Thoughts| “Don’t feed homemade formula to babies; seek help instead”

Article:“Don’t feed homemade formula to babies; seek help instead”

Money is tight and you’re low on baby formula. Should you try that homemade formula recipe you saw online?
The answer is: No.

The advice is solid here, no questioning that. Homemade formula isn’t a great idea.
However, this article overestimates the help available for parents who may feel it’s necessary to water down formula or go to a homemade variety. If parents are going down that route, it’s most likely because the solutions in place haven’t worked out fully.

When I first read the article, I assumed the homemade baby formula in question was my Grandma’s recipe she handed to me when I became a first time mom almost thirty years ago. It has 3 ingredients: evaporated milk,water,karo syrup.

I looked at the most popular homemade recipes for formula out there and quickly learned that these are not my Grandma’s basic recipes and if those are the ones the author is referring to, I don’t think she has to worry about a parent without money making any of them. The ingredients are expensive (there are also “kits” that run about $180-$200…definitely not within low income budgets). I’m inclined to think those who are making these “natural” formulas are doing so not for penny pinching reasons. They’re probably just anti-formula but aren’t breastfeeding or want to supplement.

That out of the way, let’s focus on suggestions given to parents with the assumption they’re making formula to save money (or because they have no money).

The article suggests that if you can’t afford formula, apply for WIC, SNAP, and TANF.
WIC usually does provide enough formula for babies but some families may find times in their baby’s development where they’re going through more formula than WIC provides. Some states have also made cuts to WIC and may not be providing the same as they were.

While WIC income eligibility guidelines are usually higher than SNAP, recipients are still low income and are likely dealing with the multitude of issues that plague low income folks. Missing a WIC appointment can be disastrous. When we’re talking about a low income parent missing an appointment the reason isn’t easily explained away as “irresponsibility”. Can’t get off work, car broke down,can’t find a ride, no public transportation… not excuses, valid obstacles. In rural areas, rescheduling an appointment may not be a possibility at all. Your WIC clinic is one certain day per month in the basement of a church and if you miss that day, there’s nothing else you can do but wait until next month. Even a weather cancellation could totally screw up a family getting their WIC checks on time.

SNAP? Of course it helps but the average allotment of $3 per day per person isn’t going to get everyone in the family the food they need PLUS formula for a whole month. And TANF is notoriously hard to get approved for. Benefits are low and only temporary. You may even be asked to pay back the amount.

The article also recommends food pantries and yes, of course some will be able to help but small town and rural pantries won’t be able to fill that need always.




Where To Get Formula If WIC & SNAP Doesn’t Meet Your Baby’s Needs

Call Your Pediatrician

Your pediatrician has sample cans on hand that they can give to families in need and should supply you with what your baby needs to make it through to your next payday, WIC check pickup, or SNAP disbursement. They may also be able to refer you to additional community organizations who are specialized in helping low income families with things like formula and diapers.
You may also want to give your local health department a call. They are likely to know of other avenues available.

NOTE: I’m aware that some folks may feel afraid to ask their pediatrician for fear of having child protective services called. Yes, use your best judgement about this and only if you feel safe with your provider.

Check Out Your Local Gift Economy Scene

This one may be tricky. You have to find it first, if it even exists. The idea of a gift economy is simply that if you need something, you ask and if you have something to give, you offer it up. No cash exchanged.
Your gift economy may exist on something like Freecycle or even in the community section of craigslist but more often, you’ll see some thriving local groups on Facebook. They may not be labeled “gift economy”. They may be something like “Moms Helping Moms” or something just as simple as “Free Exchange”.
Local parenting groups with an online group are an important resource and I encourage people to join them, even though they certainly can be a minefield of drama at times if they’re not well moderated.



Pregnancy Centers,Community Centers,Churches

You can use 211.org to find a lot of these resources but from my own experience, the list they have may not be complete or it’s outdated. I find that Catholic Charities is usually very helpful (experience may vary on location) and the pregnancy centers that have no religious affiliation are usually the most comfortable to seek help at.
Even if a church doesn’t have a food pantry serving the community, they may still be able to help.

