Friday, December 5, 2008

Day 5: U.S. Jobless Rate at 6.7%

Since January 2009, the US has lost 1.9 million jobs (for all of you New Engalnders, that is the total population of Vermont and Maine combined). The majority of job losses have occurred in the past three months, with 533,000 lost in November alone.

This news comes as the big 3 automakers lobby Congress for $34 billion in government aid. If any of these companies fall, there will be significant losses throughout the supply chain, and with it, more families left out in the cold.

I personally struggle with a bail out of the auto industry. On the one hand, allowing economic-darwinism to take its course, is an opportunity to re-frame US manufacturing to re-frame itself to be more sustainable, relevant, flexible and prosperous. On the other, thousands of communities will be deeply affected - and we may see a dramatic increase areas such as domestic violence, alchohism, and drug-use.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Nickle and Dimed

This is a great video, and a great book!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Day 3: Hunger and Brands

Working in social-experiential marketing, I tend to think a lot about brands - about how to build brand love, brand value and brand experiences. With a $21 / week food allowance, the food I am eating is generic, completely brand-less. The packaging contains no logo, fancy fonts, color schemes - just the words "black beans."

As we enter what may the longest recession since the Great Depression, this experience has caused me to think about the impact of financial crisis on brand-loyalty. Faced with economic realities, many brands will be easily abandoned. An Information Resources Inc. study determined that about 30 percent considered high-income swallowed their pride and grabbed store brands in the year’s second quarter, up from 20 percent during the first. Consumers are now making very basic decisions about whether or not to pay a premium price for a favored brand.

Consumers are asking a more of brands: Do I trust the brand? What does the brand stand for? Does the brand support non-profit cause? A compelling case must be built for a brands singularity among aisles of generics.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

(Almost) Free Rice

Thank the lord for rice. Rice has fed more people over a longer period of time than any other crop. At $.86 / lb, it's a big part of my diet these days.

A Few Facts on the School Breakfast Program

Eating my breakfast (2 eggs on toast and coffee), I decided to look up information on the School Breakfast Program (SBP). A few facts to think about from the Food Research Action Center:

- The
School Breakfast Program was established by Congress - first as a pilot program in 1966, then as a permanent entitlement program in 1975 to assist schools in providing nutritious morning meals to the nation's children.

- Each day
, roughly 10 million children in more than 84,500 schools and institutions participated in the SBP. Of these children, 81% received free or reduced price breakfasts.

- To receive free breakfast, household income must be at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level; for reduced price breakfast, income must be at or below 185 percent.

- Breakfasts served as part of the SBP provide one-fourth or more of the daily recommended levels for key nutrients that children need. They are required to provide no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat.

- Research shows that children who have school breakfast eat more fruits, drink more milk, and consume a wider variety of foods than those who don't eat breakfast or have breakfast at home.

- Studies conclude that students who eat school breakfast increase their math and reading scores as well as improve their speed and memory in cognitive tests.

- For the 2008-09 school year, schools are reimbursed $1.40 per free breakfast served, $1.10 per reduced priced breakfast, and $0.25 per paid breakfast. For fiscal year 2006, federal reimbursements for the SBP totaled $2 billion dollars.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Day 1: Hunger and AIDS in America

So here goes, today I began my food stamp diet. Today also marks World AIDS Day, a time to reflect on and increase attention and support to address the HIV / AIDS pandemic. The two issues, HIV/AIDS and hunger, are inexplicably linked, both thriving on economic fault lines amongst the most marginalized.

These issues come to a head in Atlanta's westside neighborhood known as Bluff. 98% of the population is African American. More than 40% live below the federal poverty line of $17,170 (the income threshold for a family of three). Many of these families are supported by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The AIDS burden is heavy in this community. More than 68% of Georgia's reported AIDS cases are in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area. African Americans represent 79% HIV cases and 77% of new AIDS diagnoses according to the Georgia Department of Human Resources.

Hunger and malnutrition is a major challenge for people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA). Healthcare costs often push PLWHA deeper into poverty. Low-income HIV-positive people are too often forced to choose between paying for their lifesaving medications and the nutritious diet that will allow the medications to work. (Many medications also require a full stomach before taking them). Furthermore, HIV/AIDS treatment often results in drastic weight loss due to their causing excessive vomiting and/or diarrhea. Adequate nutrition helps to keep the immune system strong thus enhancing the body’s ability to fight opportunistic infections. The AIDS Foundation of Chicago has great information on the link between Nutrition and AIDS.

What $16.53 Buys

12 jumbo white eggs
6 Ramen noodle packs
1lb of lentils (dry)
2lbs of black beans (dry)
3lbs of long grain rice
1 Whole Chicken (4.83 lbs)
1 loaf of wheat bread
10oz of Espresso