Policies and programs, it could be said, are written into the bodies of babies. All kinds of policies and programs influence child health. Health care policies, tax laws, nutrition assistance programs, energy assistance, even zoning laws that dictate where a supermarket can be built affect the health and well-being of child and mother.
The women of Witnesses to Hunger bring to life the real impact of policies debated and determined on Capitol Hill. Their daily struggles and triumphs, so powerfully represented by their photos and captions, make clear the need for policy improvements that protect vulnerable families and support their efforts to advance. The Witnesses offer examples from their own experience with national policy implications.
- Simplify Application Procedures: Simplify procedures for applying for nutrition assistance for children. This includes online applications to reduce paperwork and travel time to WIC or other offices. The women value universal eligibility for school breakfast and lunch as now practiced in Philadelphia.
- Improve Child Nutrition Program Meal Quality: The women of Witnesses know how important fruits and vegetables are to their children, and want more of them in school meals, afterschool snacks, and through WIC. Less than a third of Philadelphia schools have kitchens. They recommend that more schools cook fresh and healthy meals on the premises.
- Benefits that Match the Cost of Living: The recent increases in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) has helped low income families to buy more nutritious foods. The SNAP increase was implemented as a temporary economic recovery provision. The Witnesses hope it can be made permanent, with benefits increased to keep pace with rising food costs.
- Child Nutrition Program Reauthorization is key: Many of these improvements can be achieved through an adequately funded reauthorization of Child Nutrition programs, including School Lunch, School Breakfast, the Summer Food Program, WIC, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
- Increase supply of Housing Choice vouchers and Protect Affordable Housing: The mothers in Witnesses to Hunger cannot afford decent apartments in Philadelphia at market value rents. The waiting list for Housing Choice (Section 8) rental vouchers in Philadelphia has been closed off and on for years; the wait for Philadelphia Housing Authority public housing is 6-10 years long. Even the inadequate rentals in the neighborhoods depicted in the Witnesses photographs take up a large part of the families’ monthly budgets.
- Fully fund Housing Choice for renewal of existing housing vouchers: Keep private owners in Housing Choice and conditions for tenants safe and decent – fully fund HUD Section 8 contracts with private owners and repairs and maintenance for public housing.
- Produce and preserve housing for the lowest income people – fund the National Housing Trust Fund.
- Invest in Community Development and Programs to Improve Safety: The women request more funding for group homes for battered and abused women and for runaway teens. They recommend that blighted neighborhoods to be revived through construction of more affordable housing, safe playgrounds and recreation centers. For example, providing increased funding for the YouthBuild program, as recommended in the President’s FY 2010 budget, would help young people to get training while building or rehabbing housing, playgrounds, or other community facilities.
- Improve and Expand Medicaid for Low Income Families: Set an eligibility floor for Medicaid below which everyone will be assured Medicaid coverage and out-of pocket cost protections. For example, coverage for pregnant women, parents and children with incomes up to 150% of the federal poverty line, and childless adults with incomes up to 115%.
- Ensure Affordability for Moderate Income Families: To avoid the ‘Cliff Effect’ where those with moderate earnings are left without benefits, we must ensure there are substantial subsidies available to help them purchase coverage. Key aspects include: upfront subsidies (instead of a reimbursement structure), progressive premium subsidies and out-of-pocket cost protections so that subsidies decrease slowly as income rises.
- Increase Funding for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment: Annual appropriations for treatment for children and adults should be increased to allow for expanded access to treatment.
Each photo will be tagged to identify a policy or program area that addresses a particular issue or concern. Please visit these important policy-related websites for more information:
Coalition on Human Needs: An alliance of national organizations working together to promote public policies which address the needs of low-income and other vulnerable populations.
Food Research and Action Center: A national organization working to improve public policies to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the United States.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: A policy organization working at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals.
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center: A nonpartisan resource devoted to providing independent, credible analysis on state tax, budget, and related policy matters. It particularly looks at the impact of current or proposed policies on working families.
Center for Law and Social Policy: A national non-profit that works to improve the lives of low-income people.
Joint Center for Political an Economic Studies: A think tank on public policy issues of concern to African Americans and other communities of color.
Urban Institute: Analyzes policies, evaluates programs and informs community development to improve social, civic and economic well-being.
Check back here for more as we flesh out our website.