Farm Bill Testimonials

radishes.jpgTony Bruno
Rural Development Liaison
The Connection of Indian Nutrition and Health to the 2007 Farm Bill
Saddled with unacceptable rates of obesity, diabetes and other medical and personal diet-related conditions, American Indians urgently need a healthy diet, one particularly high in fresh fruit and vegetables.  Congress intended the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) to provide such foods, but an unauthorized deficiency in administrative funds deprives tribes of the refrigeration equipment essential to transport and store fresh produce.  Congress can solve the problem by removing the cap and directing USDA to request a level of funds sufficient to pay the government’s portion of the program’s infrastructure costs.
 
FDPIR is an entitlement program that is authorized under the Food Stamp Act as an alternative to food stamps for tribal members whose remoteness from food stamp offices and retail grocery stores effectively prevents use of the Food Stamp Program.  Half the nation’s tribes (257) receive FDPIR benefits through 97 Indian Tribal Organizations (ITO) and 5 state agencies. FDPIR serves 90,000 individuals in 22 states, including 6,100 in California, with a monthly low-cost ($50) food package in place of food stamps.  Total program costs in FY 2006 were less than $79 million; about one-third of that was for administrative funding essential for the program to fulfill Congress’s purposes.
 
PROBLEM.  FDPIR food costs are borne completely by the federal government. Administrative costs are shared by the federal government and the tribes.  A minimum of 75% of administrative costs is to come from the federal government; more may be provided by USDA if circumstances warrant.  Despite this explicit formula, USDA has imposed an unwarranted ceiling on FDPIR, requesting so little funding from Congress that USDA is unable to provide even the minimum 75% match, much less any additional amounts when circumstances justify more.  The result is that many tribes are unable to participate in FDPIR and participation is declining.  In addition, tribes that continue to participate are unable to purchase the kinds of infrastructure, such as refrigeration equipment necessary for transportation, storage and distribution of fresh fruit and vegetables and other healthy foods of particular importance to obesity prevention.  
 
SOLUTION.  In the upcoming FY 2008 agriculture appropriations, Congress should provide the funds required for administration to comply with the law.  The funding should be sufficient to permit the tribes to acquire and maintain the equipment required to handle and distribute fresh fruit and vegetables.  The appropriations committee should explicitly remove any restrictions on the open-ended match for administrative costs.  The committee should instruct USDA to comply with the authorizing statute and to follow its own regulations regarding administrative matching, by providing a minimum 75% match to all tribes (and by allowing tribes unable to meet this match to apply for additional assistance in covering the program’s operating costs).
 
We are asking for your help to write your member of Congress TODAY, using the sample Congressional letter we’ve provided you to ask that they perform the actions mentioned in the “Solution” paragraph above.
 
Please help us by copying one or both of us listed below when you send a letter to your Congressman, so we may follow up with a call to their staff in Washington, DC.  Thank you.
Sandra Vijsma
Child Nutrition Programs Manager
Child Nutrition Programs connection to the 2007 Farm Bill
As the Child Nutrition Programs Manager here at the Community Food Bank, I see first hand the importance of good nutrition in children.  The majority of children that I work with come from families that are living at or below the Federal Poverty Level.  Many of these children not only wonder where their next meal will come from, but whether or not there will even be a next meal.  During weekends, holiday and summer breaks the problem gets even worse.  When school is in session the children participate in the USDA’s National School Lunch Program.  This enables them to receive a free breakfast and lunch while at school.  When the weekend comes or the kids are out of school for an extended break, they are again left to wonder whether or not there will be anything to eat.  The Child Nutrition Programs of the Community Food Bank work to alleviate this problem.

Our Snak Pak for Kids program provides a weekend backpack of nutritious foods to chronically hungry children.  The packs also occasionally contain information on nutrition education and Federal assistance programs which the family may qualify for.  The Summer Meals program provides breakfast and lunch and nutrition education to children in rural areas of Pima County during the summer months.  Children in both the Snak Pak and Summer Meals program are then able to return to school healthy, energized and ready to learn.  The Kid’s Club – Adventures in Nutrition program provides a nutrition snack after school while also teaching children about the importance of eating healthy and how to take care of their bodies. 

