Food insecurity

Professor Anita Bernstein, one of our most thoughtful regular commenters, brought to our attention this New York Times article about the declining purchasing power of food stamps, observing,

I found this story truly horrifying . . . . What should I do–donate to a soup kitchen, or something else?

Certainly donating to a soup kitchen, food pantry or food bank would be helpful, particularly between now and October, when food stamp allocations are scheduled to increase (overriding a Presidential veto–ah, compassionate conservatism!) The article estimates that current allocations leave a family of four $34 a month short of what it requires to purchase the makings of nutritious meals. Can we each manage a gift of $150 to the local food charity to cover that immediate shortfall for a single household in our neighborhood? The Nonprofiteer is writing her check now, and thanks Prof. Bernstein for the gentle nudge.

The article also reports that Congressman Jesse Jackson is leading a coalition calling on Congress to accelerate the increase in the allocation, but the Nonprofiteer was unable to unearth any information about the coalition or the Congressman’s role in it. He has not introduced any legislation to this effect (as one might expect of a legislator); perhaps a flurry of e-mails to his office would produce activity where it might actually count.

We eagerly solicit the suggestions of our readers who work in the field. What can one person do, immediately, to help make sure that everyone has enough to eat now?

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4 Responses to “Food insecurity”

  1. Juniper Says:

    Right now, you can:

    1) Donate money to a local food bank, not your local pantry. Pantries don’t have the resources or strategic relationships with food distributors to get the most food for your dollar. Food banks can. Go to http://www.secondharvest.org and find your local food bank. Your money, and the food it buys, will trickle down. Leverage.

    2) Contact your elected officials and thank them for their support of the Farm Bill, or, if they did not support it, tell them that it’s not too late to get onboard and support this vital program.

    3) Volunteer at your local food bank – volunteer hours allow them to function and use the money they’d be paying numerous staff to buy food instead.

    4) Call up your local pantry and find out what they need other than food – are the electric bills piling up? Do they need a new linoleum floor because theirs is 30 years old and rotting? Are they helping people apply for food stamps with a 24.4 modem? Take some of these “simple” issues off their plate so they can focus on what they do best: feed hungry people.

  2. Nonprofiteer Says:

    Excellent suggestions. I have some serious concerns about the farm bill and its impact on food supplies worldwide, but from the standpoint of the Food Stamp program it was a victory and politicians should be rewarded for supporting it.

    And you’ve implied but not quite said something I likewise neglected to say: that it’s far more efficient to give money to a food agency (whether pantry or bank, though I appreciate the distinction now that you’ve clarified it) than it is to give food. Canned-good drives may make us feel good because they’re so hands-on, but they don’t serve hungry people nearly as well as enabling food agencies to supply fresh fruits, vegetables and protein.

  3. Greta Says:

    The disheartening aspect of “free food” is that it is generally “cheap food”. Rarely is it organic or low-fat or healthy.

    When given the choice, standing in the food aisles with food stamps in hand, between something that is organic and something like macaroni and cheese – one does not have the luxury to choose the healthiest option.

    This is another aspect that needs to be addressed when looking at our charitible options as it pertains to food stamps/bank.

  4. Juniper Says:

    Greta, you may be interested in knowing that food banks commit to providing food pantries with “core items,” certain healthy, low-fat, high-protein, nutritious items at all times. It’s not just a slipshod method of passing along whatever ramen gets donated… food banks procure food items by leveraging influence in the food industry, and even by purchasing products so that food pantries can give away quality food like produce, peanut butter, and eggs.

    Think about that the next time you choose between dropping a six-pack of ramen in a food drive bin or donating six dollars: the money supplements food donations so that pantries can give out the best possible meals.

    Food stamps are a different entity entirely; while clients of food pantries are often (though not often enough) enrolled in a food stamp program, it’s not really relevant to the question at hand: “What can we do as individuals to mitigate the food crisis?” Aside from lobbying for increases in food stamp benefits, there’s not a lot an individual can do here: organic healthy food is still going to cost more at the supermarket than generic brands and convenience foods – and anyone experiencing food insecurity will go for quantity of food when it comes down to it.

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