment & Training Activities, (GAO/RCED-99-40) 12/1998.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The GAO report determined that a number of factors have led to this surplus of unspent E&T funds.
America's Second Harvest strongly urges states to use all the Food Stamp E&T funds available to them. We regularly report to states on Food Stamp options available to them, including E&T funding, through our annual research report ''50 State Survey of the Food Assistance Gap'' conducted jointly with the Food Research and Action Center. Despite our strong support for the Food Stamp Program and the E&T funding, we also recognize that it would be unconscionable to allow unspent and unobligated funds to roll-over year after year when unspent funds in that account could also be used to assist local hunger relief activitiesmany of which are aimed at the very recipients which the Food Stamp E&T program was created to serve.
Mr. Chairman and Madame Ranking Member, the Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act is thoughtful, reasonable legislation which will increase TEFAP food available to hungry people, and does so in a manner that causes no harm to the Food Stamp E&T program, nor harms food stamp recipients. I urge this subcommittee to mark-up H.R.3453 as quickly as possible and move this legislation toward enactment.
Hunger relief charities are often the last line of defense against hunger in many American communities, and too many needy people have already been turned away for a lack of food and resources.
In light of the nation's considerable agricultural surpluses and the first Federal budget surplus in three decades, it is morally unacceptable that there are tens of thousands of American children that may go to bed hungry tonight because they have no food in their home or because the church pantry they have visited is empty. The TEFAP commodity provisions of the Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act will put food into food banks and will provide an additional 19 million meals to children, the elderly, the homeless, and working poor families in need.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Second Harvest strongly endorses the TEFAP provisions of H.R. 3453, and we urge that those provisions be enacted in the 106th Congress.
Thank you Mr. Chairman, Congresswoman Clayton and members of the subcommittee. I will be available to answer your questions.
Testimony of Franklin J. Richards, II
Thank you for allowing me to address you today about the issue of hunger in south Georgia and how I believe the Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act will help provided much needed food to the needy of south Georgia. Hunger is a major issue in our area of rural Georgia due to the lack of jobs that pay a living wage.
Despite a booming economy and declining welfare caseloads, many elderly, infants, and needy individuals are having difficulty getting enough food to eat little lone maintain a nutritionally secure household. The Valdosta Food Bank has approximately 535,000 people that live in the 10 county area we serve. In 1999 our pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters reported serving 223,393 people at least once during the year. These numbers include 95,947 children and 28,565 elderly people. These numbers are staggering in a community as small as south Georgia.
The same is true across the nation. The America's Second Harvest Network of food banks, of which my food bank is a member, distributed more than one billion pounds of food to over 26 million people in 1999 alone.
The reason for the problem of hunger in south Georgia is simple. A family with two people working 40 hours a week at minimum wage earns only $ 21,424 per year. When you subtract $5,998.72 for taxes, $8,400 for the average rent, $3,600 for one average car payment, $1,200 for insurance and $1560 for power and phone you are only left with $665.28 for everything else including food. This does not include childcare or health insurance.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In 1999 a General Accounting Office study on food stamps found that the need for food assistance has not diminished in the face of declining food stamp and welfare caseloads. Rather, needy individuals and families are increasingly relying on food banks, soup kitchens, and emergency pantries for food rather than food stamps. I know that food stamps are hard for people to obtain and often people have to wait weeks to receive minimal help. I know in my county the local human services department is in trouble for food stamp distribution. The Valdosta Food Bank has seen a 16 percent increase in the amount of food we distributed last year and the 235 agencies we serve have reported similar increases, especially among working families with children.
As poor Americans transition from welfare to work and their benefits are cut or reduced, they are finding that their meager wages are not sufficient to meet their basic needs. Too often, a working poor family finds they must cut their food budget or turn to a local charity for aid. In a month where a child needs a new pair of shoes for school that could mean a family member goes hungry for days.
According to the USDA Food Insecurity Index, 9.7 percent of all Georgia households are in food insecure households. This is equal to the national average of 9.7 percent. In addition to these numbers, Georgia's poverty rate is 14.3 percent, above the national average of 13.2 percent. These numbers show when you visit a local soup kitchen or Kids Cafe in our community.
The Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act would increase TEFAP commodity donations to food banks and other local hunger relief agencies by increasing mandatory TEFAP commodity purchases by $25 million in fiscal year 2001 and 2002. If enacted, H.R. 3453 would provide than 32,000,000 additional meals to hungry Americans. In fiscal year 2000, the TEFAP food Grant for Georgia was $2.6 million in Federal TEFAP funding. H.R. 3453 would increase this amount by as much as $650,000, providing more than 830,000 additional meals for the poor and needy in Georgia.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With TEFAP commodities, food banks are able to leverage USDA commodities with privately donated food to provide millions of low income-Americans with nutritious and wholesome meals. Any reduction in TEFAP funding would literally take food away from food banks and out of the mouths of hungry people, making it more difficult for local charities to relieve hunger in our communities.
