Schwarzenegger’s line-item veto threatens food for Coastside seniors


By on Tue, August 11, 2009

Cheri Parr [right] leads Community United Methodist Church's Senior Brown Bag program every Monday afternoon.
Cheri Parr
Delivering the food to the Coastside and getting it ready is a big job.
Cheri Parr
Volunteers get the food ready for seniors.
Cheri Parr
Senior Brown Bag helps feed over 100 low-income seniors weekly.

Every Monday afternoon, volunteers from Community United Methodist Church, Coastside Hope and other Coastsiders meet at Bloom Lane in Half Moon Bay to distribute food to over 100 low-income seniors. 

Last month, Governor Schwarzenegger’s last-minute line item veto eliminated funding for the program—along with many other vital social programs.
My name is Cheri Parr and this is the second article I’ve had to write in as many days to ask our community to help save a critical lifeline program.  Yesterday it was SamTrans Route 17. Today it’s food for our seniors. 

Over 100 Half Moon Bay seniors count on the Second Harvest Brown Bag Program for weekly stipends of bread, protein and fresh vegetables to stretch their already meager budgets.  Each week I hear stories of seniors having to choose between diabetes medicine and fresh food. Coastsiders who are homebound and no longer drive now have food delivered—along with a hug and someone to talk to.  Sometimes its the only outside contact they have all week.
Recently, budget cuts and downturns in donations have cut the food available down to the bare basics.  Where we used to get fresh orange juice, and canned meats, and the occasional ready-to-eat meal, we now squeak by on very basic supplies – beans, rice, fruits, and vegetables. Now we face the elimination of a critical local program.

You can help Coastside Seniors

To support these Coastside seniors in need, download, customize and send the letter after the jump to Assembly member Jerry Hill and Senator Leland Yee, as well as the Assembly and Senate leadership. Their fax numbers are listed on the letter.
Spread the word. Email the flyer to your coworkers, friends, and other people who will want to take action.
There’s more information on Second Harvest’s website.
If you’d like to lend a hand locally, feel free to come to Bloom Lane on Main Street any Monday at 1:30 pm to help unload and distribute food.  We have a great base of volunteers, but we always welcome newcomers.
Community United Methodist Church at 777 Miramontes St. in Half Moon Bay collects additional donations of canned meat, meals-in-a-can, cooking oil, peanut butter and other staples in the collection bin in the lobby.  Feel free to drop off donations during business hours, or on Sundays from 9am – 1pm.
Donate financially to support the senior brown bag program.  You can drop off a donation check made out to Community United Methodist Church and mark "Senior Brown Bag" in the memo line, and know that 100% of your donation will be used to purchase food for seniors in need. 



Sample letter to legislators


The honorable Leland Yee
400 South El Camino Real, Suite 630
San Mateo, CA 94402
Tel: 650.340.8840
Fax: 916.327.2186

The Honorable Jerry Hill
1528 South El Camino Real

Suite 302

San Mateo, CA 94402

Tel: 650.349.1900

Fax: 650.341.4676

The Honorable Karen Bass
Speaker, California Assembly
California State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814
Fax: 916.319.2147

The Honorable Darrell Steinberg
President Pro Tempore, California Senate
California State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814
Fax 916.323.2263

Re: Restoration of the Brown Bag Program for Seniors

Dear Speaker Bass and President Pro Tem Steinberg:

I am writing to express our alarm and strong opposition to the Governor’s line-item veto of the Brown Bag Program. We urge the legislature to take swift action to reverse the Governor’s veto of the Brown Bag Program and other human services programs.  These cuts will force tens of thousands of low-income seniors to seek further assistance from an already-stretched network of food banks.  While we appreciate the severity of the state’s fiscal crisis, we believe there are smarter and more balanced ways to address the fiscal crisis than taking emergency food from vulnerable seniors.

The Impact

Brown Bag recipients are primarily women receiving SSI/SSP who, through a string of budget deals, have just seen their grants cut and their COLAs disappear indefinitely.  Moreover, because they are receiving SSI/SSP, they are ineligible for food stamps and must go to free food programs to get enough food to eat.  Additionally, the Brown Bag Program provides critical funding to food banks.  Approximately $20,000 per provider may not seem like much to make a program operate and grow, but it is critical to smaller food banks to have dollars to spend on staff.  Elimination of the program will be devastating to seniors as well as the food banks who work to serve them. 

Return on Investment

The Brown Bag Program illustrates everything that is good about government.  It takes a small government investment, adds it to the hard work of seniors taking care of each other, taps into philanthropic support in the community and produces great benefit. 

This program leverages state dollars in a huge way.  Every dollar the state invests leverages approximately $40 from the local community in food and services provided to seniors.  The program is currently funded at $541,000, which means the program leverages over $21 million dollars of food and services for seniors, all of which will be lost if the Governor’s veto stands. 

Restore the Brown Bag Program

The Brown Bag is part of a very thin safety-net for seniors and the Governor has already made deep cuts to this program through a line item veto in September.  The elimination of the Brown Bag program will leave poor seniors with even fewer options for food and nutrition.  Poor seniors - particularly those who receive SSI and therefore are not allowed to receive food stamps in California - must have access to food through this program, in order to be nourished and stay healthy.

Considering the devastating implications of the most recent budget deal, the legislature must protect from further harm children, seniors and increasing numbers of newly unemployed who are increasingly being served by food banks.  Programs for those most in danger of hunger absolutely should be restored.  Overall, California’s budget crisis can not be solved by cuts alone.  We urge you to reject the Governor’s line-item veto and pursue a more balanced solution to our State’s fiscal needs.



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