     “Obesity and overweight are conditions that have reached epidemic proportions in this
     country.  According to research, low-income individuals are particularly at risk.  The
     outcomes of obesity and overweight are numerous and include multiple health risks
     such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.” (USDA, 2007)

The 2007 Farm Bill has the potential to greatly increase the effectiveness of these programs and to also improve the health of children everywhere.  The Farm Bill contains proposals that will streamline, simplify and improve the Food Stamp Program so more low-income families can receive assistance.  It also contains proposals for increased funding to schools for, “…the purchase of additional fresh fruits and vegetables for use in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs” (USDA, 2007). 

But even closer to my heart, the 2007 Farm Bill contains proposals to increase funds for nutrition education which, as the Community Food Bank’s Child Nutrition Programs have proven, is very effective in improving eating habits in children.  Children living in poverty are susceptible to obesity and diabetes due to the amount of high fat and high sugar foods that are consumed.  We see nutrition education as a key to breaking this cycle of chronic diseases in children.  We believe that children will remember what they have learned and continue to make the right choices as they get older.  Research shows that eating habits established in childhood remain throughout adulthood.  We know that education works because the reports that I get back from the Kid’s Club and Snak Pak sites show the impact that the lessons are having and the results are amazing.  One Kid’s Club staff member at the Archer Neighborhood Center reported, “I’m still seeing more kids actually reading labels.  They even point out to each other whose snacks are ‘unhealthy’” (April 2006).  At the Cherry Avenue Recreation Center staff members commented on one child who paid close attention during the lesson on food safety.  This girl now knows about packing her lunch and whether or not it needs to be refrigerated or needs an ice pack (May 2006). 

These stories repeat themselves over and over every year as the Child Nutrition Programs continue.  Programs such as these are essential in helping children grow into healthy adults who will continue to make healthy choices and will someday teach their children what they once learned as a child and, with any luck, the epidemic of obesity and diabetes will disappear.  But this will not happen without the support of funding such as the Farm Bill. 

Sandra Vijsma
Child Nutrition Programs Manager
Community Food Bank, Inc.
Comments from Child Nutrition Programs sites:

“Some parents have talked to me about the program.  What they say is that their children talk to them about the foods they get in the program and they say they like it.  The children say to the parent how they like learning what foods are healthy for them and what foods are not that good for them to eat.  One parent was telling how she noticed how much more active her child is and doing better at school too.” (Cherry Avenue Recreation Center, March 2006)

“They liked learning about nutrition.  The review quiz was good too.  A lot of the participants knew at least 90% of the answers.  Since the nutritional section, I’ve seen less sodas during their snack time and I’ve noticed the kids eating more veggies.” (Archer Neighborhood Center, January 2006)

“I am glad they (the children) are filling up on cheese and fruits and not any more candy.” (Staff at Oury Recreation Center, November 2006)

“This month one of our student’s parents was evicted from their home and is living with someone.  Parents are having a hard time buying food, so the snak pak has been a life saver.” (Student Family Advocate, Nash Elementary School, May 2007)

“Tragically one of our 4th grade students was diagnosed with cancer several weeks ago.  Dad was unable to work all this time, while she was in the hospital for some tests and treatment.  It was a blessing to have some food coming from your program when they needed it the most, it was greatly appreciated.  Thank you!!!” (Staff at Los Ranchitos Elementary School, February 2007)

“Thank you for giving us snak pak.  You are the most nice people in the world.  I hope I get it next year too because the things are delicious and healthy.  I love being healthy with the food you gave me.  My family is very proud of you guys for giving us healthy food.” (Student at Nash Elementary School, May 2007)

“Thank you comunity Food bank [Community Food Bank] for the food because my grampa was dying from hunger so we had to earn a lot more money for him but when I got snackpack we gave it to him so we didn’t have any problems.  I hope you put me in snackpack – anyway thank you.” (Student at Nash Elementary School, May 2007)
Read more about the 2007 Farm Bill at:
http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1UH?contentidonly=true&contentid=farm_bill_by_title.xml

