Commentary

Feeding the Bull City: How Durham is ‘In This Together’ on May 16 and beyond (photos)

The YMCA of the Triangle opened its doors on Monday night to approximately 150 volunteers, who packed over 4,000 meal bags.

(Brian Kennedy and Jessica Burroughs contributed to this post.)  — North Carolina is the 10th hungriest state in the nation, and everyday schools and teachers play a vital role in making sure that hungry children, who come from more than 600,000 food insecure households, have enough to eat. In addition to the thousands of free or reduced price lunches that are served each day, teachers are often reaching into their own pockets to purchase food and snacks for kids to ensure they are fed and ready to learn. Addressing hunger is just one of the many things we ask of teachers beyond their duties of educating students. For this and many more reasons, community members are banding together to ensure that our educators receive the respect they deserve.

A hashtag associated with the May 16th NC Public Schools Day of Advocacy  is #InThisTogether – a fitting sentiment to describe the outpouring of community support and the spirit of togetherness on display throughout Durham. Led by volunteers with the Durham Association of Educators and the NC Council of Churches, countless nonprofits and community members have organized to provide every student who needs a meal on May 16th with a healthy breakfast, lunch and snack. While over 60 percent of Durham Public School students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, organizers set the goal early on in the coordinating process to ensure that every student who needs a meal have access to it.

Symone Kiddoo is a Durham Public Schools social worker and leader in the Durham Association of Educators who is helping to spearhead the community-wide mobilization to ensure full coverage across the district. Kiddoo put it this way:

“All the schools in Durham have been adopted and food has been distributed throughout the day on Tuesday May 15th. Our partners are amazing and we couldn’t have done this without the support of the community. Thirteen district sites and several community sites will be open on Wednesday. We’re all in this together.”

The snapshots in this post (see below) represent just a handful of the countless efforts taking place in Durham over the past few days to collect, pack, and deliver the food. For more complete information about efforts in both the Triangle and across the state, check out Feeding North Carolina’s Students on May 16th from our friends at EdNC. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

Thursday’s vote in Congress would take food away from at least 133,000 North Carolinians

The U.S. House is preparing to vote on the 2018 Farm Bill this Thursday, a bill that drive up food insecurity, damage the well-being of families and hurt communities across the state.

While there are multiple issues with this bill, including imposing even more severe obstacles for North Carolinians looking for work and failing to address the needs of struggling military families. One of the more sinister provisions would get rid of a rule called categorical eligibility. Data from the Department of Health and Human Services from 2017 shows that this change would take food assistance from 133,000 North Carolinians, including more than 51,000 children who would also be at risk of losing their free or reduced lunch. These are largely working families with children whose parents work low wage jobs and critically need this food assistance in order to place food on the table.

In addition to making sure that thousands of North Carolinians don’t go hungry, eliminating this provision could actually cost the state. This change would make FNS rules more complicated and administratively burdensome, requiring the state to alter its FNS eligibility rules, modify NC FAST (the state’s new benefits delivery system) and applications, and retrain staff. By reducing efficiency and increasing workload, this would likely increase administrative costs—the only state costs associated with FNS benefits—and potentially raise FNS error rates.

See how many people would be impacted in your county:

CountyAll IndividualsChildren
North Carolina132,90251,236
Alamance2,010833
Alexander417134
Alleghany12337
Anson453139
Ashe34097
Avery18759
Beaufort677197
Bertie33174
Bladen581197
Brunswick1,354451
Buncombe3,1411,096
Burke1,042353
Cabarrus2,8871,311
Caldwell1,086334
Camden6118
Carteret792248
Caswell27760
Catawba2,334906
Chatham884385
Cherokee32563
Chowan20654
Clay12936
Cleveland1,397419
Columbus670222
Craven1,165393
Cumberland4,3301,635
Currituck20374
Dare361136
Davidson2,246810
Davie523207
Duplin1,034456
Durham4,6082,062
Edgecombe787221
Forsyth5,3072,239
Franklin920338
Gaston2,8401,060
Gates13034
Graham7822
Granville745278
Greene351136
Guilford7,5993,033
Halifax933246
Harnett1,611628
Haywood750238
Henderson1,266484
Hertford34886
Hoke855350
Hyde5919
Iredell1,187471
Jackson406126
Johnston3,0971,274
Jones19151
Lee1,233502
Lenoir868312
Lincoln800280
Macon517164
Madison22768
Martin373114
McDowell699228
Mecklenburg15,6747,003
Mitchell17733
Montgomery455190
Moore831299
Nash1,280505
New Hanover2,638966
Northampton31981
Onslow1,906697
Orange1,207482
Pamlico16546
Pasquotank662231
Pender746259
Perquimans17745
Person524144
Pitt2,427840
Polk19653
Randolph2,066812
Richmond811250
Robeson2,144771
Rockingham1,153346
Rowan1,830634
Rutherford840241
Sampson1,334542
Scotland37999
Stanly679214
Stokes405114
Surry1,135363
Swain13447
Transylvania357111
Tyrrell6320
Union2,5181,149
Vance885301
Wake10,2974,617
Warren30586
Washington15142
Watauga300106
Wayne1,993785
Wilkes1,044345
Wilson1,534573
Yadkin539207
Yancey27189
NC Budget and Tax Center

U.S. House farm bill spells disaster for millions of North Carolinians

Last week, the House Agricultural Committee released its version of the 2018 farm bill. Chairman Conaway’s proposal would increase hunger and further burden struggling North Carolinians by cutting, and in many cases taking away, food assistance. Its effects will ripple through communities, businesses, and farms across generations.

