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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

Inflation, Farm Bill uncertainty have OH food banks concerned about 2024

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Tuesday, January 2, 2024   

Looming federal budget deadlines are just a few weeks away, and food banks in Ohio say the risk of reduced funding for nutrition, health care and other assistance programs, could trigger increased demand in 2024.

According to the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, within the past year, eight in 10 clients relied on local pantries for help with groceries because of higher food costs.

Tommie Harner, CEO of the West Ohio Food Bank, said inflation and uncertainty around the next Farm Bill, which helps fund programs such as SNAP, has food banks worried. She explained when safety net funding is slashed or eliminated, hardship increases for families already living paycheck to paycheck.

"If those programs aren't fully funded as they need to be, we can potentially see an even greater increase," Harner cautioned. "It can really deplete our budgets as well, because we'll have to start purchasing more food just to make sure that we can keep up with that demand."

Funding for many critical federal programs helping food banks stock, store and distribute food, including the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, is set to expire on January 19th. Congress has also stalled on the new Farm Bill, choosing to instead extend the 2018 version of the legislation until September of this year.

Dan Flowers, president and CEO of the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank, said the burden on local organizations providing services cannot be underestimated when federal benefits shrink.

"One thing that we saw in 2021, when SNAP benefits were extended, we saw a big decrease in the number of people that came into food pantries," Flowers recounted. "There's a huge correlation between public policy and the number of people that are in need of these services."

Congress is also proposing funding cuts to the federal Women Infant and Children nutrition program. The program, which faces an estimated $1 billion shortfall, provides low-income pregnant and postpartum people with fresh produce, breastfeeding support and benefits for children younger than age five.


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