Sunday, March 24, 2013

Off-Topic Post: "A Place at the Table," and Tackling Hunger in America

I know I usually write about fashion, style, beauty, shopping, my attempts at budgeting ... I deliberately try to keep it light, because I do deal with serious issues in life, and this blog is my haven, my little getaway from dealing with those issues.  

But there is one issue that affects all of us as Americans:  Hunger.  50 million Americans go hungry every day, including 17 million children.  One in two children will rely on Federal food programs in order to meet their needs.  

Good food, quality food, nutritious food, is expensive.  You may wonder, why is that person paying for chips and soda or convenience food with their food stamps (now known as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)?  It's because they can't afford produce, they can't afford fresh meat or poultry, they can't afford a lot of fresh food.  They rely on convenience food.  

This is very clear to me in my own life.  I try to purchase fresh produce, fresh meat and poultry, and ingredients that will enable me to make nutritious meals, because I have diabetes and ironically for someone of my size, I suffer from malnutrition.  Consequently, I spend quite a bit more money on food than my roommate.  My roommate purchases frozen meals (10 for $10, usually), yogurt, seltzer or soda, and canned soup.  She also purchases crackers.  She never cooks - I do most of the cooking, and sometimes we'll share meals or baked treats, if I bake something.  My roommate spends a little over $130 a month on her groceries.  

Last month, my grocery bill came to $290, which is high, even for me.  But I spent most of it on food, which has lasted a month.  I bought some ingredients which were expensive, like shortening, and I purchased a lot of fresh meat and poultry.  That stuff's expensive!  I think I spent almost $40 on meat alone.  But, I still have some meat left in my freezer.  

I think this example from my own life proves the point that good food is expensive.  

Tonight I watched an excellent documentary, "A Place at the Table," which was produced and directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush.  In their film, they went into the causes of hunger in the United States, and they followed several different individuals with families as they tried to put food on the table for themselves and their children.  

Children are most deeply scarred by hunger:  Even one day of hunger causes cognitive delays, learning difficulties, behavior problems, and health problems.  And one in two American children are going hungry on a regular basis!  SNAP benefits are not meeting the need, because the allowance for SNAP has not increased, even though food prices have increased, and the eligibility requirements do not allow many of the working class people who are struggling to put food on the table, to qualify for SNAP.  And wages have not kept pace with the increase in food and gas prices, so it's no longer the case that working at a job will even allow you to pay your bills, feed, clothe and house your family.  Many of the people who are struggling to make ends meet in this documentary are working two or three jobs, and they're still struggling.  And I think we all know people in similar situations, so this is not unusual.  

To address the irony I mentioned before, that although I am obese, I suffer from malnutrition and diabetes - this is also not unusual.  In fact, according to this documentary, a county in Mississippi which is the poorest in the nation, also has the highest incidence of obesity and diabetes.  Hmm, think there's a connection???

However, there is good news - something can be done!  The filmmakers, Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson, recommend contacting your elected officials and urging them to address the problem of hunger in America.  We tackled this problem before and beat it into the ground, and we can do it again!  This is a problem that crosses all party lines, and it's in everyone's interest to solve this issue.  It is unacceptable to me that the United States of America, the richest, most powerful nation on earth, cannot provide for its own.  

And there's a link!  Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson were on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on February 26, 2013.  I've linked to the interview.  Please watch Parts One and Two, and watch the film, "A Place at the Table."  It's available On Demand, in theaters, and on iTunes to rent for $6.99.  It came out March 1, 2013.  And then, call or write your Senator or Congressional Representative, and your State legislators.  Tell them that you want a solution to the problem of hunger in America.