End Hunger

In America

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People First Plan to End Hunger in America

Over 37 million Americans — as many people as live in California, our most populous state — are at risk of going hungry. Food insecurity is not only a symptom of poverty and inequality, but a reflection of our national priority. Throughout this presidential campaign, I have consistently and constantly elevated the challenges of the most vulnerable people and the most underserved communities. We need to fight for the poor, the homeless, the sick, the incarcerated, the undocumented, the forgotten, and yes, the hungry. 

Everyone counts in this country, and it’s about time our public policies reflected that fundamental truth.

Today, one in seven children, about the population of Ohio, suffer from hunger. More than 5 million seniors, approximately the metro area of Atlanta, are uncertain about their next meal. Rural counties are disproportionately affected, comprising 79 percent of the counties with the highest food insecurity rates, but only comprise 63 percent of all counties. African American households are more than twice as likely to face hunger than white households, and Latinos are 50 percent more at risk. People are working full-time jobs, sometimes multiple jobs, and are still unable to make ends meet.

As a child, I saw the grocery list get shorter and shorter as our family budget got tighter and tighter. At the end of the month, my mom would struggle to afford the rent, pay the bills, and make sure the lights stayed on and the water did not shut off. She raised my brother and I as a single parent, and we lived with my grandmother who raised my mom as a single parent too. I still vividly remember my mom’s panic when her hair started falling out due to the stress of putting food on the table. But thank God we had each other, the support of our community, strong federal programs like Medicare and Pell Grants, and an unwavering faith that a better future is possible.

Hunger is a complex problem, intertwined with inequities of race, class, gender, and geography, and we will only overcome this challenge with a concerted national effort.

And that’s what I will lead as president. We cannot move forward as one nation if only a few are prosperous and fed while many are poor and hungry. That’s why I’m proposing an ambitious People First plan to End Hunger in America. If we invest in stronger federal nourishment programs, I believe that this generation can defeat malnutrition and achieve freedom from hunger.

As a nation, we have a moral obligation to ensure that every child has the nourishment to learn and the basic necessities to thrive.

Today students are being shamed when they cannot afford to eat.

Our kids are receiving school lunch debt instead of a hot meal, and often face hunger while in college. As president, we will end “lunch shaming” by making meals free for every public school student, cancel all school lunch debt, and ensure college students are eligible for SNAP benefits. Too many children also go hungry during the summer, and I’m proposing that we extend at least $60 per child on EBT cards for every month out of school. We will also reinstate Obama Administration rules to establish national nutrition standards so that all of our children’s school meals are healthy. Building on the progress of the Obama Administration, I will designate a National Nutrition Advisor to coordinate federal, state and local, private, and non-profit action to end hunger in America.

In his first State of the Union address, the last Texan Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a War on Poverty and soon after signed legislation creating a national food assistance program. Since then, millions of Americans have avoided the pain of hunger, and I’m proposing that we strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). First, SNAP benefits are insufficient. They do not cover the cost of a meal in 99 percent of the United States. We need to increase support by at least 30 percent to close the gap. Second, we will expand eligibility by banning unjustified work requirements imposed during the 1990s under a conservative agenda. During the 2009 recession, every $1 increase in SNAP benefit generated about $1.70 in economic activity. In other words, SNAP benefits are one of the most effective methods of economic stimulus. Third, we will eliminate restrictions on hot and prepared foods that are discriminatory and unreasonable in a modern economy. And as president, we will strengthen the Women Infants and Children Program (WIC) to ensure newborns and new mothers have the nutritional support they need to be healthy and happy.

Access to healthy food in America is far from equal.

Whether you live in a rural community where grocery stores are closing or live in parts of the inner-city where they refuse to open, food deserts are all too common. When I’m president, we will fight for fair access to healthy food in every community. This starts by directing federal resources toward underserved areas to encourage the creation of more food options, including small business loans for greater local production and encouraging Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) models. To support families living far from brick-and-mortar grocery stores, I support allowing EBT cards to be used for online delivery and food shopping. Fundamentally, the opportunity to eat a nutritious diet should not depend on where you live.

