Later On

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Remembering those less fortunate

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From an email from the Center for American Progress:

This Thursday, many Americans will sit down with friends and family to enjoy a hearty meal. Unfortunately, far too many of our nation’s citizens will go hungry. A record 49 million Americans had trouble finding enough to eat in 2008. The USDA’s annual food security report, released last week, showed that the number of people who "lacked consistent access to adequate food" soared to the highest level since the study began 14 years ago. About a third of these people were forced to "skip meals, cut portions or otherwise forgo food at some point in the year" while the other two-thirds generally had enough to eat, but only by eating "cheaper or less varied foods" or by "relying on government aid." Even more disturbingly, nearly one in four children — almost 17 million — lived in households in which food was at times scarce. President Obama called the data "unsettling" and restated his commitment to end child hunger by 2015. "These numbers are a wake-up call…for us to get very serious about food security and hunger, about nutrition and food safety in this country," added Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Unfortunately, these numbers will only get worse in the short-term due to 2009’s rise in unemployment and the difficulty charity groups have had in keeping up with the increased demand.

THANKSGIVING WITHOUT TURKEY: Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times of the year for food banks, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and other social safety net organizations, but many are struggling to meet the demand. In Houston, around 25,000 people are expected to convene at the convention center for a Thanksgiving meal, but organizers say they only have about a third of the number of turkeys they need to feed everyone. The Greater Boston Food Bank distributed 38,000 turkeys last year, but a ticker on the website shows they have raised just 4,200 so far this year. In Phoenix, St. Mary’s food bank is only halfway to its 26,000 turkey goal, and organizers said donations over the next two days "are going to be make-or-break whether or not we’re going to be able to feed everybody this year." And in Mississippi, many soup kitchens will not be able to provide turkeys at all "for the first time ever." The Mississippi Food Network, which supplies many non-profit agencies in the state, said the price of turkey has risen while the number of people it serves has nearly doubled since last year. "It was a real hard decision for us," said Marilyn Blackledge, development director. "And we talked about it, we looked at the figures, and we just really decided we had to do what was overall best."

HOLES IN THE SAFETY NET: The difficulties charities face are not unique to Thanksgiving. The poverty rate climbed to 13.2 percent in 2008 — an 11-year high — with 39.8 million people living below the poverty line. "A lot of people who used to give as donors are now coming to us and asking for food," said Jerry Brown of St. Mary’s in Phoenix. Food banks across the country, from Long Beach, CA to Tulsa, OK to Atlanta, GA are reporting an increase in demand for their services of 40 to 50 percent.  In Fort Worth, TX, Catholic Charities has seen a 104 percent increase in "people calling for help" in the third quarter of 2009. But charities are also reporting a drop in revenue from both donations and investments. The Mississippi Food Network saw a 25 percent drop in corporate donations, while an Atlanta foundation saw a 35 percent decrease in overall giving. The charity running the Houston dinner has had "more than a dozen" corporate sponsors completely pull out while 60 percent of the remaining donors have scaled back their donations.

REPAIRING THE SAFETY NET: Charities alone cannot address the demand, meaning the government must step in to assist. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has already done much to help needy families, keeping six million people out of poverty and helping local food banks with direct contributions. Millions of children and their families are also fed through programs like the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program created by the Child Nutrition Act, but this will need to be reauthorized next year. Vilsack called the reauthorization of the the Child Nutrition Programs "an opportunity to in one stroke confront both the challenges of obesity and hunger — with the prospect of better health and well-being in the years to come." Obama is urging Congress to increase funding for these programs by $1 billion. But perhaps the best way to fight hunger is to fight poverty by providing greater economic opportunity. As the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Half in Ten project notes, expanding unemployment insurance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit, while creating living-wage jobs will both help end hunger and stimulate the economy.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 10:00 am

Posted in Daily life

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