USDA Report Shows Delta Suffers from Worst Food Insecurity In America: Nutrition and Farm Bill to be among Key Issues at Oct. 17-18Delta Conference in Memphis

The Greater Delta Region suffers from the worst food insecurity of any region in the country, according to USDA’s latest annual report, with Arkansas suffering from the worst levels of severe food insecurity in the country at 8.1%, and the second worst food insecurity at 19.7%, while Mississippi had the worst food insecurity in the country at 20.9%. Missouri, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama joined Arkansas and Mississippi among the worst 11 states regarding food security.
With the proposed cuts in the House of Representatives of $40 billion in SNAP nutrition spending, as opposed to the Senate version of only $4 billion in cuts, hunger and nutrition issues will be one of the three key issues at the Oct. 17-18 Delta regional conference at the Memphis Agri-Center International; job creation and health care for underserved areas will be the other two of the top three issues, while transportation, Delta heritage tourism, and renewable energy/energy efficiency will also be among important issues addressed.
Missouri was second worst (at 7.6%) after Arkansas in severe food insecurity, meaning that the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times.
The Delta areas of these states have significantly worse hunger and nutrition problems than do the states as a whole in Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri and Kentucky, all of which ranked in the bottom 11 of all the states.
Food insecurity means that at some time in the course of the year the households had difficulty providing enough food for all their members because of limited resources.
Conservative estimates of the number of children receiving SNAP are nearly 40%, although according to the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center, nearly half of SNAP enrollees are children. Almost 75% of SNAP participantsare in households with children, senior citizens or a disabled individual.
National data indicated that 14.7% of all households were food insecure on average in 2010-2012, and 5.6% suffered from very low food security. This reflects the still very weak state of the economy, with unemployment still far too high and many of the working poor struggling financially. The Delta regional economy lags far behind the national economy and that is the fundamental reason for our region’s disturbing levels of food insecurity.
(NOTE: QUICK UPDATE ON OCT. 17-18 DELTA REGIONAL CONFERENCE: We have 108 RSVPs and the number grows every day now, so to be assured of space please RSVP now by replying to this email and registering.
You register by mailing in the registration fee checks on or before the early registration fee deadline of Sept. 30, 2013:
Registration fee levels are:  
$125 each for those who have not paid annual membership dues (minimum of $25 once a year); 
$100 each for those who have paid annual dues;
GROUP DISCOUNT: If you can get a group of at least five or more from your local area, your registration fees will be reduced to $75 each.
Please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to our office in the Washington, DC metropolitan area:
Delta Caucus
5030 Purslane Place
Waldorf, MD  20601
After Sept. 30, the late registration fees go up to $150 each. It causes delays if many people register at the front desk at the time of the conference when we are trying to get the program underway. The reason for the differential in registration levels between early and late is to provide an incentive to get the fees in on time, because our bills start coming due before the conference.
BASIC SCHEDULE:
THURSDAY, OCT. 17, 2013 FROM 4:30 P.M. TO 7:45 P.M. AT MEMPHIS AGRI-CENTER
FRIDAY, OCT. 18, 2013 FROM 8:30 A.M. TO 3:30 P.M. AT MEMPHIS AGRI-CENTER
Delta State Food Levels (again keep in mind that as bad as the state levels are, the Delta areas of each state are even worse:)
Arkansas:  
Food Insecurity: 17.9%     (second worst nationally)
Severe Food Insecurity:  8.1% (worst nationally)
Mississippi:
Food Insecurity:  20.9% (worst nationally)
Severe Food Insecurity:  6.9% (Tied for fifth worst nationally with Tennessee)
Alabama:
Food Insecurity: 17.9% (fourth worst nationally)
Severe Food Insecurity: 6.8% (seventh worst nationally)
Missouri:
Food Insecurity: 16.7% (sixth worst nationally)
Severe Food Insecurity: 7.6% (second worst nationally)
Tennessee:
Food Insecurity: 16.2% (eighth worst nationally)
Severe Food Insecurity: 6.9% (tied for fifth worst nationally with Mississippi)
Louisiana:
Food Insecurity: 15.7% (ninth worst nationally)
Severe Food Insecurity:  4.8% (Above average nationally–Ranks tied for 34th with 4 others)
Kentucky:
Food Insecurity:  15.6 (Tied for 10th worst nationally with California, which has major pockets of poverty in the Southwest Border part of the state and several other areas)
Severe Food Insecurity:  6.2% (12th worst nationally)
NOTE: Statewide figures for Illinois are not informative or accurate for the southern Illinois Delta, because it differs so markedly from the central and northern parts of the state and southern Illinois is such a small part of the entire state’s population. The Illinois figures overall were much better than the Delta as a whole at 13% food insecurity and 4.5% severe food insecurity.
Food insecurity, SNAP and other USDA nutrition programs: 59% of food-insecure households reported that in the previous month they participated in one or more of the three largest federal food an nutrition programs: SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps); the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), or the National School Lunch Program.
