how hungry is america-joel berg (part three)

“It’s clear that charity-no matter how vast or small-cannot substitute for systematic, progressive social change that would reduce poverty and inequality nationwide. We need to advocate for fundamental change that includes living-wage jobs and a robust safety net, I guarantee that would do a lot more good than buying another T-shirt with a corporate logo.” (215)

“When the media does cover domestic hunger stories, usually around the holidays, they almost never include any discussion of the government’s role in creating or solving the problem. During the staple Thanksgiving and Christmas newscasts in late 2005, both CBS and NBC ran stories on food banks running short of donations, without explaining or even asking why.” (227)

“Here’s the truth that many on the Right will rarely admit: Even when welfare reform was working most effectively in the late 1990s, some of those who left welfare for work earned less than they did on public assistance, and people who remained on the rolls struggled with ever-shrinking benefits. Even as the overall poverty rate decreased, the number of people in extreme poverty increased.” (157)

“Pantries were needed because Reagonomics failed. Somehow, tax cuts for the wealthy and massive defense spending did not lead to a ‘trickling down’ of money for the poor.” (76)

“In short, welfare reform has helped more families achieve independence that the Left will acknowledge, but has sent far more families to soup kitchens, food pantries, and homeless shelters than the Right will admit. Moreover, it has actually changed the overall state of poverty in America-for good or bad-far less than either side will admit.” (158)

“While some may be unwilling to work, most of these people are permanently disabled, raising children full time, unable to find work, or too ill to work. These facts dispel the myth that everyone hungry is just too lazy to work, as well as the alternative myth sometimes advanced by advocates that everyone hungry is already working.” (36)

“The number of adults and children who suffered from the most severe lack of food-what the Bush administration now calls ‘very low food security’ and what used to be called ‘hunger’-also increased in that period from 7.7 million to 11.1 million people-a 44 percent increase in just seven years.” (16)

the politics of giving-time, money, food, a shit-are so complicated. i am simultaneously wary of any gift that doesn’t happen one-on-one and blessed and inspired by those who give gifts that keep on giving. when people are on the street asking, i always make eye contact and offer food when i have it, rarely money.

there’s a guy who regularly sits on the corner near my work. he inspires a dialogue around the food that he asks for, and the food that people bring him. it’s a corner smack dab between gentrification and yoga studio, so his requests for chocolate milk, buttermilk, or a burger clash with the $13 detox tonic, seaweed snack, and mediterranean fish chowder that people take upon themselves to bestow upon him.

there is that lingering unspoken heard of mental health that is so closely associated with food and homelessness, and while that’s probably another six books, it’s the only piece that’s missing from this one.

it’s the one that i struggle with the most-even with the people in my life who are not homeless or hungry.

(sigh).

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