Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Hunger for Advocacy (2012 Offering of Letters)

O.O. will participate Bread for the World's 2012 Offering of Letters.  Please consider joining us (and Bread for the World) in this effort.  Together we can make a difference.  As the video says, "It's a right to be able to eat."

Monday, April 9, 2012

Food Stamps Reduce Poverty


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Voice: Prep Grad Othello Medows's talk "Place as Fate"

This Saturday, Operation Others will deliver more than 600 food boxes to the zip codes Othello mentions in this talk.  His talk is inspiring and shocking at the same time. Check it out at Othello's talk

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In Depth: Food Insecurities Hit US Families (Paper by Abby, a former core team member)

Food Insecurities Hit US Families
            Over sixteen million children in the United States lack food needed for their survival. With the current economy, their parents cannot provide for them the food they need. The long terms effects of inadequate nutrition cause lifelong problems. Without necessary nutrients children will have stunted growth and other health problems that will most likely cause health issues for their whole lives. Children who eat only fatty and unhealthy food will be at a much higher risk for heart disease and obesity. Often a lack of access to affordable fruits, vegetables, milk and other healthy foods within a close distance can be classified as a source of malnutrition for children. People often do not have easy access to transportation making it difficult to reach grocery stores. These areas are referred to as food deserts.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Waiting for Midnight

Click here to view the video clip regarding Americans who depend on the federal SNAP program.  This segment appeared on the November 28 episode of Rock Center with Brian Williams
Waiting for Midnight video

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Poor, the Near Poor and You

This editorial was published in the New York Times on November 24, 2011.

What is it like to be poor? Thankfully, most Americans do not know, at least not firsthand. And times are tough for the middle class. But everyone needs to recognize a chilling reality: One in three Americans — 100 million people — is either poor or perilously close to it.

The Times’s Jason DeParle, Robert Gebeloff and Sabrina Tavernise reported recently on Census data showing that 49.1 million Americans are below the poverty line — in general, $24,343 for a family of four. An additional 51 million are in the next category, which they termed “near poor” — with incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line.
As for all of that inspirational, up-by-their-bootstrap talk you hear on the Republican campaign trail, over half of the near poor in the new tally actually fell into that group from higher income levels as their resources were sapped by medical expenses, taxes, work-related costs and other unavoidable outlays.
The worst downturn since the Great Depression is only part of the problem. Before that, living standards were already being eroded by stagnating wages and tax and economic policies that favored the wealthy.
Conservative politicians and analysts are spouting their usual denial. Gov. Rick Perry and Representative Michele Bachmann have called for taxing the poor and near poor more heavily, on the false grounds that they have been getting a free ride. In fact, low-income workers do pay up, if not in federal income taxes, then in payroll taxes and state and local taxes.
Asked about the new census data, Robert Rector, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation told The Times that the “emotionally charged terms ‘poor’ or ‘near poor’ clearly suggest to most people a level of material hardship that doesn’t exist.” Heritage has its own, very different ranking system, based on households’ “amenities.” According to that, the typical poor household has roughly 14 of 30 amenities. In other words, how hard can things be if you have a refrigerator, air-conditioner, coffee maker, cellphone, and other stuff?
The rankings ignore the fact that many of these are requisites of modern life and that things increasingly out of reach for the poor and near poor — education, health care, child care, housing and utilities — are the true determinants of a good, upwardly mobile life.
Government surveys analyzed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicate that in 2010, just over half of the country’s nearly 17 million poor children, lived in households that reported at least one of four major hardships: hunger, overcrowding, failure to pay the rent or mortgage on time or failure to seek needed medical care. A good education is also increasingly out of reach. A study by Martha Bailey, an economics professor at the University of Michigan, showed that the difference in college-graduation rates between the rich and poor has widened by more than 50 percent since the 1990s.
There is also a growing out-of-sight-out-of-mind problem. A study, by Sean Reardon, a sociologist at Stanford, shows that Americans are increasingly living in areas that are either poor or affluent. The isolation of the prosperous, he said, threatens their support for public schools, parks, mass transit and other investments that benefit broader society.
The poor do without and the near poor, at best, live from paycheck to paycheck. Most Americans don’t know what that is like, but unless the nation reverses direction, more are going to find out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Can We Afford to Eat Healthy?

 Walking through Omaha’s Farmers Markets this summer and seeing the mountains of fresh produce, it is hard to imagine that many in our community do not have enough healthy food to eat. Lack of access to healthy food – specifically in so-called food deserts – and lack of food education have been blamed for epidemic levels of obesity and type II diabetes.  Although access to fresh produce is limited for many, the larger problem is financial.

The latest federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that Americans consume more potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D, and calcium.  But these nutrients do not come cheap.  A recent University of Washington study found that to get enough potassium, an average family would have to increase its annual food budget by $380.

While $380 may be added to the grocery bills of some in our community without consequence, there are many in Omaha whose budgets do not have this flexibility.  Ten percent of Douglas County families buy food using food stamps provided by the federal Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The average benefit for SNAP participants is $1 per meal per person. According to the August Consumer Price Index Summary, grocery prices have increased 5.6 percent over the last twelve months. With food prices already soaring, following the federal dietary guidelines (finding an additional $380) is simply not possible.

Focusing too much on the statistics can overshadow the human element of this issue.  The point is that many in our community do not have enough healthy food to eat not because they don’t want it, but because they cannot afford it.  No matter how much education you’ve received about proper nutrition and creating healthy menus, if you have only one dollar per meal, you’ll end up eating off the dollar menu.  The consequences are shocking: this generation of children could be the first in the history of our country to have a shorter average life span than their parents, specifically because of a lack of healthy food.

Job creation or other economic improvement alone will not solve these problems.  (A family of four can earn up to $2,389 per month and qualify for food stamps.)  Families have to make tough choices that often prevent them from purchasing nutritious food.  Parents skip meals so kids can eat.  Fast food is cheaper and easier than home-cooked meals.  Families decide to fill up the car, buy medication, or pay the electric bill instead of buying healthy food.  The consequences of skimping on food are not as immediately apparent as the car running out of gas.  Obesity, diabetes, delayed cognitive development, low birth weight, and depression are among the myriad problems that can be caused by not having enough food to eat.  It is time to reconsider governmental food policy and find ways to let all Americans have the ability to purchase enough healthy food for their families.