Critical Issues Forum
Activities and Accomplishments 2015 – 2018
The mission of the Critical Issues Forum: Advocacy for Social Justice (CIF) is to advocate for solutions to societal issues consistent with Jewish values. Currently, CIF is focusing on food insecurity in Montgomery County and elsewhere in Maryland, where it impacts thousands of residents of all nationalities and ages.
CIF is comprised of Temple Beth Ami, Kol Shalom, and Adat Shalom and represents more than 1,750 households and three denominations of Judaism: Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist.
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Recent Maryland Activities
Submitted written and oral testimony:
- Supporting increased minimum benefit for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), called Food Supplement Program (FSP) in Maryland (passed for seniors). SNAP is a Federal program run by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- Supporting facilitating Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) (passed), CEP is a USDA program that provides free, universal breakfast and lunch in high-poverty schools.
- Supporting increased Maryland Meals for Achievement (MMFA) funding (passed with incremental funding).
- Supporting the State assuming the cost for reduced-price meals under the Federal Free and Reduced Price Meals (FARMs) program (passed with incremental funding).
- Presented oral and written testimony before County Delegation, Joint House and Senate Priorities Hearing, on anti-hunger bills.
Other State Activities
- Lobbied Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) to obtain USDA permission to implement an Elderly Simplified Application Program (ESAP) for FSP (Maryland received a federal waiver to initiate ESAP).
- Met with State DHS to advocate for increased direct certification in FSP program
- Participated in Anti-Hunger Lobby Days in Annapolis.
- Submitted comments on USDA Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking changing waiver rules for able bodied adults without dependents under SNAP that would reduce eligibility for SNAP.
Montgomery County Activities
- Held several meetings with County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) advocating for additional outreach and other measures to improve the FSP penetration rate in Montgomery County.
- Submitted testimony to County Council on 2019 Recommended Operating Budget.
- Submitted comments on FY 2019 DHHS Operating Budget.
- Participated in the development of the Montgomery County Food Security Plan and submitted recommendations to update it.
- Held several meeting with Benefits Data Trust focusing on why FSP participation for eligible persons is so low in the County.
Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) Activities
- Met several times with MCPS to advocate for an increased number of CEP schools.
- Presented oral and written testimony to Board of Education to protest MCPS pause in CEP schools. (This initiated reconsideration that resulted in MCPS deciding to provide free, universal lunch in seven high-poverty schools, the equivalent of a five school increase in CEP schools.)
- Met with MCPS Foundation to advocate measures to decrease food shaming.
- Met with principle of South Lake ES on MMFA and CEP.
- Attended event at South Lake ES celebrating 20th anniversary of MMFA.
Work with Maryland Hunger Solutions
- Partnered with Maryland Hunger Solutions and Partnership to End Childhood Hunger on numerous initiatives and issues.
- Participated in Maryland Hunger Solutions “Fighting Hunger in Maryland” conference.
- Awarded “Community Group of the Year” award (2017) by Maryland Hunger Solutions.
- Signed numerous petitions relating to food insecurity.
- Hosted several public forums at Temple Beth Ami on food insecurity issues.
- Co-sponsored a public forum at Temple Beth Ami for candidates for the House of Delegates in four districts and the County Executive; CIF co-chair moderated one forum.