Upcoming work on food stamps and ABAWDs

For the past few years the Congressional Hunger Center has awarded Just Harvest with the placement of one of their Emerson Hunger Fellows.

Emerson Hunger Fellow Kalena ThomaveTogether with our staff they have done high-level research that is shaping food access and food justice issues in this region. Congressional Hunger Fellow Zachary Murray authored our seminal report, “A Menu for Food Justice: Strategies for Improving Access to Healthy Foods in Allegheny County.” This report is the foundation for our current Fresh Corners project, to boost access to healthy food in Allegheny County food deserts. Last year the research of Fellow David Blount on new federal school meal funding in local public school districts led to our forthcoming report on the Community Eligibility Provision.

This year we are very pleased to announce that Hunger Fellow Kalena Thomhave (pictured) will be joining our staff for the next six months. She will be researching critical issues related to federal hunger policy and how it will affect our community.

Kalena is originally from northwest Florida and graduated with degrees in political science and English from Louisiana State University in 2014. Last year, she was an AmeriCorps VISTA in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, working on access to bank accounts for low-income people.

Here are her plans for the coming months at Just Harvest:

Federal nutrition assistance isn’t about housing, education, or money for other necessities (though those are all important too) – it’s about people having access to food so they can nourish their bodies, no matter their situations.”

Current federal law is that able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) can only receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (“food stamps”) for three months in three years if they’re not working 20 hours a week or involved in job training activities. States were given waivers for this requirement because of the recession, and Allegheny County’s waiver is expiring in January 2016.

I’ll be researching the effects of the expiring waiver for ABAWDs, and developing an outreach and action program to reduce the impact on Pittsburgh’s hungry.

Hunger is possibly the most devastating effect of poverty since food is so necessary not only for surviving, but for thriving. It’s the most basic human need, and the first that we should look to when working to bring people out of poverty.

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