Also recognizing here that asking churches may not be for everyone.

The House Farm Bill passed. Now let’s look at the Senate bill.

The 2018 Farm Bill passes the House last Thursday by a very narrow margin. 213 yeas to 211 nays. If you’re interested in seeing if your rep was on the yea or nay side of this, go here: Final Vote on HR2, June 21,2018

This bill cut $19 billion from SNAP which equates to serving around 2 million low income, food insecure people. It imposes stricter work requirements that can’t be opted out by states.  Instead of giving working families a little relief when they finally get their heads above water, it imposes a strict benefits cliff that cuts off benefits to those who’s income rises even slightly above the income eligibility limit. People formerly incarcerated for certain crimes are banned for life from receiving SNAP.  It also adds a ton of paperwork and reporting that will not only be expensive for states to implement but just complicates the application process. There are already under served low income folks not applying for SNAP because of the process and a lot of caseworkers are less able to act like social workers because of the amount of clerical business involved.

The Senate has introduced it’s own version of the Farm Bill  that avoids all the mean stuff and instead expands the programs they know help and introducing pilot programs to improve healthy food access. It makes things easier for disabled and elderly people allowing them to certify for 3 year periods and tweaks the EBT system so it’s more reliable.

In short, this is a bill that recognizes that SNAP works and strengthens it instead of hurting low income families. This bill will probably be voted on this week so call your Senators and tell them to vote YES on the Farm Bill.  There is a form letter here you can submit or call direct using 888-398-8702 or their office number.

As always, if you’re someone who hates making calls & deals with some anxiety over it, it’s helpful to write yourself a little script of what your going to say. This is a great tip sheet for phone calling with anxiety: How to Call Your Reps When You Have Social Anxieties

[today’s post brought to you by my delicious dinner of chicken stir fry that SNAP helped to purchase the ingredients for]

#HandsOffSnap

 


The House votes Friday on the current Farm Bill. This version cut or reduce food assistance for an estimated 2 million recipients. This bill imposes stricter work requirements and will highly impact single parents, older folks, and people with disabilities.
Take a few minutes to call your congressperson and ask them to vote NO on HR2 and cuts to SNAP. The Capital switchboard is 202-224-3121 or you can call your reps local office.

I’m including some helpful articles here if you need to familiarize yourself with the issues and talking points. As always, if you’re someone who hates making calls & deals with some anxiety over it, it’s helpful to write yourself a little script of what your going to say. This is a great tip sheet for phone calling with anxiety: How to Call Your Reps When You Have Social Anxieties

What the hell is the Farm Bill anyway?

For Farmers on SNAP, the Farm Bill Will Hurt in More Ways Than One

Congress should leave the food stamps program alone

“It’s weird growing food and being hungry at the same time”

2018 Farm Bill imposes a lifetime ban from SNAP for people convicted of certain offenses w/ no option for states to opt out

Farm Bill seeks to restrict food stamp benefits while allowing subsidies for billionaires

 

UPDATE: This bill passed. To learn about the Senate bill, go here

Food News: Using post offices as food sharing stations, the 2018 Farm Bill,ending food deserts in Minnesota

This post covers food news that pertains to food insecurity and SNAP.


First Class , a project proposal by Washington University students that won the  Urban SOS: Fair Share Student Competition, suggest utilizing postal workers and post offices to alleviate food insecurity. Postal workers could pick up food donations on their route and deliver them to the food bank or bring them back to the post office, which would also serve as a food sharing station. Going to the post office would also mean you’re walking into a permanent food bank. This proposal was focused on L.A. county so it doesn’t address accessibility issues for rural folks,obviously but in theory, this is such a great idea.

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Sonny Perdue, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Ag, hasn’t had a confirmation hearing yet but his staffers already have concerns about the lack of basic contact from The White House , as well as support through the hearings.   Perdue is likely to be confirmed without much of a challenge …if he doesn’t feel the need to withdraw his name first.

