Sunday, June 12, 2011

Food for All, Nov. 2010

I picked up my CSA at the last farmers' market of the season on Friday. It is a sad time to say goodbye to the market until next May. As I packed the vegetables into my bag, another CSA member said to me “I hate going back to the grocery store”. I agreed, although also thankful for my freezer full of vegetables, meat and fruit. I went home and unpacked onions, broccoli, salad greens, green peppers and more. As I filled the shelf, I mumbled under my breath at how packed my refrigerator now was. It didn't dawn on me until later that night.....many people both in our county and around the world will never have the opportunity to lament an overcrowded refrigerator. I felt a mixture of feelings including thankfulness for my secure food supply, shame for griping about having too much food, and concern for others who don't have enough to eat.

I had to do a double take when I saw the headline “Food stamp recipients in county up 60% in three years.” (North Country This Week, 10/12/10, Piche). This is a huge increase. Recession aside, I would hope these numbers would go down throughout the years, not up. There are positive programs in our community which help those struggling to put food on the table. The EBT/GardenShare table at the Canton Farmers' Market swipes EBT (electronic benefits transfer) cards (during May-October). The recipient then gets tokens to use at the market for fresh food. The Canton Methodist Church offers a weekly free will dinner. SLU Campus Kitchen is now also offering weekly meals at the UU church in Canton. Community members have access to neighborhood centers and food pantries, yet these are struggling to keep up with demand. As important as all of these programs are, they are band-aids. They don't address the root cause of poverty and hunger.

The root of the problem looms over us, either inadequately addressed or ignored. In his book Closing the Food Gap, Mark Winne notes “The antipoverty campaign must support health insurance, quality education, childcare, and a living wage for all citizens.” Fully addressing hunger isn't as simple as giving away free food. He also goes on to state we must begin to reduce the size and scope of food banking in America. I would agree with this - only after we have systems in place which address hunger more effectively. After 17 years of working with a variety of disadvantaged (primarily by income and race) groups, I have seen how critical it is for families to obtain food within the day. As we have seen from the national debate on health insurance, addressing the root causes will not be easy and quick.

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