As we work to end hunger in America, we will also build a more just food system. The workers who harvest our crops and serve our meals should not struggle to feed their families. We need to raise incomes and reduce poverty across the country with investments such as expanding Medicare to all Americans, universal child care, a $3,000 Child Tax Credit (CTC) per child, and a massive expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to reward hard work. We will also completely reform our immigration system with common sense and compassion, including repealing the public change rule, expanding guest worker visas, and creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. As president, farm and domestic workers will be added under labor law protections and we will strengthen the right to organize a union. While we combat the existential threat of climate change, we will support communities on the frontlines of change and address racial and geographical disparities.  Ending hunger demands that we marshal the full power of the federal government and the American people.

The right to eat is a human right.

Like oxygen, water, and shelter, food is a basic necessity for human survival. And research shows that access to food has a profound impact on health, wellbeing and economic outcomes. In the wealthiest nation on Earth, we can all agree that every person should have three meals a day and live without fear of hunger. I believe we have the capacity to end hunger in America. In 1964, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.” That moral vision for America’s future is achievable if invest in the most underserved communities. And in doing so, we will unleash the full potential of all of her people.

1

Ending Hunger in America

The United States produces more food than any other nation in the world. Food grown in America finds its way to grocery shelves and dinner tables on every corner of the globe. Yet millions of Americans go hungry every day. Millions more live with the constant stress and fear that they are one setback away from going hungry themselves. Measuring its total negative economic impact, hunger costs the American economy over $165 billion a year, and would be cheaper to solve. Inevitably, food insecurity and hunger disproportionately affect those already vulnerable or forgotten in our society. While hunger affects people of every race and background, communities of color, immigrant communities, people with disabilities, families and individuals impacted by the criminal justice system, and LGBT people are all more likely to be food insecure.

In 2018, 11% of all U.S. households were food insecure. As president, in addition to increasing employment and raising wages, I will invest in our existing federal nutrition programs and expand them to fight hunger while deploying new strategies to eliminate hunger in our schools and ensure people living in food deserts have access to the nutrition they need.

