Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bill Moyers on Hunger in America | PBS

Bill Moyers Journal looks at shortages in America's food banks. A very interesting look at hunger in America.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Few Facts

A picture may be a thousand words, but a number can reflect the realities of many millions. A few numbers to think about:
  • In 2007, 37.3 million people (12.5%) were in poverty.
  • 35 million Americans - including 12.6 million children - are food-insecure.
  • Georgia (where I live) ranked 9th in the prevalence of food insecurity (13% ).
  • 1 in 5 Americans use at least one of USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs during the year.
  • The average monthly food stamp benefit is $93 per person-barely $1 per meal.
  • 26.7 million Americans use food stamps in an average month. Half of these recipients are children.

Feeding America has great fact sheets as does Share Our Strength.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why I am doing this

I have spent much of my career focusing on causes affecting the world's poorest: HIV/AIDS, access to safe water and adequate sanitation, and recovery from a major natural disaster. My work has taken me both physically and mentally to distant communities around the world. These are places and issues for which I am deeply passionate.

Yet, I often look at these issues with tunnel vision. I am often too focused on what is happening "over there" that I am left completely ignorant of the harsh realities affecting my neighbors.

I spent the days prior to the election canvasing in Atlanta's most disenfranchised communities. More than one third of the homes we visited were deserted and boarded-up. Many we spoke with were jobless. No income. No insurance. I was, and remain, embarrassed by my own ignorance.

As the price of food continues to climb and more and more Americans lose their job, the number of people going hungry and malnourished in this country could reach numbers we have not seen since the Great Depression. For many Americans, the US Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as the Food Stamp Program) will provide a critical lifeline during this time of economic crisis.

I want to better understand this program. I want to better understand what it means to survive on food stamps by living on $21 / week for two weeks (Dec 1 - 14) and by shopping only at grocery and convenience stores which accept food stamps.

This is not a test nor a challenge of any kind. This is an exploration - and I fully recognize it is an imperfect one. While I will go back to my overpriced eating (and coffee) habits after 14 days, this is a semi-permanent reality for more than 28 million Americans living on food stamps.

I have no grand ambitions with this exploration or this blog. I hope to simply learn and explore my own thinking on poverty and hunger in America.

The Rules

Okay, so here are the rules for my two week exploration:
  1. Spend a total of $21 on food and beverages per week.
  2. All food purchased and eaten during the week, including fast food and dining out must be included in the total spending.
  3. Only eat food that I purchase for the project. I cannot eat food that I already own (trust me, there's not much in the fridge anyway).
  4. Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or at work, including at receptions or meetings.
  5. Keep track of receipts on food spending and take note of my experiences throughout the week.
That's it. No fine print. I promise to keep to these rules. Game on.