Food insecurity rates were substantially higher than the national average for those with incomes near or below the federal poverty level, households with children headed by a single parent, and African American and Hispanic households. Big cities (such as lower-income areas of New Orleans, Memphis, etc.) and rural areas like many heartland Delta areas had the highest food insecurity, while suburban and exurban areas fared better.
The margin of error for the USDA report is plus or minus 2.45%.
Usually household with severe food insecurity suffered from inadequate food in seven months of the year for a few days in each of those months.
(Southern Illinois also has significant food insecurity problems, but Chicago and the northern and central parts of Illinois are so much larger than southern Illinois that the statewide figures would not be informative for the southern Illinois situation.)
Senior citizens in Arkansas suffered the highest food insecurity in the country in 20111–at one in four.
Not all the news is bad, however; Arkansas historically came in last or next to last in child hunger, but has moved up to sixth from last. This is due to the school meals program, as well as Gov. Mike Beebe’s No Kid Hungry initiative, which includes “Cooking Matters” classes that teach adults and children how to cook healthy foods cheaply.
The House of Representatives stripped the SNAP program from the farm bill and is backing a separate bill that would cut $40 billion from SNAP. The Senate version of the farm bill reduces SNAP by only approximately $4 billion.
The USDA has substantially improved the efficiency of SNAP over both Republican and Democratic administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and SNAP has historically received strong support from bipartisan sources, so this is a major departure from the normal widespread support for these programs.
USDA has reduced waste and abuse in SNAP down to 1%, according to the USDA Inspector General’s report (who was an appointee of President George W. Bush.) This is actually a high level of efficiency–much higher, in fact than many other programs.
The fundamental way to reduce SNAP spending is to stimulate creation of decent paying jobs and reduce unemployment, which is still far too high across the Delta.
Negative impact of SNAP cuts on diabetes: Factual data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts report that medical costs for diabetes could increase by $15 billion over the next ten years if the $40 billion cuts take place. The Delta already has the worst diabetes levels in the country.
92% of SNAP recipients do NOT receive welfare, and only 8% do–it is simply factually erroneous to say that SNAP recipients are making no effort to find work, because 92% of them fall into categories of adults who are working at low income jobs, children, senior citizens and disabled people. Our partners across the region report that the great majority of adult unemployed would be thrilled to have a job but cannot find work in the sluggish economy.
While it is never good when SNAP spending is high because it means many people are poor, on the other hand SNAP spending does have an economic stimulus impact.  The USDA nutrition programs not only lead the way in fighting hunger, but also have a positive economic impact: one dollar spent on SNAP increases Gross Domestic Product from $1.73 to $1.79, according to Moody’s Analytics.
The Congressional Joint Economic Committee (JEC) has reported that an increase of $1 billion in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) spending generates 17,900 jobs.
Strong bipartisan support for SNAP by the American public, including support across racial, ethnic, gender and party lines: 70% of Americans said that cutting food assistance are the wrong way to reduce government spending, according to Hart Research Associates, and other respected survey organizations report similar results. The support is widespread:
–70% of Republican women said SNAP is important for our country.
–71% of people in rural areas said SNAP is important.
–73% of whites who do not have college degrees said SNAP is important.
We in the Delta Grassroots Caucus want to hear from all points of view. We will have a large number of nutrition experts at the state, federal and local levels, a representative of Tyson Foods, Feeding America, many other nutrition organizations, and we will ask Members of Congress and gubernatorial candidates Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson and Mayor A. C. Wharton of Memphis to address hunger and nutrition issues.
The Delta Caucus supports a dialogue on these issues and we want to hear from all points of view: For those who advocate massive cuts in SNAP, we want to allow them to present their point of view and have a cordial, collegial dialogue. We will be interested in explanations as to why these cuts are advisable in light of our region’s very high levels of food insecurity and nutrition-related health problems.
Issue of stripping the nutrition sections from the farm bill, thus separating the agriculture and nutrition sections:
The House seeks to separate the nutrition and agriculture sections of the farm bill. Many of our partners have indicated that this would endanger both the agriculture and nutrition sections, because traditionally the urban-rural alliance in the agriculture and nutrition communities assured strong support for both sections.
Agriculture is a key component of the economy. Certainly it is good policy to make sure that farm aid goes only to those family farmers and others who really need it. Most of our partners report that they would prefer to see a continuation of the urban-rural alliance that has provided strong support for both programs until now.
Rural and urban America are far too often divided against each other, but the farm bill is one case where they have traditionally joined forces.
For those who do support separating the farm and nutrition sections, we welcome them to explain their point of view at the Oct. 17-18 Delta conference.
GROUP HOTEL: Group hotel is the Courtyard by Marriott at Memphis-Germantown.
To get the group discount hotel rate, call the Courtyard by Marriott at Memphis-Germantown at (901) 751-0230 and say you are with the Delta Caucus. There are king rooms for $104 and doubles for $109.
Many people will want to stay just for the night of Oct. 17, check out the morning of Oct. 18. The conference is scheduled to end about 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18.
We are getting a strong turnout for this conference and hope you can join us. Thanks so much–Lee Powell, executive director, Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347