Archive for Friday, November 8, 2013

Editorial: Getting by

Food is a basic need, but food stamp cuts have some local residents wondering how they will continue to fill that need.

November 8, 2013


As the holidays approach, people tend to pay more attention to the needs of less fortunate local residents, but this month’s cuts in federal food stamp assistance are a reminder that, for some, having enough food to feed themselves and their families is a year-round concern.

In 2009, the federal economic stimulus package provided extra funding for the food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Now that the recession is easing across the country, those funds are being withdrawn. The result is that a family of four that had been receiving $668 per month in food stamps, now will receive $632. That loss of $36 may not seem like much, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates it equates to a loss of about 27 meals a month.

That’s quite a few meals to simply skip. In Douglas County, the reduction in food stamp funding amounts to 31,886 missed meals a month for the 8,659 people who receive assistance. That number includes about 3,500 children.

In addition to this month’s cuts, about 20,000 unemployed Kansans without children are losing food stamps because of the state’s recent decision not to seek renewal of a federal waiver that allowed them to receive that assistance. Last year, a change in the way the state determines eligibility for food stamps, resulted in assistance cuts for thousands of children living in households that contained a mixture of U.S. citizens and undocumented immigrants.

All of these factors have placed significant new pressures on non-profit organizations that provide food assistance. The largest such agency in Lawrence is Just Food, which serves as the city’s central food bank. To help deal with the expected upturn in demand for its services, Just Food officials are seeking additional donors willing to make monthly pledges.

Whether or not a monthly pledge fits into your budget, it’s a great time to consider stepping up with additional support for Just Food, LINK and other local agencies that assist residents who may otherwise go hungry. Many children get their main meals at school so vacations around Thanksgiving and Christmas likely will spur even more demand at local agencies.

Especially around the holidays, many of us would have to admit we often get too much to eat. We should all be concerned with children and families in our community having at least enough to get by.


Leslie Swearingen 5 months, 1 week ago

Sorry, Bill, I hear you, I do. But my thing is that I have cooked from scratch all of my life and baked my own bread. My daughter and granddaughter always helped me in the kitchen and now they both cook. We all believe that, for instance, if you buy a bag of potatoes instead of instant there are so many possible dishes you can make from that.

Then to us cooking and baking is creative and fun, to others it is drudgery.

We are talking about changing the mind set of a lot of people. Just one more thing. I recently realized that II will buy certain food items because I feel that as an older, poor, person, food shopping is just about the only thing in my life I can control.

Weird but true factoid. If I return to my cooking roots I will be in control. I will not be using only food stamps but I will expect to have to use some cash to buy food during the month. I really think that some people made to feel like that are non-human have a "in your face" attitude that comes from a last ditch stand.

I realize just how wrong I was when I assumed that anyone can whip up an authentic 19th century English Christmas dinner. We did some research for that one and it took almost a month. We had to learn Brit speak to decipher the recipes. But, it was fun.

My apologies for making assumptions about people I don't even know.


5 months, 1 week ago

Leslie: "And, please don't assume that you know the intelligence level of all poor people and that they don't know how to cook"

Actually, after working with the poor for more than a decade I can tell you that a) it has nothing to do with intelligence, and b) if the poor lack anything more than money, it's skills. That includes cooking and (especially) budgeting skills. Poor people are poor primarily because they do the kinds of things that lead to poverty. They know no other way.

But that's why I specifically said that you should offer cooking or budgeting help, "if they need it." Some don't need it, but most do.

All are willing to accept it from a friend. Just like you are willing to let a friend teach you knitting or archery, poor people are happy to learn from someone they believe has their best interests at heart. So the most important thing you can be to a poorer person is a friend.

I don't offer that list so that some middle class prole can check it off like a bingo card or punch his good deed card for the week of Nov 3-10, 2013. I offer it because there's something real people need more than food. That's community. That's relationships. That's people caring about one another, helping one another, sacrificing for one another.

I'm not afraid to say that I don't care that the gov't is cutting food stamps. I don't. The idea that gov't is 'cruel' because it now covers only 94.6% of supplemental food rather than 100% is laughable. That sort of drama might deserve an Emmy, but it does not deserve a hearing.

But I care very much that we Americans have decided that so long as we politically support the poor getting food stamps, we can otherwise ignore them. So long as we support the right 'causes,' we can sleep well in the assurance that we have done our part. We haven't. Not remotely.

Food stamps destroy the fabric of our civil society, because they provide the uncomfortable with food while providing the comfortable with the illusion that their responsibility toward others has been fulfilled. It hasn't been. The American poor, even though they are the richest poor the world has ever seen, live in a hopeless state, because they see no way of bettering their position short of the lottery.

And it will always be hopeless unless those who are not poor offer them more than a plastic card that gives them microwavable meals. We must offer them ourselves. If we are not willing to offer that, then we should stop pretending that we give a d@mn about them.


Ted Morehouse 5 months, 1 week ago

Many people with food stamps blow the stamps on crap. A family can easily live off less that $600 a month if they bought high quality raw goods, such as rice, lentils, other legumes, potatoes, yams, etc. No can go hungry on $600 a month unless they spend it unwisely. Your a moron if you cant make a meal for less than a $1, high quality lentils are 50 cents a pound...


Ron Holzwarth 5 months, 1 week ago

Clipped from the article:
"That loss of $36 may not seem like much, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates it equates to a loss of about 27 meals a month."

Division indicates that the USDA estimates a single meal can be prepared for only $1.33. There are four explanations for a $1.33 meal that I can think of:

A) There is a typo in the article or the USDA source. Or, the USDA is using a very optimistic estimate for the cost of food that was not based on any recent trips to the grocery store.

