245 posts categorized "Hunger in the News"
Many local newspapers have recently published op-eds written by food bank representatives, all of them with a clear message to Congress: if legislators cut nutrition assistance, charity cannot fill the hunger gap.
Many Christians and others are generous in supporting food banks, but with the needs of struggling families they are anticipating, the food banks simply cannot ramp up their assistance quickly enough and will never have the capacity to fill the gap that Congress has created.
Paul Ash, executive director of the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks, talks about a potential $40 billion cut to SNAP (food stamps) in his op-ed "Food Banks can't make up for food stamp benefit cuts," published Nov. 17, 2013, in SF Gate. "[W]e can raise our voice in protest now, or prepare to watch our neighbors go without enough to eat," he writes.
"It's easy to pass off what goes on in Washington as senseless, unwise, irrational, or out of our control," Ash continues. "But it's more useful to be shouting as loud as we can – through our representatives, to the conferees who will cast the votes, and to the White House – that this is not acceptable."
Ash notes in the op-ed that the Nov. 1 SNAP cuts, combined with the $40 billion in proposed cuts in the House version of the farm bill, would mean that every food bank in the nation would have to double the amount of assistance they provide in order to meet demand. Donors, Ash notes, have shown no signs that they would be willing to double their giving, which would leave food banks unable to provide food to people in need of emergency aid.
The next few weeks are critical as members of the farm bill conference committee negotiate a final bill. The cuts that have already taken place have made it more difficult for already-struggling families to put food on the table. As food prices increase and benefits decrease, more families will likely find themselves in need of charitable food donations earlier in the month — but cuts to nutrition assistance will leave a hunger gap that cannot be closed by churches, pantries, or food banks.
Each time a food bank representative speaks out in local papers, which members of Congress read, faithful advocates have an opportunity to amplify that message. When you see such articles, we urge you to write a letter to the editor. Contact your regional organizer if you need assistance or talking points.
With 49 million Americans at risk of hunger, and more than 1 billion people around the world living in extreme poverty, now is the time to raise your voice in protest. SNAP and international food aid programs must be protected in the farm bill. Email or call your member of Congress at 800-826-3688 today.
Photo: A food bank in Alexandria, Va., provides emergency food assistance (Rick Reinhard).
Last weekend, hundreds of Catholic youths descended on Washington, D.C., for the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, an annual gathering of college and high school students from Jesuit institutions. They prayed together, networked, reflected, and learned about working for justice in the world. The speakers were inspiring, but even more inspiring were the students! They were bright, passionate, engaged, informed, energetic, and deeply committed to letting the love of Jesus spill out of them in both their personal lives, and in their public service and advocacy. They inspired, rejuvenated, and showed me the face of Jesus over and over again.
As Bread for the World’s Catholic relations fellow, I was given the opportunity to put together a team to hang out with hundreds of these amazing young people, who are looking to explore what it means to be an active Catholic with a public voice.
My fellow Bread staff members and I presented at a number of workshops. Amelia Kegan, a domestic policy analyst at Bread, and I talked about creating a "circle of protection" around essential safety net programs here in the United States, and how to take action by urging policy makers to strengthen programs that help hungry people. Bread’s international policy analysts, Beth Ann Saracco and Ryan Quinn, led a session on maternal and child nutrition, and how providing proper nutrients to women and children during the 1,000 days from the beginning of pregnancy through a child’s second birthday is essential for preventing disease, improving education, strengthening health, and saving lives. These 1,000 days are key!
We also invited participants to come to share with us how they are involved in ending hunger in their own communities, and in the world at large.
On Sunday, we were able to address the group as a whole to discuss the importance of protecting SNAP (food stamps) in the farm bill. We trained groups of students in how to talk to their policy makers when they gathered at the Capitol building on Monday for prayer, praise, and advocacy meetings with their congressional representatives.
We also encouraged the students to message their members of Congress using Twitter, and other forms of social media. Take a look at some of the messages these students tweeted to their representatives as part of our social media campaign:
All of this was very encouraging, but the most powerful takeaway I left with was hope. The media is filled with stories that condemn this young generation, calling them lazy, unmotivated, and unwilling to speak up to change the systems that keep people hungry and poor. But this group, and others like it, is proof that their generation is not only engaged, but immensely creative with their activism and eager to help those suffering from hunger and living in poverty.
Billy Kangas is the fellow for Catholic Relations at Bread for the World.
