Threats to food security for immigrants and refugees

(Editor: This post originally appeared on the Lettuce Link. blog, and was authored by our ace AmeriCorps member Amelia Swinton.)

Small child with appleNot Cool: Record numbers of Americans are going hungry. Forty-two million citizens and recent immigrants are currently receiving SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) due to persistent unemployment and rising food costs. And while $300 million in stimulus money has improved food security for those eligible for SNAP benefits, recent immigrants and refugees do not qualify for this crucial source of aid.

Thanks to the Washington’s State Food Assistance (SFA) program, those who meet the federal income criteria can receive look-alike benefits funded by the state. Formed in 1997 as a response to federal legislation that denied benefits to hungry people without permanent residency, SFA serves 14,000 people—including 1,300 children and 2,000 elders. Because immigrants must establish five years of residency before applying to SNAP, this important program tides them over while they build capacity and stability in a new place.

But this program is at risk. A dwindling state budget means severe cuts to all social service programs, and the Department of Social and Health Services has proposed that the Governor cut this program from her budget this spring. Without SFA, immigrant and refugee families would be stripped of their food security, further threatening the health and growth of their communities.

A coalition has developed that includes anti-poverty, anti-hunger, and immigrant rights organizations as well as community-based organizations of color. Leading this effort, the Children’s Alliance has made this issue one of their four legislative priorities during the upcoming session of the Washington legislature, which begins in early January. If you want to join the effort, contact their lobbyist, Jen Estroff. We’ll provide future opportunities to take a stance on this issue in support of healthy, food-full communities across our city.

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