  • Strengthen Federal Food Assistance. The Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as the Food Stamp Program, has been one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in American history. Tragically, the Trump administration has dedicated much of its agenda attempting to dismantle SNAP. In addition to ending the Trump administration’s war on hungry and poor Americans, I will implement long overdue improvements to both expand the eligibility of SNAP and increase the support SNAP provides to fully meet the needs of Americans living with food insecurity.
  • Increase SNAP Benefits. Currently, for many families SNAP benefits run out 2-3 weeks into the month and average only $1.40 per person, per meal. As president, I will ensure SNAP benefits provide adequate support, especially to households with children and teenagers. We will pass the Closing the Meal Gap Act to update the outdated Thrifty Food Plan formula by which the U.S. Department of Agriculture calculates benefits and instead use the Low Cost Food Plan that will expand SNAP benefits to better reflect the needs of SNAP recipients. I will also expand SNAP benefits to families with children and teenagers by at least $42 per child per month as specified in the SNAP for Kids Act of 2018.
  • Expand SNAP Eligibility. The vast majority of SNAP recipients are children, working parents, seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, and people who are temporarily unemployed. Work reporting requirements create unnecessary bureaucratic hassles for many who are employed and penalize those who are out of work. Eliminating these requirements and simplifying administration of programs would result in savings for states and local governments. As president, I will work with Congress to end work reporting requirements imposed on SNAP access, including by passing the Improving Access to Nutrition Act of 2019. I also support eliminating other barriers to the program, including restrictions by certain states to access SNAP or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits for the formerly-incarcerated.
  • Eliminate Restrictions on Hot and Prepared Foods. Restrictions on buying hot or prepared foods with SNAP benefits are harmful and impractical for many SNAP recipients. Such restrictions exclude people experiencing homelessness, who may not have a kitchen to prepare food or a fridge to store it and fail to recognize the severe time constraints that poverty creates, such as those working multiple jobs. As president, I will allow individuals paying with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card to buy hot and prepared meals that are ready to eat.
  • Maintain the National Categorical Eligibility Rule. Broad Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) allows state governments to cut red tape for SNAP eligibility so that families do not have complete duplicative application processes for multiple benefit programs and waive counterproductive asset limits for SNAP eligibility and relax income thresholds so that low-income families do not face a benefit cliff when their earnings exceed 130 percent of the federal poverty line. As president, I will reverse the Trump administration rule seeking to end BBCE for states and instead implement a national categorical eligibility rule requiring every state to implement BBCE standards.
  • Expand Women Infants and Children Program. WIC provides crucial nutritional support to millions of expectant and new parents, infants, and young children. The program also makes much-needed early investments in health, not only improving outcomes for new parents and infants, but also resulting in $2.48 savings in health care costs for each dollar spent on the program. As president, I will expand WIC to ensure the program is able to meet not just the current caseload but the full needs of every eligible child, infant, and new and expectant parents. In addition to my proposals to lower the costs of raising a child by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, creating a $3,000 child allowance, implementing universal pre-K and child care, I support raising WIC support until a child’s sixth birthday, up from the fifth birthday today, and extending eligibility for new parents up to two years postpartum. The WIC program is also vitally important to support new parents with counseling on breastfeeding, including through the Peer Counselor Program that has been chronically underfunded. I support fully funding that program, in addition to improving investments into nutrition science research through the United States Department of Agriculture and its efforts to evaluate and improve SNAP, WIC, and other federal nutrition programs. I also commit to improving enrollment in the WIC program, including by lengthening the certification period for infants and parents and integrating WIC enrollment into an expanded and universal Medicare program.
  • Protecting Access to Benefits. While government benefits such as SNAP provide a crucial lifeline to struggling families, this aid is often enormously difficult to access and to keep. Many people, especially in vulnerable or marginalized populations, are not even aware of the programs they are legally eligible for. Furthermore, the application process is too often overly complex, bureaucratic, stigmatizing, or adversarial. As president, I will ensure everyone who is eligible for SNAP or WIC benefits is aware of what they are legally entitled to and able to easily access them, including through supporting state governments in streamlining benefits application processes for federally-funded state-run programs, including through online applications. I am also committed to passing the Equality Act to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression in all federal programs. That will include ensuring these programs are responsive to changes in personal information, including gender identity and gender expression, to ensure continued access to individuals in the LGBTQ community. I will combine applications for SNAP and WIC benefits with other anti-poverty assistance such as housing assistance, into one streamlined application process, utilizing the latest technology for accessibility. I will also fund education and enrollment campaigns targeting particularly vulnerable groups such as seniors, farmworkers, immigrants, communities living in food deserts, members of the LGBTQ community, and non-English speakers.
