A plan to spend $1.5 billion on anti-hunger programs, including a $5 a month increase for food stamp families, was approved Tuesday by the Senate Agriculture Committee and sent to the Senate floor.
Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., was the only senator to go on record against the bill. He complained of corruption in the food stamp program and said the government already is spending $20 billion a year on food assistance programs.Backers say the bill is the largest anti-hunger initiative in a decade. It would raise the food stamp allowance for a family of four by $5 a month, give $40 million in food to soup kitchens, allow larger school meals, keep a food distribution program running for two more years and try to improve family self-sufficiency.
Committee members also approved a bill by Sen. John Melcher, D-Mont., just to extend the life of the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program.
"It's only for the purposes of if this broader bill gets hung up," Melcher said.
The House also is working on anti-hunger legislation.
"In the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earch, we should not have hunger," Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., of the Agriculture Committee said in supporting the wide-ranging bill.
Helms objected to the way the debate was being framed and said the 13 existing anti-hunger programs show the government is trying to help the needy.
"I don't want to be a party pooper about this thing . . . but it is not fair to say a lot is not being done," Helms said.
A recent Library of Congress study said 19.4 million people received food stamps in 1986 and 32.4 million people lived below the poverty line that year.
Among the provisions of the bill are a first-ever requirement for the Agriculture Department to buy $145 million of high-protein food a year for TEFAP as well as providing surplus foods, an increase of 3 cents in the reimbursement for school breakfasts, simpler application forms for food stamps, and steps to make it easier for rural residents and farmers to participate in the food stamp program.