The proposed budget would provide inadequate funding for the Census Bureau as it prepares for the 2020 Census, which could force the Bureau to make tough decisions like discontinuing the ACS. Doing so would eliminate a valuable dataset that enables children in low-income communities to receive summer meals.
Rather than determining whether each individual child is eligible for the federally-funded Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) by collecting applications for free and reduced price meals–a process that can be burdensome for families and administrators–many communities use ACS data to determine “area eligibility” for meals. Using area eligibility is beneficial for cities like Baltimore with concentrated poverty, 200 Census tracts, and underfunded schools that may not have the time or resources to collect meal applications.
SFSP is a critical resource in Baltimore, where 114,360–or nearly one in four people–are food insecure. The pink areas in the map below are area-eligible Census tracts in Baltimore City based on 2009-2013 ACS data, which means 50 percent or more of children in these areas are eligible for free or reduced price school meals. This measure overlaps with other indicators of vulnerability including high concentrations of vacant and abandoned residential properties, concentrations of unemployment, and gun-related homicides.
Area eligibility in Baltimore
Kara Panowitz Out of School Time Manager for the Maryland No Kid Hungry Campaign, says
Kids whose families can’t afford camp or summer programs often spend time unsupervised during the day. Thanks to area eligibility, we’re able to meet these kids where they are, whether it’s the library or a park, and provide them with a nutritious meal. If we had to ensure that kids were eligible on an individual basis, we wouldn’t be able to serve more than one million meals to Baltimore’s children each summer.
The Summer Food Service Program will be especially necessary in light of Trump’s proposal to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) by 25 percent in the next decade, which would affect residents of the 113,026 households in Baltimore who are participating in SNAP. In addition to cutting SNAP, the budget proposal would shift costs to states, which may be unable to take on these costs. As a result of the cuts, groups like children, the elderly, and disabled will lose out on more than 45 billion meals, according to Feeding America. The budget proposal would also reduce funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), which means less food will be available in communities through local food banks.
Decreasing the Census budget and eliminating the American Community Survey will affect eligibility and benefit calculation for key programs in cities, which will be devastating in light of cuts to SNAP, TEFAP and CSBG. Cities can be leaders in implementing creative solutions around poverty and hunger, but many Mayors are concerned about the budget and rhetoric of the Trump Administration, and how it will affect their most vulnerable residents.
Learn more about food insecurity in your state here.
In Maryland, text FOOD to 877-877, call 211, or visit MDsummermeals.org to find a meal site in your community.