Photos: (top) Billy Kangas and a friend at the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice (Gary Cook). (Bottom) The group of Jesuit students gathered on the mall for the event (Billy Kangas).
Today, as we observe Veterans Day and recognize those who served in the U.S. military, some veterans may be spending the day wondering where their next meal will come from.
This year, Veterans Day comes a little more than a week after an $11 billion cut in food stamp benefits went into effect. Millions of Americans, including many veterans, will see their grocery budgets shrink because of this change.
According to Census figures, roughly 900,000 veterans, in any given month, lived in households that relied on SNAP in 2011. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in a recent study on how the Nov. 1 cut will impact veterans , found that thousands of vets in every state will be affected. "For low-income veterans, who may be unemployed, working in low-wage jobs, or disabled, SNAP provides an essential support that enables them to purchase nutritious food for their families," the study found.
Philadelphia vet Bill Olsson recently told a local TV station that he is one of the 59,300 veterans in Pennsylvania who relies on SNAP, and that the Nov. 1 cut affects his ability to buy enough groceries to feed himself. "I have no income, and then no food stamps, how am I supposed to live?" Olsson said in an interview with KYW-TV. "Elderly people like myself have worked their whole life, and now can’t work, and depend on food stamps."
Congress is currently negotiating the farm bill, which will impact SNAP and other vital anti-hunger programs. Additional cuts to SNAP would make it even more difficult for millions of Americans, and thousands of veterans like Olsson, to eat.
Florida resident and Vietnam veteran Charles Boykin says, in the clip above, that he can't understand why legislators would do anything to reduce his SNAP allotment. "Why take it away from us?" he asks of Congress. "We were there for them, why can't they be there for us?"
Forty-nine million Americans live at risk of hunger — SNAP must be protected in the farm bill. Email your members of Congress now and tell them that any final farm bill must not increase hunger.
Students eating school lunch at Yorkshire Elementary School in Manassas, Va., on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. (USDA photo by Lance Cheung)
Summer break can mean going months without free school meals and snacks for many hungry children. The U.S. Department of Agriculture program provides free summer meals, but with some school buildings closed and limited school bus service, it's hard to get the kids to the food. This weekend, the Washington Post ran a piece about a school bus "bread truck" in Tennessee, a USDA program that brings food to children in communities where the need is great during summer months.
The reporter meets many people while riding the bus, but spends a lot of time with one family in particular, the Laughrens. The mom is struggling to make ends meet—she works 12-hour shifts as a cook at a nursing home, but risks being fired if she brings leftovers home to her kids. She receives SNAP benefits, but they don't stretch as far during the summer months, when her kids aren't receiving two free meals and snacks at school each day.
Hunger and food insecurity has affected each family member in a different way, all of them equally heartbreaking.
"Desperation had become their permanent state, defining each of their lives in different ways," the author writes. Courtney, 13, is "rail thin," while Taylor, 14, has been "stockpiling calories whenever food was available, ingesting enough processed sugar and salt to bring on a doctor’s lecture about obesity and early-onset diabetes." Anthony, 9, has decided to move out of the family's trailer and live with his grandparents. For Hannah, 7, hunger has "meant her report card had been sent home with a handwritten note of the teacher’s concerns, one of which read: 'Easily distracted by other people eating.'"
The comments section of the post is, as comments sections typically are, filled with poor-shaming and judgment, but there is also compassion, smart ideas about reducing hunger and poverty in America, and calls for lawmakers to strengthen, rather than snip, our country's safety net as so many families continue to struggle.
House farm bill negotiations continue, and while a version of the bill that included more than $21 billion in cuts to SNAP failed to pass last month, a current proposal to split the bill would leave vital nutrition assistance programs vulnerable to deep cuts.
Sadly, the Laughrens story isn't unique or even uncommon—50 million Americans are food insecure, one-third of them children. Now is not the time to slash programs that ensure that children don 't go to bed hungry and parents don't have to choose between providing their children with food or shelter. Now is the time to ensure a place at the table for all God’s people by using our voices to oppose cuts to programs that help hungry and poor people.
The Stephenson family in 1938, somewhere in Arizona, where they lived for a while picking cotton on their way west. (Family photo courtesy of Robin Stephenson).
By Robin Stephenson
My dad was a born a migrant. He likes to talk about the storm that was raging the night of his birth, but there was an even greater urgency than finding shelter from pounding rain that evening: hunger was pushing his family west. In an abandoned shack, having gone without food for several days, my grandmother gave birth. My dad was born on the migrant journey.
