Here’s what Hunger in America means. Feeding America Defines Hunger
”In 2008, 8 percent of related (to the householder) children (5.9 million) lived in extreme poverty, defined as living in a family with income less than one-half of the poverty threshold (Poverty threshold: $21,834, so $10,917.). This percentage was the highest since 1998.”
Source: US Census Bureau, Current Pop Survey
Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics
Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics
“This is such an important time in the history of our country, especially with regards to the critical problem of hunger. For the first time in America’s history, we have a President who was once a recipient of food stamps. Not only that, but President Obama has made a pledge to end child hunger by 2015. That’s only six years from now! There are currently 36.2 million Americans who live in homes that can’t afford enough food (the USDA calls them “food insecure”) and 12 million of those Americans are children. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has openly pledged his support of Obama’s plan as, “a challenge we should take seriously.” It’s incredible to have such support in fighting hunger at the Federal level. As Joel Berg argues, hunger is an issue that often only sees media attention at holidays and after major disasters. And, for better or for worse, in the US it is often media attention that molds public opinion and pushes policty change.
Not only are things beginning to move on a federal level, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia are also at unique times in their history, especially with regards to hunger. Pennsylvania is in an extremely influential political position right now. Senator Specter, while often controversial, has managed to claim a lot of power by voting for the stimulus bill. As the New York Times notes, Senator Specter was able to keep $6.5 billion, that’s right, billion, for medical research in the stimulus bill. Senator Casey, the junior senator, still has a strong voice and has been a supporter of multiple anti-hunger initiatives including his work on the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill.
Philadelphia is also lucky to have a Mayor who supports these anti-hunger initiatives. The USDA, under President Bush’s administration, has scheduled the close of Philadelphia’s Universal Feeding Program. The program, around since 1991, has allowed for Universal School lunches in 200 of Philadelphia’s 280 school’s based on census information about the surrounding area’s income levels. This cuts down on both paperwork and stigma. Many important players, including Mayor Nutter, the Philadelphia School District, Senator Casey and anti-hunger advocates in Philadelphia are fighting this decision.
This, albeit lengthily, takes me to my main point. The Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger has teamed up with The Food Trust, Philabundance, the SHARE Food Program, PCCY, the Philadelphia GROW Project, and the Health Promotion Council to create an anti-hunger policy platform. The platform, which gets a nod from both KYW and the Philadelphia Inquirer, calls for change on hunger issues from many different levels of government. Some of the asks include making the Universal School Feeding Program permanent, passing a strong Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Bill in 2009, and increasing funding for the State Food Purchase Program.
Hopefully, with leadership on different levels who are willing to acknowledge the problem of hunger in America, these policy asks can be met and exceeded. I truly hope that President Obama’s pledge to end child hunger by 2015 happens.”
By Alfred Lubrano
Inquirer Staff Writer
For the first time in anyone’s memory, Philadelphia’s antihunger advocates have banded together to call on federal, state and city officials to end hunger. Advocates gathered yesterday at a West Philadelphia food cupboard to outline policies that they say would, if enacted, end food insecurity – the lack of access to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life.
Proposed steps include urging the federal government to pass a strong federal nutrition bill to benefit breakfast and lunch programs, as well as programs for women, infants and children. Local hunger fighters are buoyed by the election of a president who vows to end childhood hunger within six years – and chagrined by a dismal economy that is putting even people with jobs at risk of hunger. What matters today more than ever before is the pooling of ideas and efforts, advocates said.
“This is the first time we have had this wide a range of people at the table,” said Steveanna Wynn, executive director of the SHARE Food Program. Wynn said several antihunger advocates have been meeting with Nutter administration officials regularly since the fall.
“There’s a commitment for the first time ever from a Philadelphia mayor to work with people on hunger,” she added. “And that’s a huge first step.”
