Hungry? Me too. But most of us won’t be for very long. I know there is food in the cupboard. It may not be exactly what I want (no chocolate) but it’s healthy. I have fruit, vegetables, meat. Sadly, many in this country do not.
And that makes me angry!! It’s going to be a soapbox day, because I happened onto information in a round about way that has really fired me up. I’m usually pretty apolitical, but this morning I called my senators and e-mailed the White House. I hope you’ll do the same after I tell you what I learned.
The morning actually started out fairly quietly. I was reading the Lakota Country Times(online: www.lakotacountrytimes.com) to catch up on news from the rez. I enjoy some of the columns in addition to the news stories. The column by Dana Lone Hill/Bad Milk caught my eye. She talked about a news article she had read in the Rapid City Journal that challenged people to try to eat for a week on the amount given to a Food Stamp recipient. She decided to try it. The amount was $1 per meal per person.
$1 per meal per person is $21 per week. If you had a family of 4 (mom, dad, 2 kids) that would mean feeding your family on $84 per week. I suppose in theory it “can be done,” but not if you want to eat in a healthy way. If you live on mac & cheese, toss in cheap frozen veggies once in a while and keep peanut butter/jelly as a standby, maybe. But if you have 6-8 oz of meat/protein, 2 fruit servings, 3 veggie servings, and carbs every day like you’re supposed to for a balanced diet, you’ll go over that $3 a day limit very quickly!! When was the last time that these people, who are responsible for deciding what is a reasonable minimum for those who have nothing to be given to buy food, have gone to a grocery store?!!
After recovering a bit from my shock at what the government feels is adequate to feed a person each meal, I started to do some investigating. I located the Rapid City Journal article “Food Banks Issue Challenge” by Kevin Woster. It indicated that the Community Food Banks of South Dakota and Bread for the World were asking for people to volunteer to spend no more than $21 on food for seven days beginning November 11, in order to raise awareness of the ongoing struggle that food stamp recipients have.
Okay, time to Google.
I found the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) that was reporting on the Farm Bill currently being debated in the Senate. Yes, the Food Stamp and other nutrition assistance programs come under the Farm Bill. Not health and human services? Nope! Gee, that makes sense. Anyway, FRAC (the leading national organization working for more effective public and private policies to eradicate domestic hunger and undernutrition) had some other interesting information – I encourage you to check out their website: www.frac.org if you care about hunger in this country – right here under our noses! It’s a sin!!
I’ll share just a few of their statistics:
- 35.5 million people (in the US) lived in households struggling against hunger in 2006
- The 35.5 million includes 22.9 million adults and 12.6 million children
- 11.1 million persons lived in households that were considered to have “very low food security” – a USDA term that means one or more people in the household were hungry over the course of a year because they couldn’t afford enough food
- The 10 states with the highest food insecurity in 2006 were: Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky and Arizona. (Do you live in one of these states?)
After reading some of the information in this and other articles, I was so outraged that I actually called the toll-free number (800-826-9624) that been set up while the farm bill is being debated in the Senate to tell my senators that I wanted them to support increases for food stamp and nutrition program appropriations. Of course, my senators are Sen Ted Kennedy (D) and Sen John Kerry (D), so I suspect they would support it anyway. But I was compelled to add myself to the number who took a stand.
Then I decided to let the White House know how I felt about the situation (by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org . Not that I think President Bush will ever see my e-mail, but someone will. And I do believe they keep track of what folks bother to tell them in some way, even if they never do anything about it. I needed to express my feelings!
I found several other articles that indicated 4 members of the House of Representatives had accepted this challenge in May of this year. The only 4 who were willing to try to live for one week the way they were asking fellow Americans to live were: Rep Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Rep Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) (co-chairmen of the House Hunger Caucus), Rep Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Rep Janice Schakowsky (D-IL). They kept blogs about their experiences – McGovern at www.foodstampchallenge.typepad.com and Ryan at www.timryan.house.gov .
These four representatives deserve much praise for putting their stomachs on the line for a week to raise awareness of what Food Stamp recipients must manage to do 52 weeks of the year. It is a sad thing that only four persons in the whole House of Representatives was willing to experience the reality of being poor. Of course, they knew it was only for a week. They didn’t have real “food insecurity.” They knew they could go the market or a restaurant any time they wanted to. They did feel hunger. But they knew it was temporary.
Maybe I’m really sensitive to the reality of people being hungry in this land of plenty and excess because of my Lakota friends. I’ve seen how hard they try to make ends meet. I’ve heard stories of hard-earned food being stolen by extended-family members (to be sold for drug money). I’ve seen how bare their cupboard and refrigerator were when we visited them. I’ve gotten the panicked, emergency phone call because they had no money and no food.
In fact, even if you get food stamps on the rez, you still have to figure out how to get to the market. No cars, expensive gas, the need to pay someone to drive you 50 miles to the market.
The fact that there are kids in this country who go hungry was the reason I originally set out to sponsor a child in this country. It’s bad enough when children are hungry in countries where most people are hungry. But for children to be hungry in a country where a New York restaurant recently announced a new dessert costing $25,000 (because it has edible gold flakes) is insane!
I’m asking for your help. Contact your senators. Be aware of what you spend on food. Share what you have with those who struggle with hunger. Help eradicate food insecurity in this nation.