B) Some of the food was found in the dumpster.

C) You certainly don't eat much.

D) This is possibly the best explanation: I don't shop wisely at the grocery store, or I do not buy food that I consider to be distasteful.

John Graham noted above that there is a television show that instructs how to prepare a meal for four that amounts to $2.50 per person, or possibly slightly less. That's certainly a lot more than $1.33.

If there is a USDA publication or website that will teach me how to prepare a meal for only $1.33, I would certainly like to see it. It's quite possible that I really need help, because I consistently spend a large multiple of $1.33 per day on food that I would be very embarrassed to state in public. And, I always thought I was shopping reasonably wisely.


5 months, 1 week ago

it’s a great time to consider stepping up with additional support for Just Food, LINK and other local agencies that assist residents who may otherwise go hungry.

Do it. Make a donation. Give a set % of your own food budget to each of them, even if it means burger instead of steak one night a week.

Then find a family that needs your help and invite them to dinner. Invite them weekly, or invite a different family each week. Find out who cooks in their house and offer pointers on cooking and/or budgeting if they need it. Buy them a turkey or a ham for Thanksgiving and a crock pot for Christmas.

Bring an elderly neighbor a bag of groceries. Be sure to thank her for watching your house when you're gone, because whether you know it or not, she does.

Grow a garden and send your neighborhood kids home with fresh, healthy, non-GMO veggies. Share your apples and pears and walnuts.

And it's not just food. Young moms need diapers, everyone needs laundry soap and paper towels. Every kid can use a nice pair of shoes.

There's plenty you can do, but you have to do it.


Timothy Eugene 5 months, 1 week ago

This is not their only food source. It is a supplement.

The sky is not falling. Nice try.


John Graham 5 months, 1 week ago

There is a TV show on food network "Ten Dollar Dinners". It shows how one can make a complete meal for four on $10 or less. The meals appear substantial in quantity and attractive in appearance. I certainly would be happy to serve any meal they show to family or company without hesitation. The amount of money spent on the meal would place the dinner between the "low" and "moderate" level of cost based on USDA data. I mention this to support my above argument that with the two children receiving subsidized breakfast and lunch at school (I understand this does not happen with all children on all days or in all school districts), serving a substantial delicious meal funded only with SNAP funds is quite doable while staying on budget.


Michael LoBurgio 5 months, 1 week ago

The Social Safety Net Kept Millions Out Of Poverty Last Year

Without social safety net programs such as Social Security, food stamps, welfare, unemployment insurance, and others, millions more people would be in poverty, according to latest supplemental poverty measure report from the Census Bureau.

The Census calculates a supplemental poverty measure (SPM) by taking various benefits and expenses into account, as well as geographical variety. That adjusted poverty rate was 16 percent in 2012, higher than the official measure of 15 percent.

The Census then breaks out the benefit of a variety of programs in reducing the rate. Social Security has the biggest impact, keeping 26.6 million people out of poverty and reducing the SPM poverty rate by 8.6 percentage points. Without it, the SPM poverty rate would be 24.5 percent.


Michael LoBurgio 5 months, 1 week ago

Billionaires Collect Millions In Taxpayer Dollars Through Farm Subsidies

The farm subsidies that are part of the federal farm bill paid at least $11.3 million to 50 separate billionaires or billionaire-owned businesses since 1995, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).


John Graham 5 months, 1 week ago

Where ever the line is drawn with respect to a subsidy or entitlement program those just outside the line will probably not be happy. No doubt some outside the line would benefit from receiving the subsidy. Unfortunately the line has to be drawn somewhere. Similarly the amount of the benefit given could always be more. Who doesn't like more? Again a line has to be drawn somewhere. Whether SNAP, unemployment, social security, ACA subsidies etc it is always the same. Where ever the line is drawn some will say it is not fair and the amount given is never enough. Remember this is a "supplemental" program. It was never designed to be used as the sole source of funds for buying food. $150 per week may not be a lot as the sole amount spent to feed a family of four, but an additional $150 a week as a "supplement" to help buy food is a significant benefit.

The USDA this year released figures for the cost of feeding a family of four a healthy diet including fresh fruits and vegetables. They report a "thrifty" plan cost of $146 per week, a "low" cost plan $191 per week, a "moderate" plan $239 per week and a "liberal" plan $289 per week. Based on USDA data SNAP subsidies will cover 100% of the cost of a "thrifty" plan, 78% of a "low" cost plan, 63% of a "moderate" plan and 52% of a "liberal" plan. Also one must remember the USDA data is for ALL meals and snacks for a family of four. This is a total of 84 meals per week for the entire family plus snacks. The two school age children will be receiving at least subsidized lunch and snacks while at school (total of 10 meals per week between the two children). In some cases the children will be receiving breakfast, lunch and snacks while at school (total of 20 meals per week between the two children). The subsidized meals at school cover 12% (just lunch) to 24% (breakfast and lunch) of the meals the SNAP funds are supposed to provide. Since 12-24% of the entire weekly meals are paid for by school subsidies, this means the family has more SNAP money to use per meal that the family actually has to provide. If one does the math, if the two children are receiving breakfast and lunch at school, the $150 per week SNAP money would allow the family to eat at a level between the "low" cost plan and the "moderate" plan solely using SNAP money.

In summary while SNAP funds may not be extravagant, the data from the USDA would show a family of four should be able to provide healthy meals without using anything but SNAP funds.


Kate Rogge 5 months, 1 week ago

How cruel our government is to take food from the most needy among us. What on earth is gained by such ideological posturing? If they want to end dependency among able-bodied adults (who are the minority of those harmed by this new restriction), then HIRE them at a wage that allows them to support themselves and their families. Jobs or dependency. Take your pick.


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