Tag Archives: Food hardship

Many Americans Don’t Get Enough Food

by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

While the United States proclaims itself the land of limitless opportunity, the shining “nation on a hill” where dreams of prosperity and success become true, the reality on the ground often belies this pastel rhetoric. The reason for this failure is not lack of resources but policies determined by voodoo economics and rabid cruelty. Too many people are unemployed or underemployed. Too many workers are earning poverty-level wages. Too many programs that provide critical assistance to the neediest of our fellow citizens are being cut. Yet the big shots in Congress, who lecture the poor about the need to work hard, still subscribe to the belief that cutting taxes for the rich and granting subsidies to big business will result in rising incomes for everyone else.

One of the most effective measures in assessing a country’s real economic health is the extent of food insecurity among its population. Figures from reliable sources indicate that a shocking number of Americans perpetually live in the shadows of hunger. Over 46 million Americans–roughly 1 in 7 people–are dependent on SNAP, the food stamps program, which has been in the crossfires of a radically regressive Congress. If funding for the program is cut still further, the number of SNAP recipients will go down while the number of people unable to obtain sufficient food will rise.
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The Attack at Home: A new bill threatens the food security of millions

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

 

While the attention of the country has been riveted on President Obama’s proposals to launch missile strikes in Syria, hidden in the shadows, the House of Representatives has been busily preparing an attack of its own. This attack will not be directed against a foreign government accused of massacring innocent civilians with chemical weapons. Rather, it will be launched right here at home, and its targets are our fellow citizens, whose crime is simply being poor and dependent on federal assistance in order to eat and feed their families. Continue reading

The Face of Hunger in America

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

Several months ago New York University School of Law’s International Center for Human Rights issued a report entitled “Nourishing Change: Fulfilling the Right to Food in the United States.” The main purpose of the report is to propose a new approach to the problem of hunger in America, one that shifts the focus from food assistance as charity to adequate food as a human right. Along with its overview of nutritional assistance programs and its case for treating food as a human right, the report also includes boxed articles, obtained from the Jewish hunger relief organization MAZON, that reveal “the new face of hunger.” The following cameo portraits provide summaries of several of these entries. The photos below are by renowned photojournalist Barbara Grover, who was commissioned by MAZON for this project. More photos of the subjects can be found in the report (see the link above). Continue reading

Nourishing Change

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

For months members of the House of Representatives wrangled over how much in cuts they would make to the nation’s food stamps program in the new Farm Bill they were in process of drafting. On July 11th, by a vote of 216 to 208, the House finally passed a bill, and guess what? The bill does not include any funding for food stamps.  Opposition to the bill was strong—all Democrats joined by twelve Republicans voted against it—but the majority prevailed, reflecting the agenda of Tea Party ideologues and conservative deficit hawks who dominate in the House.

The vote does not mean that food stamps are about to be consigned to the dust bin of history. The House version of the bill still has to be reconciled with the Senate version, which includes allocations for food stamps, and the White House has said President Obama would veto any bill that drops food aid. Republicans have tried to mollify opposition with a promise to draft a separate food-stamp bill in the near future, and even some advocates for hunger relief applaud the separation of food aid from subsidies for Big Agribusiness. Continue reading

Standing Together Against SNAP Cuts

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

The Farm Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation that guides and authorizes funding for federal farm and food policies, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), popularly known as food stamps. Every five years, Congress renews the Farm Bill.  The last time the bill was renewed was in 2008, and this year it is up for reauthorization.

