Food Security speakers invite action for hunger relief
By Catherine Ferguson SNJM
Aaron Czyzewski, director of advocacy and public policy for Food Lifeline, told participants in the Jan. 21 Eastern Washington Legislative Conference this is "an ideal time to come together and talk about hunger relief policies and ways that we can work together."
He was glad to speak with faith-based folks like those at the conference because "faith has no end and provides the fortitude needed for a long struggle."
Kathy Hedgcock, long-time staff member at Second Harvest of the Inland Northwest, began the virtual session on "Food Security" by affirming that, "as a member of Feeding America, we rely on their government affairs team to keep us aware of public policy at the national level." In this region, she is proud of their relationship with their peer, Food Lifeline, the food bank distribution center for Western Washington.
Aaron described public policy changes proposed at the federal and state levels and encouraged participants to reach out to their lawmakers to make their desires known.
In reviewing state and federal policy, key players and grassroots strategies, he praised the White House Conference on Hunger, Health and Nutrition called by the Biden-Harris administration, which outlined a strategy to eliminate hunger by 2030.
"If we accomplish what it lays out, we can see a dramatic decrease in hunger," he commented.
Aaron pointed out that hunger at the national level is addressed through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation's first line of defense against hunger that puts funds for food in the pocketbooks of many Americans.
Explaining how advocates could act to help end hunger through this program he said, "We are entering a period when SNAP can be shaped. It is a major component of the Farm Bill, which must be reauthorized by Congress in 2023."
He invited advocates to protect, improve and expand SNAP so it reflects a family's needs and is accessible to people who qualify, particularly to youth, seniors and immigrants.
Aaron praised Senator Patty Murray's recent delivery of a permanent program that provides school children a Summer EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer), offering free meals and snacks to low-income children when out of school for summer or extended breaks.
On policies before the 2023 Washington State Legislature, Food Lifeline looks at issues related food insecurity and on root causes of hunger.
Aaron said the Working Families Tax Credit (HB 1075/SB 5249) would expand previous legislation to ensure that low-income workers who are eligible receive a tax rebate of $300 to $1,200 and to increase the number of people eligible by lowering the age of beneficiaries from 25 to 18 and expands eligibility to people over 65.
Food Lifeline also supports anti-poverty measures like HB 1045 Statewide Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) to establish a pilot program in the state to put cash in the pockets of people in communities experiencing economic insecurity, and the Wealth Tax on Billionaires HB 1473/SB 5486, which would levy a one percent tax on extreme wealth held in financial intangible property like stocks, bonds and mutual funds for those who earn more than $250 million.
Finally, Aaron urged attendees to share their support of bills important to them by going to the website leg.wa.gov/legislature/Pages/Participating.aspx and clicking "yes" on a bill.
For information, see White-House-National-Strategy-on-Hunger-Nutrition-and-Health-FINAL.pdf at whitehouse.gov.
Food Lifeline's advocacy page, with its 2023 State Advocacy Agenda and Public Policy Platform, is at foodlifeline.org/advocacy.
The workshop video is available at EWLC2023videos or this Youtube link