Those on the ground trying to eradicate hunger in Ohio say the new budget proposal from the state Senate would only exacerbate the problem.
After finding out that many of Ohio’s foodbank clients are forced to choose between paying for food and things like utilities and medicine, the Ohio Association of Foodbanks urged the state legislature to include increased funding to the Ohio Food Program and Agricultural Clearance Program (OFPACP), along with hopes that the federal government would make positive changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“Clearly (the study’s) findings had the reverse impact on the Senate Republicans,” OAF executive director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, told the OCJ. “If enacted, (the Senate’s budget proposal) will make hunger, insecurity, and poverty worse than it is now.”
The Ohio Senate’s version of the budget, headed to the chamber’s finance committee, would reduce the OFPACP funding and added a request for the Department of Medicaid to establish work reporting requirements for Medicaid.
The House version of House Bill 33, the official title of the budget bill, included $15 million per year for the next two years to the food and agricultural clearance program, and created free-lunch eligibility for any student who qualified for the reduced lunch program as well.
Neither of those are included in the Senate version.
“Eliminating increased funding to help workers, families, older adults, disabled Ohioans and marginalized people put food on the table, when the state of Ohio has incredible resources at its disposal, is cruel and short-sighted,” the OAF said in a statement.
The Hunger Network in Ohio disparaged the GOP version of the budget for cutting funding not only to the hunger efforts, but also to K-12 education and free and reduced lunches in schools.
“We cannot continue to balance our budget on the backs of hardworking and hungry Ohioans,” said Nick Bates, director of the network. “This proposal will leave Ohioans hungry, our schools under-resourced, and families without the resources to get ahead.”
According to Hamler-Fugitt, the association of foodbanks provided take-home groceries to more than 3 million state residents in the last quarter, over 30% more than the same time last year.
In the research study by the OAF, two in three Ohio households who come to the foodbanks have had to cut the size of meals or skip meals due to a lack of money, which could be attributed to rising food costs and a reduction in SNAP monies boosted during the pandemic.
The association study also found that only 5% of SNAP participants’ benefits lasted a full month since the end of the pandemic-expanded program, which stopped in March.
Ending the program resulted in a monthly loss of about $90 per person on average, according to the OAF.
The Senate Finance Committee will hold hearings on the budget and conduct a floor vote on the bill. The deadline for passage is the end of June.