Although no one is expecting huge amounts of money from the budget-strapped city, advocates said the administration could help in different ways. One is to establish a formal mechanism to measure hunger in the city through annual monitoring and reporting. Another is to continue to educate people about food stamps. Some 100,000 Philadelphians are eligible for food stamps but do not claim them, Carey Morgan, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, said yesterday at the Fresh Start food cupboard.
It’s a commonly held belief among hunger advocates that, aside from employment in a job that pays a living wage, nothing can help a person struggling with hunger more effectively than food stamps. Part of the advocates’ suggested policy platform is to have the state Department of Public Welfare raise the gross income limit for food-stamp benefits (also known as SNAP) from 130 percent of the federal poverty line to 160 percent.
A family of four at around 130 percent of the FPL makes $28,196 annually. This boost would help thousands of families struggling with the high costs of child care and rent or mortgage payments, said Rachel Meeks, food-stamp expert with the Coalition. So it was with true worry that the hunger fighters who gathered yesterday noted that in the economic-stimulus bills being considered by Congress, the Senate version contains $3.5 billion less for food stamps than that of the House of Representatives – $16.5 billion vs. $20 billion. Also troubling to advocates was the difference in aid to states – $79 billion in the House bill but just $39 billion in the Senate version. With less money for states, welfare departments that administer food-stamp programs would be forced to slash their workforces that process food stamps. Such cuts would render any increase in food stamps meaningless, advocates say.
Meanwhile, the people on the front lines of hunger are seeing conditions deteriorate daily for Philadelphians.
“Food demand skyrocketed 30 percent this year over last,” said Bill Clark, executive director of Philabundance, the largest hunger-relief organization in the region. “There are new kinds of people getting aid – working families.: Then there are what Clark calls the “silent unemployed.” These are people working their old jobs at newly reduced hours. “Being paid for four to five fewer hours a day is the difference between having enough food and not,” Clark added.
Adding poignancy to yesterday’s presentation, North Philadelphia resident Angela Sutton, 32, a mother of two and a full-time student, talked about the lack of nutrition in her children’s meals. Sutton is part of the Witnesses to Hunger project by Drexel University’s School of Public Health, in which professor Mariana Chilton gave digital cameras to 40 women, including Sutton, and asked them to chronicle their worlds.
“I’m stuck choosing between survival and healthfulness for my children,” Sutton said, explaining that it’s simpler to buy inexpensive foods that don’t deliver nutrients. “I can buy white bread at $3 a loaf, not wheat bread at $4,” she said. “The white bread blows up my kids’ stomachs, making them feel full. But I don’t want to feed them just anything. “White bread kills the hunger, but it’s not bringing the best out of my children,” who need nutritious foods to thrive, she said.
Contact staff writer Alfred Lubrano at 215-854-4969 or firstname.lastname@example.org
While this article is several years old, its a heartfelt example of people in Philadelphia that are living meal to meal and are in desperate need of emergency food access. Consider the story of the middle aged woman who was wrongfully fired and then forced to go into a county assistance office where information on a bulletin board consisted of four pieces of construction paper that read :”Your job is to get a job. Any job. Work is better than welfare.”
Read the rest here…
Posted in Hunger Stories.
After an informative meeting with Marlo DelSordo of Philly organization Philabundance today I figured we should give the Non-Profit some credit!
Philabundance was founded as a nonprofit food distribution system in 1984, to reduce food waste and fight hunger in the Delaware Valley. In 2005, Philabundance integrated with the Philadelphia Food Bank to become the region’s largest nonprofit hunger relief organization. Today, Philabundance offers a full plate of services to Delaware Valley residents at risk of chronic hunger and malnutrition.
Philabundance provides several services such as: a food helpline (800.319.FOOD), Emergency food boxes (made up to feed a family for several days with staple items), Community Kitchen (vocational program which supplies food to agencies), Baby Manna (infant formula), Fresh For All (gives fresh produce to those that need it), Philabundance Gleaners (program in its development that picks up food that would otherwise be discarded from retail grocers).