In the zeitgeist of the 1940s, migrants were considered lazy and shiftless. An exodus of the hungry fled one of the country’s greatest disasters—the Dust Bowl. Leaving all they knew behind, they were called “Oakies, ” often in hushed tones and with a contempt that implied their fate was their fault. Stirred by years of poor farm policy and practice, the dust storms left in their wake farms in Oklahoma and neighboring states that could no longer employ or support the population that once produced agricultural abundance. Having lost almost everything, families pulled together what little was left, piled into any transportation that could move them forward and headed west—not because they wanted to but because they had to.
The migrant’s story, whether set in Oklahoma in 1938 or Oaxaca in 2013, shares a common thread: lack of choice. The human drive to survive is unstoppable, even in the face of enormous odds. A journey fraught with danger and derision is no deterrent.
In a recent interview with Truthout, U.C. Berkeley physician and anthropologist Dr. Seth M. Holmes talks about the migrant journey he researched for Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farm Workers in the United States. For 18 months, Holmes traveled and lived with a group of families escaping poverty from Oaxaca, Mexico—another once-fertile land gone fallow because of bad policy. Asked how migrants see their options, Holmes says:
"[W]hen you actually do interviews and do research with immigrants who are crossing from Mexico into the U.S., they do not experience this as a choice. There were several times, and in the book I write about someone telling me 'there’s no other option for us.'"
This week, the House of Representatives have a choice that migrants don’t: they can choose to move an immigration bill forward. If crafted with an understanding of the root causes that drive migration, this bill could be an important step in ending hunger both here and abroad. A special conference with House Republicans is taking place tomorrow, Wednesday July 10, and likely will mark a critical turning point in comprehensive immigration reform.
Today, I think of the word “Oakie” as a badge of honor. I come from survivors. Being born in a storm is a great story, but being born into hunger is not.
It’s time for a new narrative and your voice can urge your Representative to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform. As the House takes up this issue, it needs to know that a faithful constituency is paying attention. Call your representative at 800-826-3688, or email him or her today.
Robin Stephenson is Bread for the World's national lead for social media and regional organizer, Western hub.
A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.
"From the Mouths of Babes," by Paul Krugman, New York Times (op-ed). "[A]s millions of workers lost their jobs through no fault of their own, many families turned to food stamps to help them get by—and while food aid is no substitute for a good job, it did significantly mitigate their misery. Food stamps were especially helpful to children who would otherwise be living in extreme poverty, defined as an income less than half the official poverty line."
"Off food stamps and employed — with taxpayers’ help," by Kyung M. Song, Seattle Times. "Dede O’Loughlin’s mother dropped out of high school and got by on food stamps. Then O’Loughlin herself became that mother to her three sons. O’Loughlin, a 40-year-old single parent from North Seattle, wanted to break the pattern for her children. And thanks to that very food-stamp program, she likely will."
"Poverty finds the suburbs," by Sarah Laskow, Boston Globe. "Moving to the suburbs used to mean having made it—having earned the house, the car, the lawn—and being set for the long haul. But over the past decades, the suburbs have changed. Dream houses have fallen into disrepair; dream jobs have disappeared.""Poverty as a Childhood Disease," by Perri Klass, M.D., New York Times' Well blog. "At the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies last week, there was a new call for pediatricians to address childhood poverty as a national problem, rather than wrestling with its consequences case by case in the exam room. Poverty damages children’s dispositions and blunts their brains. We’ve seen articles about the language deficit in poorer homes and the gaps in school achievement. These remind us that...poverty in this country is now likely to define many children’s life trajectories in the harshest terms: poor academic achievement, high dropout rates, and health problems from obesity and diabetes to heart disease, substance abuse and mental illness."
"Senate votes to make small cut to food stamps in farm bill," Associated Press. Last night, the Senate voted to keep a $400 million annual cut to the SNAP (formerly food stamps) program as part of a major five-year farm bill. The chamber rejected an effort by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) to expand the cuts and an amendment by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to eliminate them.
"Revoking Food Stamps for Millions of Americans Endangers Our Classrooms, Our Future," by Gerald S.J. Cassidy, Roll Call (op-ed)."The mere mention of food stamps on Capitol Hill conjures up long held political stereotypes of Republicans reaching for the budget ax while Democrats reach out their hands, both a gross mischaracterization and oversimplification of a complex problem."
