11 July 2013

Hungry bellies

Today, the House of Representatives pushed through a farm bill by stripping out a food stamp program that conservatives how vowed to fight.
Well, they fought it alright. They fought it enough to get a vote passed that dropped the food stamp program from the farm bill altogether, marking the first time, according to the New York Times, that the farm subsidy bill and the food stamp program (AKA SNAP for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) were split in 30 years. SNAP accounts for about 80% of the funding in the farm bill usually. 
Groups that fight hunger were apoplectic about the passage, even though a separate SNAP bill will supposedly be introduced later (I think we know what will happen to a food stamp  bill introduced into this House, don’t we?)
So this means that at a time when more families need assistance due to this slow, jobless recovery, what will happen instead is that even less families will get food stamps. That means there will be more hungry children. I’m not really sure how some of these representatives sleep at night, but my guess is they sleep just fine on satin sheets, dreaming of the day they will leave relatively low-paying government jobs and go to work for or lobby for the big corporations that have bought all their votes. They probably have very sweet dreams. 
And in the background, hungry children cry.
It’s possible that the president will veto the bill because of some of the changes in farm regulation and because it doesn’t include food aid.  But the bigger point is that the House will likely find a way to cut the arms and legs off any subsequent separate food air bill.  
If you think things are improving, the stats show otherwise. In at least six states, up to 25% of the population receives food aid. Between 15% and 20% of the population gets food stamps in another 20 states. That’s a lot of people to tell that they have to cut back even further on food for their families, if they’ll qualify at all under whatever new program is approved. 
According to the USDA, 46.6 million people are on food stamps and the average received per person is $133. Could you eat on $133/month? What about feed children? That's $4.43/day.
Coincidentally, last night I saw a food truck that I’d never seen before: The Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition food truck. I looked it up and for more than 25 years, GWHFC has been serving a hot, fresh meal nightly in West Hollywood to the homeless and hungry. The truck serves up to 200 people a night and since it’s in the same spot every night, it gets to know its constituents and tries to help them in other ways. More than a dozen years ago, GWHFC banded with UCLA’s schools of public health and medicine to run a mobile clinic as well. A second site has since been added. 
In addition to cash, the GWHFC could use volunteers to cook the meal every afternoon, help serve each night, and pick up donated food. 

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