TEFAP commodities truly stretch the budgets of our local agencies. These highly nutritional shelf stable foods provide a source of products that food banks often are forced to purchase in order to have a complete inventory. The commodities program is a vital part of the food bank and needs to be increased to help the agencies in South Georgia and all across America meet the growing needs of the working poor in all our communities. This bill will ensure that food is ready to flow into our communities.
The people of south Georgia encourage you to support The Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act (H.R. 3453). It is of vital importance to establish a safety net in our community and every food bank's community before the end of the year and the end of welfare. Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter.
Testimony of John Alford
I am John Alford, the executive director of the Mississippi Food Network, located in Jackson, MS. We operate a private, non-profit food bank affiliated with the national food bank organization known as America's Second Harvest.
Our food bank in Jackson distributes TEFAP products to member organizations located in all 82 counties in our state. We also have a subsidiary food bank in Monroe, Louisiana which distributes TEFAP to 12 parishes in Northeast Louisiana.
The poverty rate among individuals in Mississippi is 18.3 percent, almost 40 percent worse than the national average of 13.2 percent. According to the USDA Food Insecurity Index, 14 percent of all Mississippi households are hungry or at risk of hunger, again almost 50 percent worse than the national average of 9.7 percent.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In a typical month, 65,000 individuals receive food assistance from our 340 non-profit religious and social service member organizations located in communities and neighborhoods throughout this area. 31,000 (47 percent) are children, 14,000 (21 percent) are 65 and older. The remaining 20,000 (32 percent) consist, for the most part of what is commonly referred to as the ''working poor''.
The data I have concerning the impact of Welfare Reform on employment indicates that only about one half of those who no longer receive food stamps have found employment. Those living in the more rural areas are having a much more difficult time finding employment than those in the more populated areas. Compounding the difficulty is an increase in immigration to Mississippi by Hispanic individuals securing minimum wage jobs in poultry and in construction.
Those who have found employment, are often working two jobs, averaging a total of 35 hours weekly, with a rate of pay averaging $5.77 per hour. This annualizes to $10,500, less than minimum wage and less than the TEFAP poverty guideline for one person, not to mention for a single parent situation.
Despite our booming economy and declining welfare caseloads, many in the area I serve are having difficulty getting enough food to eat. Executive Directors of other food banks indicate the same to be true across the Nation. Last year, America's Second Harvest network of food banks distributed a record one billion pounds of food to appx. 26 million Americans.
Since October 1, the beginning of this fiscal year, 2.6 million pounds of TEFAP product has been distributed in Mississippi and 273,000 pounds in N/E La. TEFAP provides approximately one-third of the food distributed. We encourage our local distributing organizations to consider TEFAP as supplementing other donations, and not as being their sole source of food.
Eligibility for assistance is based on legitimate need, with no discrimination of any kind. For individuals being fed at congregate sites, such as soup kitchens, the criteria for TEFAP is being located in ''predominately needy'' areas. For those being served by food pantries who receive food to prepare at home, eligibility is determined on an individual basis. Each client's eligibility is re-examined at least quarterly. Records are maintained. Reports from member organizations to the food banks and from the food banks to the state agencies are monthly. Monitoring visits to the various sites occur at least annually.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition to my oral testimony, I am submitting written information highlighting three features of the TEFAP program of which Congress should be proud, and which, in my opinion justify your increasing your investment in TEFAP.
The Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act would increase TEFAP commodity donations to food banks and other local hunger relief agencies by increasing mandatory TEFAP commodity purchases by $25 million in fiscal year 2001 and in fiscal year 2002. Once enacted, H.R. 3453 would provide more that 32,000,000 additional meals to hungry Americans. This could provide more than 480,000 additional meals to the poor and needy in Mississippi.
Welfare Reform may, for a large number of people in Mississippi, ultimately achieve its goal of encouraging work instead of welfare. But, in the meantime, we need for you to enact HR3453 so we can do what is needed for these disadvantaged folks as they find their way from subsidy to salary.
In conclusion I hope you are aware that although we are discussing providing more food, it's really about far more than just food. Hunger will bring the needy into the approximately 50,000 neighborhood and community outreach centers in America. Once there, many centers provide a wide variety of personal services in addition to food. Mentoring, tutoring, nutrition, family counseling and health screening are typical of such services.
We need this increase in TEFAP. If you will do all you can to get 3453 enacted, I will do all I can to insure that the food it provides gets to the needy in my area.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.