  • Increases Access in Food Deserts. Too many low-income Americans must travel long distances, using scarce time and money, to access healthy food. One of the leading drivers of food insecurity is lack of physical access to food and groceries. Food deserts are defined as areas where residents often lack easy access to nutritious food such as fruits or vegetables, often due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers markets, or other food providers, most often in underserved and low-income communities in both urban and rural settings. We should work to ensure every corner of our country has access to a nutritious diet.
  • Federally Designate and Support Food Deserts. As president, I will create a national task force convening the Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Health and Human Services, along with the Small Business Administration, which will formally designate food deserts. This designation will unlock federal grants and special supports to foster the creation of community and local government-run grocery stores, farmers markets, and food banks, ensure full enrollment in SNAP and WIC benefits, and support community centers such as schools and churches becoming resource and nutrition centers, including through the community schools model.
  • Support Local Food Production. As president, I will support increased regional food processing, through technical assistance, seed money, and grants through the Small Business Administration. Rather than seeing food shipped across the country for processing and then shipping it back for sale and consumption, processing food closer to its source will reduce food waste, reduce climate-impact, and allow greater amounts of surplus produce to be donated before it spoils.
  • Community Supported Agriculture. Community supported agriculture (CSA) models, where individuals effectively buy a small share in a farm and get paid back in farm produce, are increasingly popular as a way to get local, fresh produce. However, while CSA models are benefiting farmers and many affluent consumers, they are often in-accessible for low-income families. As president, I will support expanding access to CSA-models for low-income people, including with federal subsidies and ensuring that EBT cards can be used to access CSA membership.
  • Expand Online EBT Use. One of the best ways to ensure food is available in regions without brick-and-mortar grocery stores is to allow online retailers to accept payment through EBT benefit cards. As president, I take lessons learned from USDA pilot programs and expand online grocery shopping and delivery acceptance of payment through EBT cards to ensure those receiving SNAP or WIC benefits can access healthy food regardless of where they live.
  • Stop Hunger in Schools. No one, especially a child, should go hungry in the richest and most powerful nation to ever exist. As president, I will work to make sure that hunger is eliminated in our schools.
  • Universal School Meals. Across our nation, children have been shamed and penalized for accessing the most basic of necessities. The phrase “school lunch debt” should not exist. As president, I will ensure that children are not discriminated against because of an inability to pay for breakfast or lunch. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, has allowed millions of students to receive the nutrition they need in schools. School-wide universal meal programs lower administrative costs, expand access and participation, and improves health and educational outcomes. As president, I would defend and build on the success of the Community Eligibility Provision by passing legislation to require and fund every public school in the United States that provides federally-funded school meals to provide nutritious, universal, free breakfasts and lunches programs to every student, without requiring paperwork from their families. I will do so by improving school participation in CEP by increasing reimbursement rates and lowering the proportion of students from low-income families required to participate in the program, currently at 40 percent, to zero in order to achieve universal school meals.
  • Expand Summer Meals. As president, I will expand the USDA Summer Food Service program to allow children to have three meals a day. Additionally, I will build on the successes of the Summer Lunch EBT Pilot program that provided children from low-income families with additional support during the summer months and make it a permanent program, providing at least $60 dollars per month, per child for every month in which school is out for longer than two weeks through their EBT cards.
  • Implement National Nutrition Standard. To promote health and increase long-term positive outcomes for our children, we must ensure that our children’s school meals are nutritious. As president, I will reverse Trump administration efforts that undercut the nutrition of our school meals and fully implement the long-delayed nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) that former First Lady Michelle Obama championed and Congress adopted with the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2010.
  • Eliminate College Hunger. Today, many students in college and universities struggle with food insecurity, a leading cause of failure to graduate from college. I have committed to investing in our schools and universities to ensure public colleges are tuition-free. As a part of my People First Education plan, I have also called for increasing the maximum Pell Grant to $10,000 and allowing these grants to be used for living expenses and reforming the Earned Income Tax Credit to boost incomes for students. To end hunger for students in college, I also support removing work requirements under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, allowing students who are food insecure to focus on their studies and graduate on time.
  • Raise Incomes and Combat Poverty. In addition to expanding food assistance programs, investing in nutrition at schools, and ensuring all communities have access to groceries food, raising incomes across the board and combating poverty will both ensure families can afford the nutrition they need and provide families with the flexibility they need. My anti-poverty plan includes expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to increase the incomes of families of four by up to $9000, expanding the Child Tax Credit to $3000 and making it fully refundable, guaranteeing universal health care by strengthening Medicare for those who have it and expanding it to every American, investing in affordable housing, expanding Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and establishing universal pre-K and child care in the United States. This anti-poverty agenda will raise incomes and address some of the most expensive costs for low-income families, including health care and child care.

