36 posts categorized "Hunger Resources"
Photo by Flickr user Southern Foodways Alliance
Many folks don’t know that recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) can use their benefits to purchase seeds and plant gardens at home. And while this can take some time and effort, the benefits far outweigh the cost, says Holly Hirschberg, founder of The Dinner Garden in San Antonio, TX, which sends people packets of seeds for free. Begun in 2008 at the height of the recession, The Dinner Garden receives thousands of requests for seeds daily from people all over the country who are struggling to make ends meet and feed their families. I spoke with Hirschberg last week to learn more about the inspiration and day-to-day operations of the Dinner Garden.
How did you start Dinner Garden?
I started the dinner garden in 2008 during the beginning of the recession. My husband lost his job and the first thing I did was plant a garden for my family. I thought that’s one last thing I’d have to worry about.
During this time, I learned that there are so many people who needed food. People who would donate food to food banks now needed the food instead of being a donor. Gas prices were $5 a gallon and people didn’t have gas money to get to the food bank, even if there was food available.
So I thought I would send seeds directly to someone’s house and they wouldn’t need gas money to pick them up and they could have a little more control about how they fed their family and take care of their family in a way that brought dignity and honor.
Where do you get funding for the Dinner Garden?
We started in the summer 2008 and started giving out seeds by January 2009. I told people about my idea and asked for donations from my friends. We bought some seeds and we had some postage money. I knew people in Michigan were having trouble so I put an ad in Craigslist asking people if they wanted any seeds. I had to take it down after a half hour because we had gotten 80 requests.
The requests were so heartfelt -- people were saying, “We’re desperate. There’s no work in Michigan.”
We sent out seeds until we ran out of postage.
What kinds of seeds to you send to your recipients?
We send out between 10 and 12 varieties. We include things that people recognize, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, and then we throw in stuff people haven’t seen before. We try to make people into lifelong gardeners, and we are also trying to help people expand their diet and be healthier, and that comes from being exposed to new things.
How did you find out that SNAP recipients can use their benefits to purchase seeds?
It seemed like a lot of our clients were on food stamps, so we thought it would be great to let people know and we have the means to get that information to the people who are going to use it.
And while working people might think they don’t have time to garden, I believe gardening has evolved with a lot of innovation that don’t require you to do what you used to have to do. Seeds are going to grow. Put them in the ground at the right time with sun, water, and soil and they are going to grow.
Yesterday, the Congregational United Church of Christ in Iowa City, IA launched a seven-part educational series on hunger that is free and open to their community. While seven sessions seems like a long series, each addresses a different aspect of hunger – from how to access healthy and sustainably produced food to the local face of hunger – and provides attendees with a full picture of the complex and interrelated causes and effects of hunger and food insecurity in our nation and around the world. I spoke with Donna Hirst, the chair of the mission board of the Congregational United Church of Christ, about the series and what she’s seeing on the ground in Iowa City.
Jeannie Choi: What was the inspiration for your church’s seven-part series on hunger issues?
Donna Hirst: The mission board of our church has four responsibilities: finances, advocacy, education, and direct service. In the past we have often done a major speaker series; for example, one year we had five or six speakers on health care reform.
It was unanimous that this year we do a series on hunger, and it was also the first year that we attempted a seven-part series, which is pretty ambitious for our church group. But I am just delighted that it’s falling together so well. We had our first event Sunday and we saw a film called “Silent Killer: The Unfinished Campaign Against Hunger.” We had about 40 people, which is great considering it’s an interim, and none of the students are in town. (Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa.) I was really pleased with the turnout and we’ve got now six more sessions.
I was most interested in the session with a local farmer. Tell me a little bit about this session.
Dana Foster is a farmer for Scattergood Friends, which provides food for school kids and teaches kids about farming and sustainable farming practices. And so she’s not only a very committed farmer in that sense -- raising food for the school -- but she’s also a farmer teaching about the land and growing.
What signs of hunger or food insecurity do you see in your community?
We have a very large crisis center and food pantry and have served not just the Iowa City area, but Johnson County with organized food distribution programs. It seems like for the last 10 years, every year there’s more and more people in need of food assistance, and they get lots of extra food at Thanksgiving and then they’re out of food by the first of December! And then they get extra food at Christmas, but sustaining that over the course of the year is really challenging, and this is in a community that’s relatively stable economically.
