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.

No comments: