Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Update: State Food Assistance program (food stamps for immigrants)

Update:  Good news!  On January 27th, a federal court judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing DSHS from terminating immigrants' state-funded food assistance and denying new applications for eligible immigrants.  This is the result of the hard work of Columbia Legal Services who led a class-action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the elimination of SFA , claiming that DSHS is violating legal immigrants’ rights to equal protection.  We'll keep you updated as the case moves through the legal system, but we still encourage you to contact your legislators, urging them to reinstate funding for the State Food Assistance program.

In December, we wrote about proposed cuts to the State Food Assistance program, and the recent news is bleak: effective January 31, Governor Gregoire’s proposed budget eliminated [PDF] this food stamp look-a-like program. Since 1997, the state of Washington has offered food stamps to limited-income recent immigrants who were ineligible for the federal government’s food stamp program (SNAP) because they had lived in the US for fewer than five years. In an attempt to compensate for the loss of State Food Assistance, Gregoire pledged $3 million in supplemental funds to the community food banks that now constitute the primary nutritional safety net for hungry immigrant families.

Visiting a food bank is inherently different from shopping at a grocery store, and has a profound impact on people, businesses, and the emergency food system. As a result of this budget decision, grocers will see a drop in sales while food banks will see more clients, adding stress to a system that is already operating at capacity. Furthermore, the recent immigrants who rely on State Food Assistance will no longer be able to choose the foods that meet their nutritional and cultural needs. But most importantly, because this program provides food for families whose resources are already very limited, more parents will now be forced to forego meals to feed their children, who constitute half of the nearly 6,000 SFA recipients in King County alone.

Anti-hunger advocates are lobbying to maintain some funding for the program, in part because this allows for the possibility of funding to be fully restored in the future.

Please act now by contacting your legislators, either online or by phone at the legislative hotline, 1-800-562-6000. Leave a message for your senator (don’t know your senator? Find out here), asking the Senate to “reject elimination” of the DSHS State Food Assistance program for new Washingtonians.

The Washington State Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition is organizing Hunger Action Day on Friday, February 25th in Olympia. Please consider joining other anti-hunger advocates for a day of lobbying around State Food Assistance and other food security issues affecting our fellow Washington residents. You can register online here.

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