2

Building a Just Food System

Food is about people. The food we eat does more than provide nutrition; it is a marker of our cultures, a connection to family and friends, and one of the most intimate ways in which our personal actions affect and are affected by the world around us. Food production is also how millions of people make a living, and any food-focused policy must make sure that the people who feed us are able to feed themselves and their families. Lastly, food is also about our responsibility to the world we live in, the soil we plant in, the animals we raise for consumption, the health of rural communities, and the overall climate of the planet.

  • Support Small Family Farmers. For decades, small farming operations have faced multiple challenges that only continue to grow, from climate change to an aging workforce. The average age of a family farmer in the United States today continues to rise and more and more small farmers are choosing to call it quits. As president, I will support America’s small family farms, including with expanding microloans, providing technical assistance and financial support to new farmers, and preparing farmers to deal with the realities of climate change and a shrinking labor force.
  • End the Destructive Trade War. President Trump’s mismanaged trade war with both our allies and China has hurt farmers across the country who have lost access to significant markets and customers. His trade policies have also effectively raised taxes on ordinary Americans by an average of up to $1000 per household. As president, I will take the economic challenge China poses seriously, but rather than alienate our allies and fail to close a deal with China, I will work with those allies that have similar concerns regarding China’s economic policies and ensure American farmers and consumers are in a stronger position.
  • Enforce Antitrust Laws Against Harmful Mergers and Acquisitions in Agriculture. Corporate consolidation has hurt consumers in tech, finance, industry, and agriculture. This consolidation also hurts small, family farmers who face significant challenges in competing against companies that engage in anti-competitive behaviors. As president, I will appoint an Attorney General that takes corporate consolidation in agriculture seriously and provide them the freedom and mandate to scrutinize mergers and acquisitions and apply federal antitrust laws strictly and thoroughly.
  • Justice for Workers. Our food is more than the dignity, justice, fair wages, and citizenship for people who feed us needs part of any food justice policy in this country.
  • Guarantee a Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers. Every worker deserves a living wage, and I am committed to raising the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, including for tipped workers, and tied to the cost of living.

    For more information, see my Working Families Plan, June 2019.
  • Justice for Farmworkers. Agricultural labor has historically been excluded from labor laws applicable to other industries, such as the right to organize, overtime pay, and child labor laws. As president, I will end the exclusion of farmworkers from basic labor protections and invest in farmworker communities to make sure the families that feed us are able to feed themselves.

    For more information, see my Justice for Farmworkers Plan, June 2019.
  • Reform our Broken Immigration System. Our nation’s food system depends on the contributions of immigrants, many of whom are undocumented. From farmworkers in the fields to kitchen staff in the finest restaurants, the hands that feed us are immigrant hands. I will pass immigration reform that recognizes these contributions and provides undocumented immigrants, as well as immigrants on guest worker visas, a path to citizenship.
  • Repeal the Public Charge Rule. As president, I will repeal the Trump administration’s cruel public charge rule that denies citizenship to immigrant families who rely on public services such as SNAP benefits. We should not stigmatize the use of government services, which are here to support families in need. Immigrants, for centuries, have relied on social safety nets, whether from governments, churches, neighbors, or other charitable organizations, when making their lives in our country. Furthermore, the Public Charge rule has created widespread fear in immigrant communities of using even government program. This policy is not just cruel to immigrants, but directly harms the nutrition of U.S. citizen children in immigrant families. Millions of immigrants have come to the United States in search of opportunity, fleeing hunger, poverty, or war. I will fight for an America that welcomes immigrants.