Dana Helfer
Food Production Manager

Marana Farm’s Connection to the 2007 Farm Bill
The Marana Farm, a 10 acre, year round, fruit and vegetable farm, is part of Marana’s 90 acre Heritage Park. Beginning in fall 2007, the Farm will sell fruits and vegetables at the farm, farmers’ and mobile markets as well as for use in CFB child nutrition programs. The South boundary of the farm is the Santa Cruz River; the remaining three sides are urban development. As a working farm, in the heart of a rapidly developing rural area, the farm offers an important opportunity for food system education, training in sustainable agriculture, and the understanding of the necessity of conserving farms in our community.
The farm is a model of diverse urban agriculture that works in harmony with and improves the health of the community and environment and benefits from several conservation programs in the Farm and Food Bill. Agricultural production and maintaining and improving environmental quality can be compatible goals. Knowing the right conservation practice and the cost of improvements are often barriers to farmers choosing practices that would have a large positive impact on conserving water, soil and wildlife habitat. For eligible agricultural lands, voluntary programs like Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) can help remove these barriers by sharing the cost of improvements and offering technical assistance to the farmer.
Like many farmers across the country, the Marana Farm benefits from these Farm Bill programs. Through the EQIP program we changed our fields from flood to drip irrigation saving a tremendous amount of water each year. The program offers a 90% cost share for new and limited resource farmers and up to 75% for others. For new and limited resource farmers and others this assistance can make it possible for them to farm profitably as well as do an important service for the larger community in conserving natural resources. At the Marana Farm, we plan to participate in the WHIP program as well to install native plant borders for habitat restoration and desert food harvesting.

Michelle Kuhns
Home Gardening Coordinator

Home Gardening’s Connection to the 2007 Farm Bill
In 1998, the Southside Food Production Network a group affiliated with the Tucson Community Food Bank (CFB), received a USDA Community Food Projects Grant (CFP) to begin a Home Garden Program.  The CFP grants administered by USDA were funded by the 1996 Farm Bill.

CFP funding, a miniscule portion of the Farm Bill, initiated development of the CFB Home Gardening program.  Intermittent funds since 1998 from the Arizona Department of Economic Security and Pima County Community Action have assisted the CFB to continue and enhance the work.  In the past fiscal year, 400 people made use of these services—attending workshops, getting free seeds and compost and/or receiving personalized technical assistance to ensure success of their gardens. 

Now how does this tie in to the Farm Bill? 

The high price of vegetables affects food choices.
One member of the Home Garden program, when enrolling in 2006, said, “Usually we don’t have a lot of vegetables because they’re expensive, so if [a garden] could bring more vegetables, that’s a good thing.  Knowing how to grow veggies in this climate is a long-term useful thing.  The nutritional value of our diet is greatly improved.”

Food programs affect food choices. 
Another home gardener and WIC client, who occasionally receives AZFMNP checks only visits the Farmers’ Market when she has those vouchers to spend.  She would shop there more, but with only $30 worth of vouchers per year, she can’t rely on that source of funding.  So, she grows some of her own food, learning about new vegetables and having a more consistent supply.

Sandie Hinojos
Family Advocate
Connection of Food Stamps in the 2007 Farm Bill
Increasing the minimum amount of Food Stamps from $10 to $32 dollars would be extremely beneficial to seniors.  With all the obstacles seniors have in their so called “Golden Years” they have very hard time accepting the fact that they have to read and fill out an application that is 12 pages long, find transportation, turn in the application, sit in a D.E.S. office for several hours, go through a grueling interview, give D.E.S. 30 to determine if they qualify, then to only receive $10 dollars worth of Food Stamps a month.  Then, they have to repeat the process all over again in 6months.  At the Community Food Bank, we serve 3,600 hundred seniors every month, and of these 600 are homebound.  These seniors live at or under140 percent of the national poverty level.  Some may or may not be eligible for Food Stamps, but what is for certain is that they are hungry, and by the end of each month they are living on a Food Plus box and an emergency food box just to get by.  We are in desperate need to simplify the application process, increase the minimum amount of Food Stamp dollars, provide funding for EBT machines at places where individuals can purchase healthy foods, such as farmers’ markets, and allow individuals and families more deductions of their living expenses, in order to receive a sufficient amount of Food Stamps.  This would help to move people from eating cheap unhealthy food to eating healthy more nutritious food.