Meanwhile, the Farm Bill is up for renewal next year and understandably, there’s quite a bit of anxiety about what that’s going to look like. Food and ag policy people have already been discussing what the new Farm Bill might look like.
Civil Eats covered a discussion hosted by AGree and this is what was said about SNAP:

Another key topic of conversation was the future of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or the food stamp program. SNAP and other nutrition programs are funded through the Farm Bill, and account for about 75 percent of the Bill’s spending (in 2016, nutrition programs accounted for around 89 billion of mandatory federal spending).

Republican legislators have in the past proposed removing SNAP from the Farm Bill and converting it to a block grant, which would allocate its administration to the states. Anti-hunger advocates have argued that block-granting the program would result in cuts, as the program would have less ability to respond to emergency situations.

Several participants at the AGree event seemed confident that the SNAP program wouldn’t experience major cuts, let alone block-granting. “Anyone who thinks we’re going to get a Farm Bill by separating [commodity and nutrition programs] is full of baloney,” said Yoder, an Ohio farmer. “It’s not going to happen.”

Jerry Hagstrom, a veteran agriculture journalist, echoed this sentiment. He said that from what he’s seen, there is “complete unity” among agriculture and trade groups that nutrition and commodity programs should remain together in the 2018 Farm Bill.

But Eric Mitchell, from the anti-hunger advocacy organization Bread for the World, was more skeptical. He encouraged the audience to consider political forces beyond the food and agriculture industry. He expressed concern that the Republican Congress might still pursue block-granting SNAP even against the wishes of agriculture groups. Several powerful Republicans have supported a move to block grants, including House Agriculture Committee chair Mike Conaway and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The last Farm Bill process was paralyzed for over a year by political debates surrounding possible cuts to SNAP. Those debates were in large part responsible for the delayed passage of the Bill, which was two years overdue when it was eventually signed in early 2014.

I’m with Eric Mitchell on this. Not to sound dramatic but Paul Ryan is a formidable enemy of poor people and the programs that help them. I fully believe he & others will work hard to move SNAP to block grants and at this point, I can’t be sure he won’t succeed with that.

At this Food Tank  Summit event, Rep Chellie Pingree from Maine laid out what she thought the Farm Bill could look like.  About 2:30 in, Pingree starts discussing food insecurity and SNAP policies. Again, I think it’s highly optimistic to think this is an issue both parties will work together on. There are members of the GOP who can be presented with all the information that shows the different ways hunger in America looks like and disputing poverty as a moral failing and they still won’t try to do the right thing.


New bill aims at eliminating food deserts in Minnesota – the bill expands mobile pantries and asks for funding for more grocery stores and farmers markets ,too.


That’s all for now. I haven’t done one of these news wrap ups in awhile and I definitely missed a lot. I’ll have to aim to let less time pass between these types of posts.

Today’s song of the day… “Do You Still Love Me?” by Ryan Adams, for no other reason than this new album is being played heavily in my house this week.

SNAP News: Beginning Summer 2017, you can use food stamps to buy groceries online (in 7 states,anyway)

snap

The USDA is launching a pilot program this summer to test out the feasibility of allowing online grocers to accept SNAP. The intention is to help serve the needs of low income people in areas deemed food deserts, both rural and urban, as well as those who  have transportation and mobility barriers.

This may prove to be a crucial service for some people affected by the new USDA requirements that convenience stores and other vendors offer a wider variety of foods in order to qualify to accept food stamps and have been left with a larger gap in their accessibility to grocery stores. So far the program will be limited to just seven states to begin with – New York, Maryland, New Jersey,  Pennsylvania, Washington, Iowa, and Oregon, and only a few vendors have been selected. Amazon, FreshDirect, Safeway, ShopRite, Hy-Vee, Inc.,Hart’s Local Grocers , and Dash’s Market, the grocer behind the Rosie app.