Before walking to the meeting I happened to catch a Philabundance pick up time in my local neighborhood.
Posted in Hunger Stories.
“There are two basic versions of the federal poverty measure: the poverty thresholds (which are the primary version) and the poverty guidelines. The Census Bureau issues the poverty thresholds, which are generally used for statistical purposes—for example, to estimate the number of people in poverty nationwide each year and classify them by type of residence, race, and other social, economic, and demographic characteristics. The Department of Health and Human Services issues the poverty guidelines for administrative purposes—for instance, to determine whether a person or family is eligible for assistance through various federal programs.
Since the 1960s, the United States Government has defined poverty in absolute terms. When the Johnson administration declared “war on poverty” in 1964, it chose an absolute measure. The “absolute poverty line” is the threshold below which families or individuals are considered to be lacking the resources to meet the basic needs for healthy living; having insufficient income to provide the food, shelter and clothing needed to preserve health.
The “Orshansky Poverty Thresholds” form the basis for the current measure of poverty in the U.S. Mollie Orshansky was an economist working for the Social Security Administration (SSA). Her work appeared at an opportune moment. Orshansky’s article was published later in the same year that Johnson declared war on poverty. Since her measure was absolute (i.e., did not depend on other events), it made it possible to objectively answer whether the U.S. government was “winning” this war. The newly formed United States Office of Economic Opportunity adopted the lower of the Orshansky poverty thresholds for statistical, planning, and budgetary purposes in May 1965.
The Bureau of the Budget (now the Office of Management and Budget) adopted Orshansky’s definition for statistical use in all Executive departments in 1965. The measure gave a range of income cutoffs, or thresholds, adjusted for factors such as family size, sex of the family head, number of children under 18 years old, and farm or non-farm residence. The economy food plan (the least costly of four nutritionally adequate food plans designed by the Department of Agriculture) was at the core of this definition of poverty.
The Department of Agriculture found that families of three or more persons spent about one third of their after-tax income on food. For these families, poverty thresholds were set at three times the cost of the economy food plan. Different procedures were used for calculating poverty thresholds for two-person households and persons living alone. Annual updates of the SSA poverty thresholds were based on price changes in the economy food plan.
Two changes were made to the poverty definition in 1969. Thresholds for non-farm families were tied to annual changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rather than changes in the cost of the economy food plan. Farm thresholds were raised from 70 to 85% of the non-farm levels.
In 1981, further changes were made to the poverty definition. Separate thresholds for “farm” and “female-householder” families were eliminated. The largest family size category became “nine persons or more.”
Apart from these changes, the U.S. government’s approach to measuring poverty has remained static for the past forty years.” -as taken from wikipedia.org
It is clear that poverty has been around for many decades and we, as a nation, have not discovered a “cure” yet. That is most likely because there is no ultimate cure for poverty. Everyone is different and requires a unique type of help. What we are trying to do is find a way from preventing hunger among Americans from reaching its breaking point. By preventing hunger at a young age, it is our belief that we can also prevent those children from developing mental illnesses and such other forms of poor health so that they will grow to be a positive member of society and live to help others. We are trying to find what the true cost of hunger is.
Posted in The Cycle of Poverty.
Many people have distorted views and stereotypes on who gets food stamps. Here are a few myths from the Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger:
MYTH 1: Most food stamp recipients wouldn’t need this benefit if they would just get a job.
In reality, over 50 percent of food stamp participants are children and 8 percent are elderly citizens. In fiscal year 2005, of all food stamp households, 84% contained either an elderly or disabled person or a child, and these households received 89% of all food stamp benefits. Commonly referred to as the “working poor,” many food stamp users who are employed full-time still earn poverty level wages, making it difficult to afford food.
MYTH 2: The Food Stamp Program uses tax dollars that never benefit my community.
