Thursday, January 24, 2019

Sourdough Bread Workshop 2019

On January 23, we had an awesome workshop where we demonstrated how to start a starter for sourdough bread and how to shape it to then cook. We had a great turn out and an even better taste test. Thanks to those who joined us, be sure to look out for our next workshops 'Things on Toast' and 'Growing and Cooking with Microgreens.' We hope to continue to get everyone involved in these events so spread the word!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

MLK Day of Service 2019

Yesterday we held our annual MLK Day of Service. We had a great turnout of about 50 volunteers who helped deep clean the pantry and set up for the spring 2019 gardening season. We are so grateful for all the hard work the volunteers put in and all the work they were able to get done. In addition to that, we introduced several upcoming advocacy events that we are looking for more community members and volunteers to join. If you are interested in learning more about that, we have an upcoming Hub Dinner on Tuesday February 5th from 6-7:30. Feel free to stop by, grab some food (vegetarian- friendly), talk through several current state- level bills, and get training from our friends at Hoosier Action on how to “Hustle.” No experience necessary- for additional questions contact Hannah at or 812-355-6843. We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

TANF: Why Changes to this Outdated Program are Vital

At the Hub, we believe that access to healthy food is a basic human right. In addition to our work in the food pantry, community gardens, and kitchen, the Hub's advocacy program looks at the root causes of hunger and supports policies that help community members get the food they need. This year, MHC advocacy interns dove into researching the TANF program (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), sometimes better known as cash assistance. This program, which has enormous potential to help community members access much-needed financial support, has a complicated history in Indiana. To learn more, keep reading!

About TANF

TANF is a safety net program designed to help families achieve self-sufficiency through programs such as child care and cash assistance, contingent upon fulfillment of specific work requirements from both the state and federal government. 
TANF is federally funded through block grants, which means that states are given a bulk sum of money that they have the flexibility to use as seen fit. When it was established in 1996, supporters of this structure said that states would use this flexibility to redirect funds from cash welfare to longer-term programs to promote self-sufficiency. In TANF’s early years, this was the case. However, over time, states (including Indiana) redirected large portions of TANF funds to other purposes, such as filling state budget holes. Even during the Great Recession, when this program was all the more necessary, these funds were not redirected to the core welfare reform services that are meant to provide safety nets for families in crisis; instead, budgets were cut.
Cash assistance is one of three of these core welfare reform services. In 2016, only 6% of TANF funds in Indiana were spent on cash assistance, down from 29% in 2001. To be clear, 50,000 families in Indiana experience deep poverty, yet fewer than 8500 received cash aid.
In stark contrast, a staggering $96 million32% of TANF fundswere allocated to a vague category labeled “Other.” Representatives from the Indiana Institute for Working Families said they investigated and were unable to acquire information regarding what expenditures constituted this category.

States set their own eligibility requirements for receiving TANF benefits. In Indiana, work requirements to receive TANF benefits are not flexible. This prevents families who face barriers to consistent employment from receiving assistance. For example, families and individuals experiencing mental and physical impairments, substance abuse, domestic violence, learning disabilities, problems with housing, childcare or transportation might be unable to fulfill the work requirements and thus don’t qualify to receive benefits.
States also have the flexibility to set benefit levels. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, TANF benefit levels are not high enough in most states to lift a family of three above the poverty line. This is telling, considering that TANF’s ultimate objective is to help families achieve self-sufficiency.
From 2015 to 2016, only 7 out of 100 Hoosier families in poverty received basic assistance through TANF, compared to 45 out of 100 families in poverty from 2003 to 2004. Furthermore, since its establishment, the program has not been adjusted for inflation. Benefits, around $288/month for a family of three, have lost more than ⅓ of their value. Structural revisions to this outdated program are long overdue.
The appalling data about TANF is only the tip of the iceberg. We must remember what the inability to access vital support does to familiesit keeps them in a cycle of poverty that is, for many, economically impossible to escape. Thousands of families in deep poverty are unable to seek healthier lives, food, and opportunities; the way TANF works right now, benefits are out of reach for American families who need it the most.

Take Action

A TANF bill that would adjust the income eligibility requirements to make benefits more accessible has made an appearance in the IGA session for the past two years. Though it received hearings, it never made it to a full floor vote. But the upcoming year could be different with enough community support. According to the IIWF, state legislators are working to raise income eligibility levels for TANF from 16% of the federal poverty line to 50%.
If you or someone you know, has experience with TANF or other safety net programs (SNAP, Section 8, CCDF, etc), you can share your story with the Indiana Institute for Working Families (IIWF) here.
IIWF is also collecting signatures in support of legislation to raise eligibility and benefit levels for TANF. Sign on here.
Update: The TANF bill (Senate Bill 440) has been filed as of January 10! Find out more here.