    For more information, see my People First Immigration Plan, June 2019.
  • Pursue Racial Justice. The history of our nation’s food system is rife with racial injustice; from indigenous peoples whose lands were taken to make way for ranching and farming, to Japanese-Americans who lost their farms during internment, to the ongoing dispossession of Black farmers today. As president, I will root out the legacy of racial discrimination in farming and land ownership and support Food justice must include racial justice.
  • Combat Discrimination at USDA. I will address the history of racism and discrimination within the Department of Agriculture that has resulted in negative economic impact on farmers of color, including loss of land. I will appoint experts and activists with a track record of defending farmers of color and farmworkers to every position at USDA and fully investigate discrimination at USDA by implementing regular Government Accountability Office audits of the USDA to investigate loan practices towards marginalized communities, conduct oversight of existing and future loan and technical assistance programs to find and end racial and other disparities, and establish streamlined civil rights violation reporting to monitor discrimination.
  • Support Minority-Owned Farms. As president, I will establish a federal “Next Generation Farmers” land trust to support new small farmers and combat the legacy and continuing effects of discrimination. The trust will fund purchases of farmland from retiring farmers who choose to voluntarily sell their land and sell land to new farmers, including farmworkers and other marginalized communities such as black farmers, or to small farmers looking to expand their family farms. This program will also support small and marginalized farmers with estate planning assistance to keep farms within their families and be coordinated with programs to extend internet access and other public services to underserved rural communities. This trust will be funded with at least $200 million each year, including through antitrust and environmental penalties on large agricultural corporations and increased corporate income taxes on these corporations from the repeal of the Trump tax bill. I will also establish a $100 million loan and subsidy program through the Farm Service Agency specifically to help farmworkers to become farm owners through loans, guarantees, and technical assistance.

    For more information, see my Justice for Farmworkers Plan, June 2019.
  • Support Indigenous Food Practices. As president, I will provide federal funding to tribes to increase the availability of culturally-appropriate food, including by ensuring Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits support culturally-appropriate foods and supporting tribal farmers markets to improve market access for indigenous farmers.

    For more information, see my People First Plan for Indigenous Communities, June 2019.
  • Advance Environmental Justice.
  • Environmental Justice for Rural Communities. Rural communities are exposed to many negative impacts due to intensive agricultural production, such as tainted water and pesticide exposure. As president, I will create new regulations and investments to protect rural communities from environment hazards such as clean air labor standards for farmworkers, and investing in guaranteeing clean water to rural communities. I will also pass new civil rights legislation to address environmental discrimination, including require all federal actions to be reviewed for environmental and health impacts on low-income and marginalized communities, reforming and empowering the EPA’s Office of External Civil Rights Compliance to bring justice to victims of environmental discrimination, and instituting a private right of action for victims of environmental racism under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. I will require state governments receiving EPA assistance to implement environmental justice action plans that meet minimum standards and are verified by the EPA. I will also restore President Obama’s Waters of the United States rule that applies the Clean Water Act to tributaries and wetlands, and go further to combat pollution and runoff from industry and agriculture.
  • Climate-Friendly Agriculture. With the right policy changes, our agriculture can not only cease to contribute to carbon emissions but can actively reduce them and remove carbon from the atmosphere. As president, I will invest in programs to eliminate carbon emissions in agriculture and land use through reforming economic support programs for farms, including the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to meet climate goals, including by investing in regenerative agriculture.

    For more information, see my People and Planet First Plan, April 2019.
  • Protecting Animals and Wildlife. I believe we must recognize our moral duty to every living creature. As president, I will establish minimum standards for animal welfare in agriculture including minimum space standards for livestock and poultry, that improve healthy and sustainable farming practices, support funding for farms to participate in independent animal welfare certification programs to improve transparency of agricultural practices, with publicly available inspection reports to inform consumers, and oppose efforts by states to institute “ag-gag” laws that silence whistleblowers, limit transparency, and have repeatedly been ruled unconstitutional.

    For more information, see my my PAW Plan, April 2019.
  • Food Safety and Consumer Protection. I will work to restore consumer trust in the safety of American food by combating corruption and undue business influence within the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, including by rolling back Trump administration regulation changes that reduced regulatory oversight.