Last month versions of the bill emerged from the Agricultural Committees of the two houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Both versions make devastating cuts to SNAP, demonstrating a degree of cruelty that is both shocking and shameful on the part of those who are supposed to represent us in crafting public policy. On May 14th, by a vote of 15 to 5, the Senate’s Agricultural Committee passed its version of the bill (S 954) with cuts to SNAP of $4 billion over the next ten years. Two days later, on May 16th, the House of Representatives proved even more callous with a version of the bill (HR 1947) that would cut SNAP by $20.5 billion over ten years. If a bill were to be passed in line with either version, it would in effect be pulling plates of food off the tables of hungry kids. And this from the same Congress that obstinately insists on preserving tax cuts for multi-millionaires and grants subsidies to giant agricultural corporations.
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A New Slate of Projects–Part 4

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

This is the fourth and final part of the four-part series on BGR projects approved for fiscal year 2013–14. We here provide overviews of our three U.S. projects, all new partnerships. Thanks are due to Patti Price, chair of the Projects Committee, and Jessie Benjamin, Carla Prater, and Jennifer Russ for preparing the material.

19. New York City: Feeding a Hunger for Meaning  NEW

Reciprocity-Homeless Not Hopeless

Homeless But Not Hopeless

The Reciprocity Foundation was established in 2006 to address the plight of homeless youth in New York City. In 2011, RF opened the first Holistic Center for Homeless Youth in the U.S., offering homeless youth personal counseling, vocational training, and college preparatory coaching along with meditation, yoga, and retreats. When they found that the homeless students were arriving hungry and unable to focus, RF started a vegetarian meal program in 2012 called “Starved for Meaning.” Meals at the program are prepared collectively and served “family-style,” with a moment of gratitude before the meal.The meal fulfilled the students’ hunger for other things besides food: for community, dialogue, gratitude, and meaning. Our first project with the Reciprocity Foundation provides funding to increase the capacity of the vegetarian meal program from 30 to 75 students weekly. As part of the program, the number of weekly communal meals will be doubled from 2 to 4, the kitchen will be upgraded, and a nutritionist will be hired to ensure balanced and nutritious vegetarian meals.

20. New York City: The Urban Community Food Project  NEW

New York_Urban Rebuilding

Growing Food in the Heart of the City

 The Urban Rebuilding Initiative is a community-based organization established  in New York City to give  low-income New Yorkers a chance to rebuild their neighborhoods and their lives. In August 2011 URI started the Urban Community Food Project, with the mission of building a sustainable food system throughout the City in order to address poverty, food insecurity, and high incarceration rates in low-income communities. The Food Project will train at-risk youth, young adults, and formerly incarcerated men to convert urban spaces in local neighborhoods into food production sites. Trainees will be taught how to build and maintain food systems that will supply fresh produce to community safety-net programs. The Food Project’s goal for 2013 is for each of three farms to produce 2000 pounds of produce per year for local food pantries and soup kitchens. The use of aqua-ponics and solar energy will permit the growth of winter crops. BGR funds will partially support the procurement of equipment and supplies to construct the first garden at Tried Stone Baptist Church. 

21. Santa Clara County: Building Organic Home Gardens          NEW

Verde Valley, picture and quote

Esperanza: “I feel good about growing my own food.”

Due to the devastating recession, for many immigrant and Latino residents in Santa Clara County, California, food insecurity is a hard fact of daily life. In Gilroy, where 63% of the population is low income, there is only one healthy food resource for 4,000 people. Valley Verde was launched in 2009 (and registered as a nonprofit in 2011) to  increase self-sufficiency and healthy eating among Santa Clara’s low-income immigrants and people of color. VV teaches organic gardening skills. By the end of Year 2 in its pilot program (2010) , 83% of families enrolled had healthy gardens and 91% reported increased vegetable consumption. The new project being sponsored by BGR will recruit and support 60 low income residents of Gilroy to cultivate and maintain organic home gardens. VV will use BGR funds to purchase seedlings for winter and spring planting and to purchase planks of untreated redwood to build raised beds for participant families. Participants will acquire organic gardening and leadership skills and nutritional knowledge through monthly garden club meetings, mentoring, and recruitment and training of future mentors.

