Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Obama Administration Urges Senate To Fund Healthy Food Financing Initiative, Food Stamps

OMB statement calls for USDA food safety funding, gives thumbs down to Rural Housing...
The Senate will vote this week on funding for Agriculture programs for Fiscal Year 2012. In a statement from the Office of Management and Budget, the Obama Administration is urging the Senate to include funding for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) in H.R. 2112, its FY 2012 Appropriations Act for Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA, and Related Agencies. The HFFI is a cornerstone of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign, and provides funding to build grocery stores and other food venues in areas identified by USDA as "Food Deserts." Congress denied requests for $400 million for the HFFI in FY2010 and FY2011. The Treasury Department in September issued $25 million in funding grants for the HFFI to twelve projects around the US. Mrs. Obama will travel to Chicago on Oct. 25th to host a "Food Desert Summit" with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Administration's FY 2012 ask is $330 million for the HFFI.

"The Administration urges the Senate to provide funding for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), which is a key component of the Administration's efforts to combat childhood obesity," wrote the OMB. "HFFI will expand USDA's activities to bring healthy foods to low-income Americans and increase the availability of affordable, healthy foods in underserved urban and rural communities by bringing grocery stores and other fresh food retailers to "food desert" communities where there is little or no access to healthy food."

Mrs. Obama first announced the HFFI in February of 2010, shortly after she launched the Let's Move! campaign. In July, the First Lady received a major commitment from privately held grocery corporations, including Walmart and Walgreen, to build or revamp up to 1,500 markets in food deserts around the US.

The Administration also requested that the Senate "fund the contingency fund for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at the President's FY 2011 Budget level of $5 billion." SNAP is the formal name for the Food Stamps program.

"The Administration strongly supports funding for nutrition programs that are critical to the health of nutritionally at-risk women, infants, children, and elderly adults. The funding provided for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children could constrain some of the important services and activities currently supported by the program, and might require the Administration to use contingency funds to cover regular program costs," noted the OMB. "The Administration encourages the Senate to fund the contingency fund for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at the President's FY 2011 Budget level of $5 billion. The SNAP contingency fund typically holds in reserve about three to four weeks' worth of benefits to cover unforeseen events, such as disasters and fluctuations in food prices."

Funding for USDA food safety programs and international food assistance are also noted in the OMB statement.

"The Administration appreciates the funding provided for USDA's meat and poultry inspection activities, which will maintain current agency operations and continue to ensure the safety of the Nation's meat and poultry supply."

"The Administration supports the Senate bill's level of over $1.56 billion for Food for Peace Title II international food aid. This level allows the Administration to respond to major emergencies, including the current famine in the Horn of Africa, which highlights the critical importance of these funds."

Funding for Rural Housing in USDA's budget got a thumbs down from the OMB.

"The Administration urges the Senate to accept additional savings from terminations and reductions proposed in the President's Budget for USDA, including termination of Rural Housing Services small loan and grant programs and reductions in single family housing direct loans and housing repair grants. Adopting these terminations and reductions will free up scarce resources for higher-priority needs and more effective programs such as food safety."

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