A picture of Representative Sheila Jackson Lee
Sheila J.
Democrat TX 18

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  • Addressing Food Insecurity

    by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

    Posted on 2014-01-15

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    JACKSON LEE asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute and to revise and extend her remarks.) Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, today I rise to plead for the restoration of food programs like SNAP that have been targeted for reduction by billions of dollars due to sequestration and direct cuts.

    In 2013, according to the Houston Food Bank's ``Map the Meal Gap'' report, the overall food insecurity for Houston Food Bank's eight- county service area was 18.5 percent, and children's food insecurity was 24.2 percent.

    The Shriver Report just issued indicated that there are some 48 million women living in poverty and 22 million children.

    The Houston Food Bank reports that 415,000 children, or one in four children in their service area, are food-insecure, and when we had a meeting with the chronically unemployed, the food bank acknowledged that the social network is overworked and over-serviced, although I know they will work to do their best.

    [[Page H453]] 11,000 more children are food-insecure than in this year, and 21,000 more adults are food-insecure.

    That is why I am introducing H.R. 3888, the New Chance For a New Start Life Act of 2014, to train the chronically unemployed, some 37.7 percent of the unemployed.

    I also want to salute, Mr. Speaker, the Alpha Kappa Alphas. This is their Founder's Day on January 15, as well as the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. In their name, let us do for those who need.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the importance of two of our nation's safety net programs--unemployment insurance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program known as SNAP.

    Last month I held an event at the Career and Recovery Resources Center in my district to draw attention to the 1.3 million people nationwide who lost their emergency federal unemployment insurance, which includes 12,000 unemployed job hunters in Houston.

    At that event nonprofit social service organizations expressed their concern that their resources were not adequate to serve all of those who live day to day on the tattered edges of our nation's income, housing, food, and medical care safety net programs.

    The churches, nonprofits, and social service organizations that run food pantries and assistance programs for the poor are desperate.

    They do not have, nor can they find, funding to meet the needs of the millions of people who are stripped of resources because of cuts to federal programs that are poverty prevention and life sustaining.

    Each week an additional 4,112 Texans will lose their unemployment insurance benefits--this is an emergency.

    Because Food programs like SNAP have been targeted for reduction in the billions of dollars due to Sequestration and direct cuts to the program unemployment insurance has come to be a vital resource for families--especially those with children or people who are chronically ill.

    In 2013, according to the Houston Food Bank's ``Map the Meal Gap'' report the overall food insecurity for the Houston Food Bank eight- county service area was 18.5%; and children's food insecurity was 24.2%.

    The Houston Food Bank reports that 415,030 children or 1 in 4 children in their service area are food insecure.

    In 2013 data shows: 11,000 more children are food insecure than in the year before; and, 21,500 more adults are food insecure than in the year before. Based on family income more than one third of food insecure children in the Houston Food Bank service area are not eligible for federal food assistance programs.

    HOUSTON In Harris County, Texas, where the city of Houston is located--59% of those who are income-eligible for SNAP benefits participate in the Program.

    Almost 500,000 individuals who are eligible to participate in SNAP do not receive food assistance.

    This means that almost $700 million in SNAP benefits that should be going to children, elderly, and their families each year is lost.

    This means that more than $1 Billion in SNAP-generated local economic activity is lost to Harris County businesses each year.

    TEXAS Before the November 1st, 2013, cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: The Texas food insecurity rate was 27.6% making more than one in four Texas children food insecure. Six of the ten counties with the highest rates of child food insecurity in the nation are in Texas; in all of these counties more than 1 in 3 children are hungry. Seventeen counties in the U.S. have more than 100,000 food insecure children-- five of these counties are in Texas.

    In Texas, some 66% of income-eligible individuals participate in SNAP.

    2 million individuals who are income-eligible for SNAP do not participate.

    More than $3 billion in SNAP benefits to purchase food are lost to Texas children, elderly, and their families each year.

    More than $5.5 billion in SNAP-generated local economic activity is lost to communities across the State of Texas each year.

    NATIONAL This is no time to deny even more American children, seniors, and their families, access to food programs for which they are eligible.

    Even before the November cuts to SNAP, the national child food insecurity rate was 22%.

    These cuts joined with the disruption of emergency insurance benefits will mean more people will be in need of food assistance under SNAP not less.

    The cuts to SNAP and those the programs have already incurred are putting lives at risk--especially those of children, elderly, disabled, and chronically ill who must have healthy food each day.

    Mr. Speaker, I call on my colleagues to take up emergency legislation to restore unemployment insurance to those who through no fault of their own are still seeking employment.

    Not acting will harm small businesses and fragile local economies as well as the ability of local aid agencies to meet the needs of those who seek their assistance.


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