OTHER SIGNIFICANT ASPECTS OF THE TEFAP PROGRAM
1-TEFAP IS LOCALLY ADMINISTERED
A - The distributing organizations order from the food banks only what is needed to supplement local food donations. TEFAP is not presented as bring a primary source of food, but as a supplement.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC B - Only the truly needy are served. This is a program where ''friends and neighbors'' are assisting ''friends and neighbors''. A familiarity develops which helps prevent fraud or duplication of service.
2 - A HIGH LEVEL OF ACCOUNTABILITY EXISTS
A - Organizations are approved by the food banks, and must operate their programs according to TEFAP regulations.
B - Compliance is assured through the use of inventory controls, regular reporting and periodic monitoring visits.
3 - MODEL PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP
A - Close cooperation between the state agency and the Mississippi Food Network enables the agency to retain very little of the admin dollars, allowing the rest to be used to enhance the program.
B - Very good stewardship of Federal funds. Federal funds are not used to defray any costs incurred by the local distribution organizations.
Any local expense. such as rent, utilities, or insurance are paid with private, local funds.
C - Everyone involved is aware of that this
food represents Federal dollars coming into their community. They know that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to provide this level of food assistance without TEFAP.
D - This partnership is an example of the Federal/State/Private partnership model being promoted now as being the best way to achieve
food security in the United States.
Testimony of Shirley R. Watkins
Mr. Chairman, it is my pleasure to appear before the subcommittee to discuss H.R. 3453, the Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act of 1999.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, your bill has two separate provisions; the first one increases the authorized funding level for the Emergency Food Assistance Program by up to $25 million annually for two years, and the second one uses unspent Food Stamp Program Employment and Training Funds (E&T) to pay for this purpose.
As I am sure you will hear from other witnesses, TEFAP continues to serve a vital role in supplementing our other food assistance programs. No one disputes the need for TEFAP, and USDA's Fiscal Year 2001 budget request supports TEFAP at a substantial level. In the welfare reform legislation, TEFAP authorized funding for commodity purchases was raised to $100 million annually through fiscal year 2002, a significant increase in funding.
Another part of welfare reform, however, is helping Food Stamp Program participants get and keep employment. For the first time ever, welfare reform imposed new food stamp participation limits on unemployed adults. While everyone who can work should, no one willing to work should lose critical nutrition assistance for lack of suitable opportunities. That is why, as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (P.L. 10533), the administration worked with the Congress to forge a bipartisan agreement to provide additional employment and training opportunities to individuals facing food stamp time limits. The additional funding will create work opportunities that will enable people who are willing to work to keep their benefits when private sector jobs are not available to them.
Mr. Chairman, this bill could adversely affect States' ability to provide employment and training opportunities to those able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) who are subject to the Food Stamp Program's 3-month participation limit. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 increased Food Stamp Program Employment and Training funding to serve ABAWDs who were in danger of losing food stamp eligibility, and who were willing to work, but could not find employment. Recognizing that the funding available to States during the beginning years would probably not be fully expended by all States, Congress authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to reallocate unspent E&T funds appropriately and equitably among the States to ensure adequate ABAWD funding in subsequent years.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC H.R. 3453 does not change E&T funding authorization levels; E&T is authorized through fiscal year 2002. Assuming the fiscal year 2002 authorized level is extended, current projections of expected E&T spending suggest that the bill is unlikely to affect spending on actual employment and training activities in the first five years after its adoption. However, shifting $25 million per year from E&T to purchase commodities will increase TEFAP outlays by up to $25 million per year to a total of up to $125 million over a 5-year period. This spending increase will eliminate the amount available for reallocation in fiscal year 2006 under our current projections of expected E&T spending, and curtail State efforts to create important employment and training opportunities for ABAWDs at risk of losing food stamps. ABAWDs comprise an especially vulnerable and hard-to-serve population and are rarely eligible for other benefits.
Mr. Chairman, the administration opposes H.R. 3453, because it reduces the additional E&T funds intended to serve vulnerable food stamp recipients.
We are continuing to work with States to ensure that additional E&T work opportunities are made available. While it has taken time to get E&T programs for ABAWDs off the ground and to coordinate new activities with existing State employment programs, we believe States are making progress and we expect spending levels to increase. Mr. Chairman, we remain committed to working with the States to ensure the continued growth and success of the food stamp employment and training program.
I would be pleased to work with you and the subcommittee to ensure that available resources are targeted wisely in support of our Nation's nutrition assistance programs. All the Food and Nutrition Service programs are essential, and our nutrition and nutrition education programs are the cornerstones for reaching our goals of eliminating hunger and improving the nutrition and health of Americans. I would urge that any monies that should become available for the nutrition programs be directed to initiatives identified in the President's budget such as restoring food stamp eligibility to legal immigrants, and easing restrictions on vehicle ownership so that families do not have to choose between nutritional assistance and a vehicle that will help them get to work.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That concludes my testimony, Mr. Chairman. I would be happy to answer any questions.