What is your goal with this series? What do you hope participants will take away?
The focus of this seven-part series is education, but by the time we get to the last session on Feb. 19, we will have eight people who are going to talk about their local agencies, what they do to alleviate hunger in the region, and how they utilize volunteers. When the series is over, our congregation is going to have another session where we sign people up to volunteer. Our hope is that people would really want to continue volunteering and that they would work that into their regular schedule.
Why is fighting hunger important for you, personally?
I think that I grow spiritually when I can connect with people of all types, all situations, all ages, and that connectedness fills up my soul. I need these connections to be complete and healthy.
It’s very painful to have an interaction with someone who you can tell is suffering for whatever reason, but some kinds of suffering an individual can’t do too much to alleviate. When somebody you know has just had a divorce, you can be moral support, but you can’t change their situation. But if someone doesn’t have enough food, you can give them food, and I think that’s part of why I really want to be very active in our church mission program. The hunger series is just an excellent example of working toward that.
In this next installment of hunger resources, I've gathered a collection of articles on how U.S. farming is changing, and several updates on development campaigns such as the Half-in-Ten campaign and the Millennium Development Goals. Got any hunger resources of your own? Share them in the comments section below.
- The Changing Organization of U.S. Farming. (Donoghue, Erik…et al. USDA/ERS, Dec. 2011): "Future innovations will be necessary to maintain, or boost, current productivity gains in order to meet the growing global demands that will be placed upon U.S. agriculture."
- Achieving the Right to Food: From Global Governance to National Implementation. (deSchutter, Olivier. UN Committee on World Food Security, Oct. 2011): "What he meant is that unless we take seriously our duties towards the most vulnerable, and the essential role of legal entitlements in ensuring that the poor have either the resources required to produce enough food for themselves or a purchasing power sufficient to procure food from the market, our efforts at increasing production shall change little to their situation."
- Cutting Poverty in Half in 10 Years: Tools for Action. (Half in Ten, Nov. 2011): "The Half in Ten campaign’s goal of cutting the U.S. poverty rate in half over the next decade goes beyond a simple examination of the number of people who fall below the official poverty level. The campaign recognizes that well-being is multidimensional and that moving above the official poverty line does not necessarily signal an end to deprivation."
- The Big Handout: How Government Subsidies and Corporate Welfare Corrupt the World We Live In and Wreak Havoc On Our Food Bills, by Kostigen, Thomas M. (Rodale, 2011).
- FWD: Famine, War, and Drought. (USAID): "Famine, war, and drought are threatening millions of lives in the Horn of Africa and the world should be talking about it. Do more than donate. FWD the facts."
- More Money or More Development: What Have the MDGs Achieved? (Kenny, Charles and Andy Sumner, Center for Global Development): "What have the MDGs achieved? And what might their achievements mean for any second generation of MDGs or MDGs 2.0? We argue that the MDGs may have played a role in increasing aid and that development policies beyond aid quantity have seen some limited improvement in rich countries (the evidence on policy change in poor countries is weaker)."
Screenshot from Rick Steves' European Christmas
If times seem tough for our friends and family now, imagine how tough they are for hungry and poor people. To inject a little extra meaning into the holiday season, each Christmas we put on a fundraiser for Bread for the World. This year the needs and rewards are particularly great. I’d love to send you a special Christmas gift package in thanks for your gift to empower Bread’s work.
Bread urges our government to address the needs of hungry people here at home and around the world. Especially today, when there are so many interests elbowing for attention on Capitol Hill, hungry and poor people need a strong, compassionate advocate like Bread.
While all the great charitable work we do as caring citizens is important, it’s interesting to realize that all the food provided by these charities amounts to just 6 percent of the food provided by government programs for poor and hungry people. That means that the advocacy work of Bread for the World has a huge impact on the most vulnerable among us. Considering the value of this advocacy work, I’m convinced that supporting Bread is the best way to leverage my charitable giving. That’s why I’ve been a Bread member for 30 years now.
I see Bread for the World not as a charity, but as a service. They are transforming my concern about hunger into effective actionby trying to protect struggling people in our country.