Rather than helping those in need by providing job training opportunities or ensuring workers earn a living wage, this proposal seeks to take away their food. The effects of these harsh changes will be felt by everyone, including parents raising children, people with disabilities, older workers, low-wage workers, and those unable to find jobs.

  • Given that North Carolina is the 10th hungriest state in the nation, this bill would be particularly devastating for our residents. In 2016, SNAP reached more than 1.5 million North Carolinians, targeting the most vulnerable folks to help ensure older adults, veterans, and children get enough to eat each day. SNAP benefits also help stimulate the state’s economy. More than 9,700 grocers and retailers participate in the program, which pumped $2.2 billion into the economy last year. On average, from 2011 to 2014, SNAP benefits lifted 175,000 North Carolinians – including 81,000 children – out of poverty. Click here to learn more about who’s hungry in your legislative district.
  • This bill strips flexibility from the state and creates barriers to the efficient delivery of services. By restricting categorical eligibility and imposing an untested child support cooperation mandate, this proposal prevents North Carolina from administering SNAP in a way that is most efficient and follows the evidence. Categorical eligibility (CAT EL) is critical in providing food assistance to low-income families with children. Data from the Department of Health and Human Services find that eliminating CAT EL would strip food assistance from 133,000 North Carolinians, including more than 51,000 children.
  • Countless individuals would be at risk of losing food assistance through no fault of their own. There are more jobless workers than there are job opportunities in 87 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. The notion that harsh work requirements would “motivate” jobless workers to find work ignores this fundamental reality. Although North Carolina banned work-requirement waivers for economically depressed counties in 2016, these work requirement provisions would double down on people already struggling to find work and preclude the state from undoing a harmful state law that ignores economic realities. Significantly, it would extend the reach of work requirements to affect parents of children over the age of six and older adults.
  • Funding for new work programs is inadequate and fails to recognize what is needed to get people back to work. Under this proposal, North Carolina will be required to provide employment assistance to every eligible SNAP recipient. While not a bad idea on its own, the proposal only allocates $1 billion for an estimated 3 million participants throughout the nation, amounting to $30 per month per participant.This unfunded mandate at the federal level will be pushed down to North Carolina legislators and leaders to address with resources that have artificially been constrained by tax cuts. Currently, only nine of 100 counties in the state operate SNAP Employment and Training programs. In order to offer meaningful employment and work support, North Carolina would have to invest in a workforce development system that reaches rural communities and provides short-credentials, apprenticeships, subsidized work or on-the-job training. In addition, given the evidence around wrap-around services contribution to supporting employment outcomes, North Carolina would need to make additional commitments to transportation, child care, and affordable housing, among other programs.
NC Budget and Tax Center

Reckless tax cuts stop NC from funding regional support for DSS offices

Do you remember Rylan’s LawThe Family/Child Protection & Accountability Act? Last year, state legislators sought to change how the state administers and delivers social services programs, including child welfare services, food assistance, Medicare, Medicaid, and others.  The effort began with a focus primarily on the child welfare system after federal oversight identified many challenges as caseloads climbed and funding fell short.

The Social Services Regional Supervision and Collaboration Working Group has been working to put together a detailed plan on how the regionalization of DSS offices should be implemented, including maps and staffing structures. The proposal focuses on providing regional support—training, coordination– to DSS offices and maintaining the physical presence of offices in communities.

On Tuesday last week, the working group presented the first of two final reports to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee.

Although support for the proposed plan was strong, there was a common point of contention: there was no plan for how any of the changes would be paid for. Instead, the co-chair said the group would have to take a “wait and see” approach regarding whether they would consider costs as a part of the plan.

Since 2013, the state has lost billions of dollars in revenue due to tax cuts that primarily benefited high-income North Carolinians and corporations.  Those tax cuts will continue next year when additional tax cuts for corporations and individuals will lose $900 million over the next fiscal year.

Prioritizing children’s well-being and families’ economic security means funding those priorities not more tax cuts.

Our state’s reckless commitment to tax cuts has very real consequences when it comes to making the critical investments we all know we need. It means that even when policy makers are able to agree on what we should be doing, we are unable to do so.

Brian Kennedy II is a Public Policy Fellow for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Washington signaling toward harsh work requirements for hungry NCians

Earlier today, the USDA signaled toward potential changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formally known as food stamps), that would impose even more strict work requirements for non-disabled adults without children.

Demanding harsh work requirements of those in dire need is not a new idea. During “Welfare Reform” in 1996, Congress created work requirements for mothers receiving cash assistance. But rather than helping families to find work, these requirements simply punished people who were already struggling.

Today, there are 87 counties in North Carolina where there are more jobless workers than there are job opportunities. Click To TweetPolicy makers have done little to promote job growth, especially in rural North Carolina communities, and they have failed to raise the wages of workers who earn poverty-level wages. As of 2015, 1 out of every 3 workers in NC earns too little to keep a family of four above the poverty line, even when working full-time. The reality is that far too many North Carolinians still have not recovered from the recession.

Earlier this month, the President proposed cutting SNAP by $213 billion over the next 10 years, as well as replacing a portion of SNAP benefits with a government-issued food box.

These proposed changes are not intended to help those who are struggling to place food on the table. Instead, they harm people who just need a helping hand.

Brian Kennedy II is a Public Policy Fellow with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.