Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

6 posts from April 2007

The Challenge I'm Avoiding

Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski is doing it. My cubicle neighbor will start in two weeks, and she’s trying to convince the whole office to join her. I have the nagging feeling that I should try it, but I’m not sure I could last a week.

I’m talking about the Food Stamp Challenge: surviving for one week on $21 worth of groceries. This is the average weekly benefit for food stamp participants, and most experts agree that it is not sufficient for a balanced, nutritious diet. My first thought was that $21 for one week wouldn’t be that bad. The next time I go to Safeway, I can buy a gallon-size box of oatmeal (31 servings) for $1.99, yogurts for $.50 each, and even squeeze in some apples and salads. No problem. I might even eat healthier.

Then I thought about my last three days. On Monday, I ran for a half hour with some friends, enjoying the warm weather and lingering sun. Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves by heading to a pub to eat and watch the Red Sox game. I spent $8.95 on a Caesar salad, which was about $11 when I added tax and tip. That would have blown half my budget right there.

Yesterday, I had a PB&J sandwich and an apple for lunch, washed down with free and healthy water. By 3 P.M., though, I was hungry again. I bought a bag of BBQ-flavored soy crisps at the café next door to our office. Sure, they taste like BBQ and they have both calcium and protein, but the price is $1.76. If I were on a one dollar per meal budget, that’s quite a splurge.

Tonight, I’m meeting a friend at Cosi. I’ll just get tea, but that will set be back about $2. Of course, I will supplement this with lots of their free bread samples. Still, I’ve spent nearly $15 so far on one meal and two tiny snacks – and I haven’t even made it to the weekend.

I’m sure I could eat for a week for with only $21. After all, over 25 million people use food stamps each month and most of them do survive on such a budget. Food is not just fuel for me, though. I buy snacks for fun and for a quick break from work. Lots of times when I meet friends, we end up at coffee shops. Worst of all for a food stamp budget, I love eating out - especially after running. The food stamp budget does not allow for many last-minute purchases or meals that are not prepared at home. As someone who changes her mind five times a day and can’t cook anything beyond omelets, I’m dreading this challenge.

Download food_stamp_challenge_faith_journal.pdf



Need a Study Break?

Do you need a study break?  I'd encourage you to take 15 minutes to watch this excellent video on the Food Stamp Program.  It gives the history of the program and talks about the success it's reached today.  If you still want to procrastinate after watching the film take a couple minutes and write to your memeber of Congress about the Farm Bill.  The Food Stamp Program falls within the Farm Bill, so we have an opportunity this year to strengthen this excellent program.

Senior Boxes

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) falls within the Nutrition title of the Farm Bill.  It provides participtes, primarily elderly, with a 45-pound package of nutirionally balanced foods.  Two wonderful South Dakota Bread for the World activists decided that they needed to learn more about this program, so they volunteered for a day with the Salvation Army, a local service agency that distributes CSFP.  Below is their reflection on this experience and CSFP.

On April 12, we helped to deliver the commodity food boxes known as "Senior Boxes". The recipients were all smiles, every one.  We asked Mr H if he would show us what was in the box. The sound he made as he lifted each item out seemed to be a combination gasp/ laugh /sigh, that made a sound expressing absolute delight, at each item, even the can of spinach.  Another recipient told us, "On my Social Security check, this means whether I will make it through the month or not."
Another said she lives in a house old enough that the city is requiring upgrades according to city codes. So she has taken out two loans, one a HUD loan and one personal loan. From her fixed income of $827, she pays on these loans and then alternates each month paying the light bill and the water bill.

All over South Dakota, these 30-pound boxes are very popular with low-income seniors, both rural and city people. Some rural food pantries open only on days "Senior Boxes" are available. Many of these seniors do not receive food stamps. The boxes seem to have less stigma. When we picked up the boxes at the Sioux Falls Salvation Army, no parking places were to be had, so many people had come to pick up their food. Inmates were helping load the boxes into cars. (The folks we delivered to were surprised that women were delivering, because of the weight of the boxes.)

President Bush's budget zeroes out the funding for this program. But it should be saved. South Dakota gets 3000 of these commodity food boxes each month & could use more, not fewer.

By supporting Bread for the World's efforts to broadly reform the Farm Bill we can improve programs like Food Stamps and CSFP.

Our Prayers are with You

Bread for the World sends it's deepest sympathy and prayers to the community of Virginia Tech.  Our hearts and thoughts are with you. 

A Prayer by Blair Gilmer Meeks

God of heaven and earth, you know the sound a sparrow makes when it falls to the ground.
Hear now our voices joined in quiet outrage.
We are thunderstruck, and cannot find the words.
Send your Spirit to speak for us, O God,
to plead our case before you and release the anguish of our hearts.

God of all consolation,
we cry for peace, and there is none in our hearts.
Send your river of life flowing through us
to cleanse the wounds of our sorrows and still the turmoil of our minds.

We cry against the flagrant waste of lives,
promises that will not be kept, friendships lost, the love of family left ungratified.
Our cries protest the deaths that rob the living and the dead of precious time
and plunge us into the depths of grief and pain.
Because we cannot understand, show us your peace that passes all understanding.

God of life, your anger sears the mountains
and strikes terror in those who spurn your will:
Open our eyes to your presence and let us see
that death is always counter to your word.
Show us your streams that rush with living water,
your mindful watch in every struggle against death.
Give us grace to know your gift in Jesus,
our companion through death's night, and our guide to your new day's glory.
Fill us with your Spirit's breath of life and life us to you in our need
the we may know your sorrow, deep as our own, and hear your word of hope.
In Jesus' name.  Amen.

Are you coming to the Gathering?

Let us and others know if you're coming to the Gathering 2007.

A Simple Food Aid Improvement

 “Buy fresh, buy local” is often the mantra of Farmers’ Market proponents. They note that regionally-grown produce is more nutritious, and that purchasing it supports farmers in your community. This philosophy could improve overseas food aid as well, by increasing the amount of food available, allowing it to arrive more quickly to where it is needed, and helping farmers in developing countries.

The current U.S. policy mandates that food donated to African countries must be grown in the U.S. and shipped to where it is needed, which takes four to six months. Here’s a recent info-graphic run in the New York Times illustrating the lengthy process: Download food_aid.gif Food_aid_3

Instead of this costly and inefficient process, the World Food Program bought corn from Zambia, Kenya, and Uganda and distributed it to hungry citizens in these nations. Not only was this more efficient, but it also gave local farmers a boost and allowed the organization to provide 75% more food to needy families than they could have afforded if they had American products (1).

The Bush administration wants to allow up to one-quarter of our food aid budget to go towards buying locally-grown produce during emergencies. This would allow food to reach areas where it is needed more quickly, and would support local agriculture. More food would also be available, due to a decrease in shipping costs, which the U.S. could save over 50,000 lives over six months (2).

           Hunger and poverty have many complex causes, but this issue illustrates one simple solution that could save many lives and help the long-term economies of developing countries. Let's hope that Congress and the President work together to make our food aid more efficient and effective.

1. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/07/world/africa/07zambia.html?pagewanted=1&_r=3&hp.

2. U.S. Agency for International Development

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