All very well if you can afford it.
And she's right. I am extremely fortunate both to be able to afford nutritious fresh produce, and to have good sources of it readily available to me. In parts of Philadelphia with high poverty rates, there are no grocery stores at all, and corner bodega shops may carry little or no fresh produce. A recent series of articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer about efforts to support community gardens and teach young children about gardening and good eating habits revealed that many young kids in the city don't even know what fresh fruits and vegetables look like, and can't identify them by name when they are shown them. This is an abominable situation. Our young children, and the parents struggling to raise them, deserve better.
The point is that food stamps are more important than Defense, for a fundamental reason - it is because we subsidize food stamps that we aren't having food riots like the middle east. Without food stamps, poor Americans would be starving - period...Let's run the numbers. One in seven households in America receives food stamps, and one in six would qualify. Nearly 1/2 of all American children live in households that receive food stamps. One in eight food stamp households cares for an elder, one in five cares for a disabled non-elderly adult. One out of every five recipient households has *no* other countable income - more than 7 million Americans total.
Cancel food stamps and 7 million Americans drop to zero income. More than 2/3 of those households include children. The average food stamp recipient household owns $101 of goods and savings - total.
In another long post (I recommend reading all of it), Sharon talks about WIC On The Chopping Block. WIC is Women, Infants, and Children, and provides "good nutrition *along with* nutritional education, lead screenings, anemia screenings and other basic medical supports." So of course it's set to be drastically cut.
This part of Sharon's post especially made me gnash my teeth in despair.
While WIC does have a farmer's market program - the Farmer's Market Nutrition Program, it represents a comparatively tiny portion of WIC's budget (and is potentially at risk given current cuts) at only about 20 million to cover 46 States, Indian Nations and Territories. It is not available everywhere, and only fresh fruits and vegetables can be purchased - not milk, cheese, dried beans, grains or juices - even though these items are permitted under WIC.
The impact of the FMNP has been quite good - more than 70% of WIC participants who received coupons had never been to a farmer's market before, and at least one study found that even after their WIC participation ended, more than half of the participants who received farmer's market coupons continued visiting. Families that received farmer's market coupons consumed significantly more fruits and vegetables than families that did not. It is a program worth expanding - for both the benefits of a viable food system and for the participants, but this is unlikely in a budget-cut scenario.
Even with the limited availability of the farmer's market program, and the limit on what things could be purchased at the market, there was a clear positive impact. But instead of expanding this program it is likely it will disappear.
People: if you are used to thinking of donations to food banks as something you only do around Thanksgiving, think again. Food insecurity is a year-round issue, and it is on the rise. Food banks across the nation report that individuals who were donors in previous years are now showing up in need of help themselves. We are all one accident, one major illness, one lost job away from being in that situation ourselves. A Philabundance survey showed that "more than one third of households that access emergency food have one or more adults who is working".
Philabundance is the major hunger relief organization in the Philadelphia region. They do the usual things with collection and dispersal of donated canned goods (through a choice food pantry), but I am really enamored of their Fresh For All program to bring fresh produce to low income communities. Philabundance also has programs providing food to seniors, emergency food boxes, and runs a food help line. Most or all of these programs might fall under the heading of hunger relief, or the "give them a fish" category. The Philabundance Community Kitchen program, however, is Philabundance's poverty relief program, or the "teach them to fish" category.
PCK is a hands-on culinary arts vocational training program that includes everything from basic knife skills and food preparation to job placement assistance. The career-targeted 14-week program provides nearly 500 hours of culinary arts training and also offers exposure to guest chefs, catering opportunities and off-site internships. The result is an 85 percent job placement in the food service industry. In addition, retention services are offered for two full years to ensure that students maximize their training and maintain positive work ethics.
This program creates true success stories. My favorite isn't featured on the web site, but came to me in a letter update from Philabundance - Bonita, who came to PCK from a neighborhood women's shelter, took classes while transitioning to recovery, graduated and got a job with one of the largest catering companies in Philadelphia. And then...she realized she wanted to own her own business. A year later, she established her own catering business, has catered church affairs, corporate events, and large weddings, and has even employed two former PCK students. So PCK can change each person's individual situation, but also contribute to the economic vitality of the larger community.
Take some time to explore the Hunger 101 section at Philabundance. It makes things real in the way that a recitation of facts and statistics can't quite do. Or read Jackie Yenerall's story SNAP Judgments on the Philabundance blog. It really is a wonder anyone manages to obtain SNAP assistance at all. And an even bigger wonder that the miserly bit of hunger relief we as a nation do provide to our fellow citizens in need, after making them jump through flaming hoops while juggling knives, is enough to stave off rioting in the streets.