Concluded

Ending the Wasting of Food, Energy, Our Environment: Triple Net Benefits

 

A new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council takes a close look at one significant – and eminently solveable – world hunger problem: the wasting of food at every step of our food supply. The report,  “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill” (PDF file), also illustrates the interdependence of our food supply, our use of energy, and our impact on the environment.

Dana Gunders, report author and an NRDC food and agriculture project scientist, treats the reader to a detailed description of America’s food waste problem and practical solutions.  The report traces our systems of food production, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal, identifying inefficiencies and losses at each step of these interlinked systems. (The report is worth reading even if only for its patient walk-through of the realities of the food system in the United States.) Continue reading

Hunger in America: Rescuing Food, Rescuing People

 

More than 1 billion people suffer from hunger. Yet, a federal study found nearly 100 billion pounds of edible food was wasted by U.S. retailers, food service businesses, and consumers in a single year. For a family of four, that amounted to 122 pounds of food thrown out each month in grocery stores, restaurants, cafeterias, and homes.

All of the food we receive comes, at least in part, from the effort and generosity of others.  We have every reason to receive it with a sense of gratitude and thankfulness.  To cherish one’s blessings, no food should be wasted.

To remedy the shameful waste of food, Buddhist Global Relief supports the practice of “food rescue“: safely retrieving edible food from grocery stores, vendors, farmers’ markets, and restaurants that would otherwise go to waste, and distributing it to those in need.  For example, one of BGR’s newest partners, City Harvest, Inc. of New York City, responds to the urgent needs of thousands of hungry NYC residents, rescuing 29 million pounds of food this past year and delivering it free of charge to food pantries and soup kitchens.

For information on food recovery organizations in your area, contact Feeding America at 1-800-771-2303.  You can learn more about hunger in America and what you can do to help at www.Feeding America.org.  For information on “gleaning” (collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable), contact The Society of St. Andrew‘s national office at 1-800-333-4597.

Restaurants and grocery stores interested in donating food can contact Food Donation Connection at 1-800-831-8161. They link donors with food recovery organizations. Businesses can also make donations of food by becoming a Feeding America “product partner“.

We are grateful that there are so many ways to help.

Stealing Bread from a Poor Man’s Lunchbox

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

A week ago, the House Agricultural Committee drafted a version of a farm bill that’s tantamount to stealing bread from a poor man’s lunchbox. Largely the work of Tea Party conservatives, the bill is framed on the premise that the most urgent task facing this nation is to reduce the budget deficit. To accomplish this, the bill would lower farm expenditures by $35 billion over the next decade, slashing $16 billion off the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), popularly known as food stamps. In effect this means that the bill gains 46% of its savings—almost half—by depriving the poor of the federal help they need to ensure their lunchboxes aren’t empty.

If the House Committee’s version of the bill prevails, up to three million people would lose their SNAP benefits. Nearly 300,000 children would also be ineligible for the free lunch program, which in many cases provides their only substantial meal of the day. These cuts would have a painful impact on working class families, an impact that hits especially hard when  jobs are scarce, wages are low, and the long drought is driving up food prices. Continue reading

Hunger in America—And What Can Be Done About It

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

During the years I lived in Sri Lanka, when local people would strike up a conversation with me, they would usually begin by asking what country I’m from. When I told them “America,” almost invariably they would exclaim, with a sigh of admiration, “America—that’s a rich country!” Judging from the impressions conveyed by our forms of popular entertainment, their assessment of our standard of living might have seemed reasonable; but such judgments would have been flawed, based on a narrow reading of appearances. When we dig beneath the surface, we find that there is a dark underbelly to American life that rarely appears in our TV programs or movies, and remains hidden even in the mainstream media. This is the magnitude of poverty in our land. It’s a fact we don’t like to admit, for it amounts to a betrayal of our country’s promise and a negation of the dream that inspires people around the world. Yet to get back on track we have to face the truth and bring the full weight of our moral consciousness to the task of correcting our deviation from our professed ideals.
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