Summary: How Budget Proposals Will Affect Food Programs

There are two budgets making headlines this week: the U.S. House Continuing Resolution for fiscal year 2011 and President Barack Obama's proposed budget for fiscal year 2012.

Here's a breakdown of how both proposals will affect vital food and nutrition programs across the country:

US House Continuing Resolution for FY 2011
The proposed House Continuing Resolution for fiscal year 2011, as released by House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rodgers (R-Ky.), makes significant cuts to food and nutrition programs. House Resolution 1:

  • Funds WIC at $6.5 billion, a cut of $747.2 million. The Food Research and Action Center estimates that the $6.5 billion funding level would be adequate to serve families currently receiving WIC and would not result in waiting lists for the program.  However, this assumes level food prices and demand for services; if either of these increases substantially, this funding level might be insufficient to serve the current caseload.  In addition, this funding level precludes the enhancement of the fruit and vegetables benefits for children.
  • Funds the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) at $151.4 million, a cut of $20 million from the FY2011 funding level. Because the reduction would be absorbed in a seven-month period, CSFP caseloads would be reduced significantly.  The Pennsylvania Association of Regional Food Banks tentatively estimates that 1,071 households would lose CSFP service in our region. National organizations, however, are waiting for guidance from the USDA before releasing estimates of caseload reductions.
  • Reduces funding for the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program by 50 percent ($100 million cut).  Through partnerships with social service agencies, this program supplements food and shelter assistance for clients, many of them homeless, in emergency situations.

Some of the most damaging cuts for low-income people in the House proposal come outside the nutrition programs. Among the cuts in the House Republican FY2011 blueprint are:

  • Reduced funding for Head Start by $1 billion (15 percent cut); 
  • Reduced funding for the Community Services Block Grant by $405 million; and
  • Reduced funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) contingency fund by 66 percent ($390 million cut).

President Obama’s FY 2012 Budget Proposal
By contrast, the President’s proposed budget for FY 2012 maintains or increases funding for most food and nutrition programs.  It includes:

  • $2.2 billion in additional funding for SNAP (food stamps), to restore cuts made to the program in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (child nutrition reauthorization).
  • An extension of SNAP benefits for unemployed, able-bodied adults without children, who otherwise would face time limits on benefits.
  • $7.4 billion for the WIC program, an increase of approximately $138 million.
  • Flat funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (at $171.4 million).
  • Support for improvements made by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, including new funding for school breakfast expansion grants and state and local anti-hunger efforts.
  • $35 million for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative to bring grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to underserved communities.

Yet the President’s budget proposal also includes some significant cuts to programs serving low-income people, including:

  • A $350 million cut (approximately 50 percent) to the Community Services Block Grant; and
  • Reduced funding for LIHEAP by $2.57 billion – a cut of more than 50 percent.  Over the last two years, LIHEAP grants helped more than 100,000 Philadelphia residents pay their winter heating bills.

This summary was prepared by the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, using information from the Food Research and Action Center; the Community Food Security Coalition; the Pennsylvania Association for Regional Food Banks; and the Advocate’s Agenda.