This new pilot program could be a huge step forward to bridging that “healthy food” accessibility gap for low income people. The push for this began last summer with Thrive Markets (not chosen vendor) and Russel Simmons being among the biggest advocates.

Also in (trivial) SNAP news, a Republican guy who wants to be a politician in Oregon was on food stamps after his first Senate run, after spending $15,000 of his own money. Mike Callahan was unemployed and had joint custody of his two daughters. He qualified for food stamps and received them.
Ok?
He wasn’t earning enough money. He and his kids had to eat. That’s what the program is for. The gross thing here is that he fully admits that yep, he got food stamps but “it was a meager amount in comparison to others”. He’s better than everyone else who ever needed help. And sure, he basically squandered $15,000 that he could have used to support his family but so? He was trying to make something of himself!
(you know, not like the struggling Americans who get assistance who are thousands of dollars in debt because they spent money they didn’t really have on their own education who are now working in low wage jobs instead of what they have a degree in)

I’m not mad about the food stamps. I’m mad at the hypocrisy. Don’t tell me you want to represent “The People” if you think there’s a distinction between certain kinds of people.


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new food stamp amount: $221/month for a family of 5

We reapplied for food stamps at the end of May and finally got a decision this week. We were denied but then also approved in the same decision. Because I’m self-employed, they said the amount I made in May put us over the qualifying limit by $87 but then averaged the past 3 months of my income as a guideline of what I might typically make and that put us under the limit.

The other thing that changed is they do not include our twins on our SNAP case because they are full time college students who are not employed at least 20 hours a week yet. So, we’re on paper a family of five but I’m still buying groceries for a family of seven.

I’m confused about some of the rules for when someone is going to college. I was told by one person that if the twins are working at least 20 hrs/week this summer ,then they can be included on our SNAP case but then someone else told me that yes, BUT their income will also count as household income and that would probably put us over the qualifying limit. I’m guessing the latter is how that actually works.

Anyway, as it stands now we were approved finally and our amount will be $221 a month. That’s just short of 2 weeks of groceries for us. The USDA “Thrifty Family Meal Plan” guidelines say we should be spending about $970 for our family size per month but my food budget has been about half that for the past 6 months, sometimes even lower. It’s totally impossible without going to the food pantry every other week.

On the gardening front, things are slow but happening. We’re in a drought-like spell. I have no hose hookup at this house and I’m watering the garden by hauling jugs from inside the house. It takes forever and it’s not the same as a good soaking rain. Fortunately we know people who know how to do things and a friend is going to put a hose hookup in for us soon. This sounds like a much easier solution than my daughter’s suggestion of building an aqueduct or elaborate irrigation system.

So, adding to my $88 worth of rhubarb, I now have chives and chive infused vinegar.
15 oz dried chives-$28 (I arrived at this price by looking at the bulk spice prices at 2 local markets plus what’s available online)
16 oz of chive infused vinegar – $10
several bundles of fresh chives -$8

My husbeast has been fishing a lot lately,too. Having terrible luck catching anything worth keeping but this week another fisherman gave him a nice bass he didn’t feel like cleaning. That was a nice free dinner. I have no idea what a whole bass costs. A 12 oz package of sea bass is $23 where we usually shop but this isn’t exactly sea bass.
I need to remember to add the cost of his fishing and hunting license into my food production expenses tally. So far without that figured in, I’ve spent $120 on seeds,tools,and other gardening things.
I need to keep better track of time spent in the garden. Once I have a good idea of this,I’ll start putting a monetary value to that time,too. Two separate rates – migrant farm worker wage and living wage.

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, you can still own a car in Alabama if you get food stamps

Today’s daily dozen… 12 things related to SNAP.

  1. Are There Enough SNAP Shoppers in My Community? – This discusses why farmers’ markets may not find it worthwhile to accept EBT. The small town where we used to live had a certain prestige and we were the only family who used SNAP there.