Studies show that every dollar in food stamp benefits generates two dollars in household spending. Food stamp benefits not only support grocery purchases, but also free up cash for other necessities, such as medical care, children’s clothing, house repairs, and child care. As more money is spent, more jobs are created, ultimately promoting a more robust local economy.
MYTH 3: Only people who are on welfare get food stamps.
The Food Stamp Program is a nutrition program funded and administered by the United States Department of Agriculture. According to the USDA, 15 years ago 42 percent of all food stamp households received welfare benefits and only 19% had earnings. As of 2005 less than 15 percent were receiving welfare and over 29 percent were gainfully employed. Participants need not be receiving welfare to receive food stamps.
MYTH 4: Food stamp recipients are all the same.
Currently, food stamp beneficiaries are a diverse group. USDA statistics show that:
59 percent of food stamp recipients are female,
43 percent are Caucasian,
33 percent are African American,
19 percent are Hispanic,
2 percent are Asian, and
2 percent are Native American.
MYTH 5: Hunger is not a problem in my neighborhood.
Consider the following startling statistics:
There are nearly 122,000 households in Southeastern Pennsylvania that must reduce the size of meals or skip meals entirely because they cannot afford food purchases. (Philadelphia Health Management Corporation, Community Health Data Base, “2004 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey.”)
Those 122,000 households include nearly 61,000 children.
Many of these households are eligible for food stamps, but not receiving them. In fact, an estimated 65,000 Philadelphians are potentially eligible for food stamps. With the average food stamp benefit in Philadelphia at $87 per person, many people are missing out on benefits that can help to nourish themselves and their families.
Since moving to the city approximately one year ago any idea I had of what it would be like to live in Philadelphia has been altered. Like most people, I had a suburban mindset of how romantic it could be dining out, enjoying the arts, cultural affairs, etc. Not to say I haven’t experienced those things to a degree but I certainly did not know what was actually in store for me.
My name is Michelle, I am 24 years old, and I live in North Philadelphia. I first moved here to work for a non-profit. I was energetic and thought I could change the world. When I realized I was not going to accomplish that by knocking on doors and asking for money, I moved on. I moved on to a job I have not left since, making a wage I made when I was probably 17 years old living in the burbs. But its okay because I get by fine- I don’t have a family to support and my rent is obviously cheap. At one point I considered applying for government assistance. I thought-why not? I make little money and I pay taxes. I even went through the compass website and filled everything out electronically. When I received the information in the mail however, I was baffled at all the additional information I would need to prove my situation. Information from my last employer, electric bills, etc. It would have been shaming for me to retrieve all of it and I decided it was not worth the effort and if need be I could always ask my parents for help. So I proceeded to pay for all of my purchases at my local Cousins supermarket in cash-buying pasta, peanut butter and jelly, etc-all those good things that in turn caused me to gain weight. Funny how most people lose it when they move to a city (or at least I thought).
It is simply too expensive to buy all of the whole grains, fruits and vegetables it takes to maintain a healthy diet. Alas, I sidetrack. Watching the Witness to Hunger exhibit made me realize that while I may live in a poverty stricken neighborhood-I am fortunately not part of a statistic. But why it is so important for this documentary to be made is because there are many people-families-actual human beings-that are. I live near them-maybe across the street from them. The kids play in the park nearby and ride their bikes. I noticed pictures from the exhibit that are in my neighborhood. The Ice Corner grocery store is on my walk to the el. While these stores might be a place I grab a soda on my way to work, they are are a place where families are expected to feed themselves. And I don’t know how this is possibly unless the menu consists of cigarettes, soda and a bag of chips. People might say to those in need-get an education, get a better job. Well I have a degree in Video Communications and am still making peanuts-and its not for lack of trying. This film is important and I would like to volunteer as much of my time as possible because this is not about statistics, its about people.
-Michelle “the intern”
Posted in Our Nation, Our Region.