So here’s my challenge to you for this Christmas: Help Bread for the World’s dedicated staff do their work with your gift of $100. As a thank you, I’ll send you three gifts (worth $50):
- My Rick Steves’ European Christmas DVD (our PBS-TV special which celebrates a traditional, non-commercial, and sacred Christmas in seven different countries);
- Our European Christmas coffee-table book (sharing the fun insights and best photos I picked up while producing this special); and
- The Christmas music CD we produced while filming (featuring our 20 favorite European carols).
- View a 2-minute video about the gifts.
I’ll happily pay for the cost of these gifts and postage so that Bread can use 100 percent of your donation for their work. Make your gift by December 15, and you’ll get everything in time for Christmas.
It’s my hope that these gifts will bring a wonderful new twist to your family celebrations for years to come (as they have for mine) while enticing you to empower Bread for the World with your donation.
Thanks and Merry Christmas!
Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to him c/o P.O. Box 2009, Edmonds, WA 98020.
Photo by Flickr user thejester100
In this next installment of hunger resources, I've created a short list of articles that cover farm subsidies, black unemployment, the federal budget and more. Got any hunger resources of your own? Share them in the comments section below.
- “Why Fruits, Vegetables are Excluded From Farm Subsidies: Fairness Factor is Who is Covered, Who is Not,” by Alli Condra, Food Safety News, Nov. 9, 2011 (3 pages).
- “High Black Unemployment Widespread Across Nation’s Metropolitan Areas,” by Algernon Austin. Economic Policy Institute, Oct. 3, 2011 (8 pages).
- “Feed the Future: Navigating Through the U.S. Budget Tsunami,” by Larry Nowels, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Oct. 12, 2011 (7 pages).
- “Quantifying Poverty’s Global Decline,” by Laurence Chandy, Brookings, Oct. 2011.
- “Food Security Experts Review Mixed Outcome of the Green Revolution,” by Kate Johnson. Center on Food Security and the Environment, Oct. 18, 2011.
In this next installment of hunger resources, I've gathered a collection of articles on how people suffer from hunger and the overall cost of hunger in a society. Got any hunger resources of your own? Share them in the comments section below.
- On the Brink: Who’s Best Prepared for a Climate and Hunger Crisis? (Casey, Leora and Alex Wijeratna. Actionaid, Oct. 2011):
"Accelerating climate change, growing population and rising food prices pose a triple crisis that could lead to a collapse in global food systems."
- Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 2011. Claiming Human Rights: The Accountability Challenge. (Brot fur die Welt, FIAN and ICCO, Oct. 11, 2011)
"Despite the growth of a worldwide Right to Food movement and the existence of international frameworks and mechanisms to protect human rights, an unacceptable number of violations remain unpunished, according to the Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 2011, an annual publication released today that monitors food security and nutrition policies from a human rights perspective."
- Food Sovereignty: Reclaiming the Global Food System. (Branford, Sue. War on Want, Oct. 2011.)
"The scandal of global hunger stands as a rebuke to humanity. The fact that record numbers of people are classified as hungry, at a time when there is unprecedented wealth in theworld, challenges the very concept of human progress."
- Farmers Facing Loss of Subsidy May Get New One (Neuman, William, New York Times, Oct. 17, 2011)
"It seems a rare act of civic sacrifice: in the name of deficit reduction, lawmakers from both parties are calling for the end of a longstanding agricultural subsidy that puts about $5 billion a year in the pockets of their farmer constituents. Even major farm groups are accepting the move, saying that with farmers poised to reap bumper profits, they must do their part."
- Hunger In America: Suffering We All Pay For (Shepard, Donald S … et al, Center for American Progress & Brandeis University, Oct. 2011)
"The Great Recession and the currently tepid economic recovery swelled the ranks of American households confronting hunger and food insecurity by 30 percent. In 2010 48.8 million Americans lived in food insecure households, meaning they were hungry or faced food insecurity at some point during the year."
- Interactive Map: Costs of Hunger (Cooper, Donna, Center for America Progress, Oct. 4, 2011)
An interactive map on the costs of hunger created by the Center for American Progress.
Chris Matthews is the librarian at Bread for the World Institute.
Get updates on issues and actions to take on behalf of hungry people.