  2. Alabama isn’t going to take cars away from food stamps recipients – Last week it was widely reported that Alabama Republicans introduced a bill that would prohibit people from owning a car if they get SNAP.  I’m not sure why it was reported the way it was but basically, this bill is like Maine’s asset test reinstatement from last fall. Asset test for assistance is a federal policy that most states waive. This reverses that waiver.

  3. The budget from the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), a.k.a. “the people’s budget.” is everything we need – “The CPC budget bulks up funding for food stamps, child nutrition programs, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance, along with housing assistance for low-income families. It indexes Social Security to a more generous cost-of-living measure, so benefits increase more over time. It expands both the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit, which top-off the paychecks for poorer Americans with extra cash. And it appropriates federal funding to create either national-level or state-level programs for paid sick leave and paid family leave.

    Along with replenishing these preexisting welfare programs, it would push non-defense discretionary spending back up to its historical average of 3.5 percent of the economy by 2021, down from the historic lows of 2.3 to 2.4 percent it’s at now. “In the long run [the CPC budget] spends a lot on needed public investments to push back against slowing productivity growth,” Blair said.

    But the CPC budget also contains some genuinely new additions: a public option for ObamaCare’s exchanges, funding to provide preschool for all families, a new program to refinance student debt, and a change to the law to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with providers. But arguably the biggest addition — in terms of economic impact — is the $1.2 trillion in new infrastructure spending the CPC budget would deploy in its first decade. There’s widespread agreement that at least that much is needed to repair the country’s seaports, roads, bridges, railways and such. And there’s hundreds of billions more needed to update the national infrastructure to make it more green friendly and environmentally sustainable.”


  4. ‘Congrats on Your College Degrees. Here Are Your Food Stamps.’– ugh. Just ugh.

  5. Senators uphold Nebraska food stamp ban for drug felons – Of all the policies that restrict people from getting food stamps, this one always makes me so angry. Felony convictions up the odds of living in poverty after release and then we take away the safety net. It’s ridiculous. I hope Sen Morfeld reintroduces the proposal.

  6. 9000+ Arkansans Losing SNAP at End of Month, Pantries Prepare to Serve More – this is the result of Arkansas reinstating work requirements

  7. Arkansas is looking at restricting certain foods from being purchased– That link goes to a misleading headline that makes it sound like a study was done that shows SNAP recipients buy junk food and “luxury” foods. What’s actually happening is an interim study was requested to look at how people spend SNAP money.

  8. House Agriculture Committee Questions USDA over Proposed SNAP Rule – Basically, those new proposed rules I talked about last week is what they’re asking questions about. Are these new requirements going to deter retailers from accepting SNAP?

  9. Tampons Shouldn’t Be Tax Free. They Should Be Covered by Food Stamps and Medicaid. – yes. yes, yes.

  10. Thousands of Unemployed Missouri Residents Will Soon Lose Their Food Stamp Benefits – same story as Arkansas

  11. Rules for SNAP benefits tightening in Maryland – same. Changes start April 1

  12. Proven at last: Want to raise a sneer? Buy organic while poor. – Oh,hell yes.

Pantry Anarchy: Hot Dog & Cabbage Soup (plus how to make veggie stock or broth)

Because recipes were made to be broken when you’re broke.

 

You have no idea how much I hate hot dogs. Ask anyone,especially my boys. When they get to have hot dogs, it’s like a holiday. And of course, they love hot dogs. Lucky for them, the food pantry has hot dogs. Hooray.

One of my favorite soups is Cabbage & Sausage, so I decided to pretend hot dogs are a really lovely chorizo and make soup with them.

For this soup, I only needed onion,cabbage,potatoes,tomatoes,and hot dogs. Oh,and soup stock.

I didn’t have any pre-made broth or stock or even homemade in the freezer, so I had to make a batch of veggie stock. Veggie stock is easy to make but you just have to have a little bit of extra time to make it. I usually make a large batch at once and freeze what I’m not going to use right away. You can also can it with a pressure canner.

