In these economic hard times it should come as no surprise that more people find themselves struggling to acquire the basic necessities of life, including food. Even before the recession there were plenty of reports of increasing food insecurity. As I scour the internet each week for food news to share with you, one topic comes up again and again- more people are relying on food pantries every day.
In cities all over America, not only are food banks reporting feeding record numbers of people, but many cannot keep adequate food supplies on the shelves to meet demand. Not surprising then, the number of people on food stamps keeps rising as well, a record 42 million people. Up to this point, I am speaking in basic facts that no one is disputing, but as soon as the conversation focuses on solutions, the wild ride begins.
There are some basic questions that yield very different answers and analyses depending on who you ask, such as: How do we combat food deserts, areas of America with no grocery stores or markets that sell fresh, healthy food? How much fraud exists amongst food stamp recipients? Doesn’t feeding mentally and physically able people encourage laziness and further reliance on the government? How far should the government go in dictating the choices a food stamp recipient has? I don’t have the space in this newsletter to explore every side to every question (though I encourage you to), but I would like to offer some food for thought on these topics. This is in no particular order.
It is likely that a person who requires help with putting food on the table also requires help paying for health care. The government is always struggling with debt, and will be picking up the tab for any medical treatment required by food stamp recipients. It seems logical then that food stamps should only purchase foods that would tend to increase the health of the user in order to reduce medical costs.
There are always things to do in our communities, from picking up trash, to scrubbing graffiti off of public places, to helping the elderly get their needs met. Seems reasonable to require unemployed people receiving assistance to reciprocate by helping knock off items on their town’s to-do list. I am not talking about full time hours here, just some effort in return for the assistance they receive.
It is reported that 40% of the average American child’s diet is fast food. In America- “land of the free”, most of us think it is intrusive for government to make choices for us. But when parents stop teaching and demanding healthy choices for their kids, and food inc, with their multi-million dollar marketing and political contributions win the day, is it OK for a central authority to set the rules? Keep in mind that these choices cost us all money in the long run, money we don’t have. What do you think?
This Week’s Harvest: Mixed Winter Squash, Mustard Greens, Chard, Tomatoes, Peppers, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Basil, Parsley