"A crucial moment for global nutrition," by Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), The Hill (op-ed). "The moment for turning the corner on global nutrition is here, and it is time for our elected leaders to demonstrate anew how American leadership is the driving force for building a healthier, safer and more prosperous world."
"Food stamp cuts feared by veterans," by Michael McAuliff, Huffington Post. SNAP "has been—and still is—vital to people who served their country. For Iraq veteran Don Martinez, 33, food stamps kept his children fed while he struggled with getting recognition for the traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress he suffered after close encounters with several rocket and mortar attacks and a humvee rollover."
A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.
"Congress Set to Begin Work on Farm Bill," by Ron Nixon, New York Times. A solid, basic look at the what will happen in the Senate and House around the farm bill, the rough timetable, and what is at stake.
"Top Chef star urges Congress to support anti-hunger programs," by Josh Hicks, Washington Post. Tom Colicchio joined Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) at a screening of A Place at the Table and met with members of Congress to encourage them to protect and strengthen programs that fight hunger.
"Food aid for the 21st century," by John Kerry, Tom Vilsack, and Rajiv Shah, Chicago Tribune (op-ed). Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, and USAID administrator Shah on modernizing food aid.
"Twelve Things You Can to To Fight Poverty Now," by Greg Kaufmann, The Nation. Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK Lobby, Marci Phillips of the National Council on Aging, Jim Will of Food Research and Action Center, tell you what you can do, right now to make a difference. (No.11: Tell Congress: Increase, Don't Cut SNAP).
"These Three Charts Show How the World Could End Extreme Poverty by 2030," by Howard Schneider, Washington Post.
A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.
"In Florida, a food-stamp recruiter deals with wrenching choices," by Eli Saslow, Washington Post. Dillie Nerios travels the state signing up hungry senior citizens for SNAP and spreading the message that there is no shame in receiving benefits.
"City Report Shows More Were Near Poverty in 2011," by Sam Roberts, New York Times. About 46 percent of New Yorkers were making less than 150 percent of the city's poverty threshold in 2011. "[M]issing rungs in the ladder make it really hard to climb out of poverty,” Nancy Rankin, vice president for policy research and advocacy at the Community Service Society, told the Times.
"Here’s why 10.4 million American workers are still in poverty," by Brad Plumer, Washington Post's Wonk Blog. One of the most troubling take-aways from Wonk Blog's analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data: “Among families with at least one member in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, those families with children under 18 years old were about 4 times more likely than those without children to live in poverty.”
"Does Max Baucus’s retirement make tax reform easier?" by Ezra Klein, Washington Post's Wonk Blog. Klein wonders if the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee's upcoming retirement will make tax reform more likely.
Sterling Farms, the buzzed-about grocery store chain started by Wendell Pierce, the actor best known as "Bunk" from the HBO show The Wire, is now open for business.
Pierce, along with his business partners, has been working to place markets and convenience stores in food deserts in his native New Orleans. Sterling Farms is not just putting nutritious, fresh food where there was none before—the people behind the business are working to figure out how to tackle the problem of food access from many different angles. One perk the stores offer is especially great—the chain gives free rides to those who spend more than $50.
When I first saw the clip below, I was watching TV with a good friend who once received SNAP, and she thought the ride program was a brilliant idea. She told me that when she received benefits, trying to find a way to get to the store was a monthly source of stress.
She lived near an upscale supermarket, but the prices were high—her money stretched further if she could get to Shoppers Food Warehouse, Aldi, Bottom Dollar, or one of the other bargain grocery store chains in Virginia. Unfortunately, those stores weren't easily reached by bus. Besides, a bus ride meant her food purchases were determined by what she could carry, rather than personal taste, nutritional value, or cost. Every month she had to find a ride to the store, come up with a few bucks of gas money to offer the driver, and then worry if the person would actually come through for her.
Lack of transportation can be an insurmountable barrier to food: Bread for the World has explored how the suspension of school bus service during the summer affects the effectiveness of school lunch programs during those months, and the ways in which cutting city bus service can hinder the ability of people to get to food.
As we work to ensure that everyone has a place at the table by petitioning the president and writing to Congress, it's nice to know that businesses are thinking about how they too can tear down the obstacles that stand between hungry people and affordable, nutritious food.
Sarah Godfrey is Bread for the World's associate online editor.
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