Instead of composting all my veggie scraps, I will add them to my veggie scrap bag in the freezer. I try not to add too many brassicas (broccoli,cabbage,etc) because they tend to overwhelm the flavoring but everything else is fair game. Potato skins,carrot peels, stems,leaves…..whatever. When the bag is full, it’s time to make stock. To make stock, you just throw all your scraps into a pot,add enough water to cover the veg, and simmer for about 45 minutes. Honestly, it’s that simple.

If you want to make broth instead of stock, saute onions,carrots,herbs in oil FIRST, and then add your veggies and water.

Broth is seasoned , stock is not. That’s the difference.

Ok, back to my Pretend Chorizo and Cabbage Soup.

To make the soup, I sauteed onions, then put 4 or 5 cups of stock in a pot with the onions. Added ¼ head of cabbage,chopped and 3-4 potatoes,diced and not peeled. Tossed in a can of crushed tomatoes and a smattering of whatever herbs I had on hand . Basil and garlic,mostly. (I am running extremely low on herbs and spices). Next, I added the hot dogs. I boiled them ahead of time to….get the nitrates out? Is this a myth that actually works? I have no idea (and can’t google right this second) but it made me feel better to do it.

And this is why I love making soup. You just throw things in a pot and pretend you know what you’re doing.

All the ingredients I used except herbs were from the food pantry but this would be a low cost meal if you’re buying ingredients. I wish there was an app that told me if I’ve mentioned something multiple times already elsewhere on the blog because I’ve probably said this a million times but during a usual shopping trip, I always buy a cabbage because they’re usually inexpensive and I can stretch it through several meals plus they dont go bad quickly. (obviously,not going to be a good tip for those in food deserts w/ little or expensive produce. Apologies.)


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Daily Dozen: SNAP News

[contents: food stamp cuts, block grants, former prisoners,senior citizens,Jeb Bush. Specific states: Pennsylvaia,Nebraska,Illinois,Massachusetts,Maine ]

  1. Food Assistance Cuts Affecting Up To 1 Million Impoverished Americans Ignored By Network News –  22 states reinstated policies that cut food stamps to around 1 million people and major network news sources never talked about it.
  2. Why Half a Million People Will Lose Their Food Stamps This Year – a refresher on why these cuts are happening
  3. For Maine Families Depending on SNAP for Groceries, Every Penny Counts – this shows what shopping looks like on SNAP plus mentions important things like lack of transportation and food accessibility
  4. Nebraska Could Be The Next State To Stop Punishing Drug Felons Years After They Leave Prison – hallelujah
  5. Put SNAP Into Block Grants? No Way – I covered this a little bit in the last SNAP news update. GOP wants to end the SNAP program and give states “block grants”. This is what that would mean.
  6. Editorial: Hunger has no place here in the US -this is really just a praise peice for Rep Jim McGovern from Massachusetts but brings to light key issues surrounding hunger in the US. McGovern is easily the most vocal rep that I can think of on this issue ,so I don’t even mind the praising tone
  7. 1700 Beaver County residents could lose food stamps in June – cuts in PA coming in June
  8. Are SNAP benefits really too low? On one hand, SNAP IS an effective anti-poverty program but in some areas, the amount really is too low, in my opinion. As much as I dislike SNAP challenges, we’ve seen politicians and celebs demonstrate that it’s really frickin’ hard to eat on SNAP and it isn’t just because those people are used to eating outrageously. If it’s being suggested that SNAP amounts are already enough, that essentially says that low income people don’t deserve to eat enough or well.
  9. SNAP and Seniors: A Health and Economic Issue -you don’t even have to read this one to know it’s shameful
  10. When we deny food stamps to ex-offenders we set them up to fail – precisely. It makes no sense at all
  11. Food stamps to be offered for more Illinois families – Good news for Illinois . SNAP is being expanded to include more families.
  12. Jeb Bush, Please Educate Yourself About Food Stamps – yeah, I doubt that’ll happen