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"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."  

                                                                   - Martin Luther King Jr.

I've talked about my mom before, a waitress for the majority of her life, and my father a maintenance man at a hotel. We were a part of the working poor. My parents just making enough money to barely get by, there were times when making sure the water didn’t get shut-off was more important than making sure there was food in the pantry. Food stamps then were paper and came in booklets and local churches were the ones who handed out food baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Today according to the Congressional Budget Office report, 48 million Americans rely upon food stamps to make up some portion of what they need to feed their families. These people are the poor and working poor, either living in poverty or on the verge. This group includes single moms, recent college graduates, senior citizens, veterans, and active duty members of the military.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed a bill cutting $40 billion from the food stamp program, more formally known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. It is very likely this bill won't pass the Senate but it should wake you up to know that there are people, those decision makers I've talked about, that truly don't understand what it means to be poor and what it means to know that you are unable to feed yourself and your kids. This cut and any other like it will cause additional stress on the network of food banks across America that are already struggling to keep their shelves stocked. The men and women in Washington cite fraud, waste, abuse, and dependency, especially the dependency, we are creating as reason to cut the $40 billion from the program.

This is the same argument and conversation that has been said ad nauseum since Ronald Reagan was President. I believe we need to change the conversation. In fact, I believe we need to take this conversation one step further and talk about how we work towards reducing reliance on food stamps by transforming the program to one that not only continues to help those most vulnerable but provides a source of job training for them as well. It is time that we end the age old argument of those on the left that say spend more and those on the right that say cut people off and let them pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Currently we rely on the food stamp program, food banks, charity, but if we transform this program we will not only reduce fraud, waste, abuse, but reduce the stress on local food banks and above all reduce dependency.

Food banks and pantries will restructure into a Network for Community Nutrition (NCN) and become the hub for those on food assistance to purchase fresh and local food where available, in their community. The USDA who currently manages SNAP will provide a subsidy to individual states to fund the Network for Community Nutrition.  Each community will have an NCN to meet the nutritional needs of those locally that need assistance.

The NCN will be staffed by a collaboration of employees of the State in which they operate as well by people who are out of work. While working at the NCN they will learn new job skills, earn a wage, and reduce their dependence on the NCN. To stock the shelves, each NCN will work with local grocery stores and farmer’s markets to purchase foods that meet established guidelines for health and nutrition such as whole grains, reduced fat dairy products, meats, and fresh fruits and vegetables.  This action reduces the amount of paperwork and regulations on local businesses while still allowing them to compete for the resources offered by the current system.

Qualification standards for families in need will be reevaluated based upon family size, income as well as the debts incurred by each family. The qualification standards will change to ensure each family is receiving the correct amount of benefit so that falsification of application data decreases. Recipients will be issued the electronic benefit card with the qualified dollar amount allotted each month to use to purchase the food items from the NCN.

People of this country have demonstrated a decreasing approval of their politicians in Washington. Washington politicians have demonstrated an unwillingness to let go of partisan political ground. As a result, we continue to find ourselves deficient in policy and unfortunately find a growing number of families in this instance with a deficient source of nutritional food.

The only way to correct this precarious course is by speaking up and offering change, and doing it in a way that applies smart pressure directly to the source of hemorrhaging intelligence. I am offering mine up to you for our conversation. So if you have ideas too, speak up. But don’t stop there.

Look around your community and seek out the decision makers, the influential-types and anyone else you can recruit, and be willing to walk up to them and engage them in a respectful discussion. Heck, you can even take my ideas and use them as your own. I don’t care because I know in the end it will help us make change happen, and in this instance, not only reduce poverty related dependencies, but the worry of even having to be poverty dependent at all.

*Originally posted on A Broad Sense on September 20, 2013.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The problem is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CroneWit, spacecadet1

    Food banks discriminate.

    So we will have an underclass of Transgender, atheists, or non Christians that never get food because the neutral federal government is no longer involved.

  •  Why are you pumping the 'fraud, waste, abuse' meme (2+ / 0-)

    which has been demonstrated as false and as a continuation of the 'welfare queen' racist/classist GOP war on the social safety net?  (I hope other writers will supply some facts & figures here about the false meme of 'waste and abuse'.)

    Why are you assuming, in today's economy, that those who need Food Stamps are uneducated and without 'workplace skills'?  Will you plan include provision for highly-educated  professionals who are unemployed because they are in their 50's and have been replaced by (1) computerization and/or (2) temp workers or younger, less expensive employees?  Does a family, with both parents working full-time hours (or more) at 2-3 low-pay and/or part-time jobs need to learn the (basicially retail) 'workplace skills' that your program would provide?  And wouldn't the parents of such a family have to give up some of their paying work to fulfill your program's work requirement, thus forcing the family into decisions between either bringing in enough income to pay housing (and other necessary costs) or giving up Food Stamps because the work requirement would make them lose income from other sources?

    Who decides what is 'adequate' and 'healthy' nutrition?  Recently, Alexandria Lynch has done a diary series here on using Food Stamps; her family is comprised of four adults, each of whom has narrow and specialized food requirements due to health issues.  Many of the regular commentors in that series also described similar situations in their households.  A 'one size fits all', government-prescribed nutrition program does not take into account the fact that individuals have genuine reasons for needing to select their own groceries.

    In recent months, at least two States have had bills introduced that would limit Food Stamp recipients to choosing foods Federally approved by the WIC program.  The food choices allowed under the  Womens, Infants and Children program are designed to meet the specialized nutrition needs of pregnant women, nursing mothers, and very young children (under age 5, iirc).  The WIC foods (limited both by kind and by quantity) would not be sufficient  to meet the nutrition needs of older children, teenagers, adult men and (non-breeding) women, or older adults.  I, too, have specialized food needs due to health problems; when reading about those bills, I read the WIC pamphlet and found that I would not be able to feed myself properly if my Food Stamp purchases were limited to the WIC selections.

    You may be trying to introduce the idea of a government-run, yet community-implemented, safety net for food distribution.  There are waysw in which such a program might conceivably be a good idea.  However, seems to me to perpetuate classist/racist myths about those who need Food Stamps and to attempt to insert the government into every decision about what groceries I can reach for at the store. as well as forcing those with food needs in the role of wage-slaves for a government-run 'company store' in which they must work (giving up other possibilities for income) for the right to gain food aid before they can be allowed to pick from a narrow, government-defined group of foods.

    •  I think (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CorinaR, a gilas girl

      the diarist cited the representatives in Washington as having the racist and out moded ideas about what SNAP money is spending, not her or his opinion that the program is rife with FWA.

      I think the MLK qupte sets the tone,  it is not about the people on SNAP it is about the system that creates working poor themselves and that is where reforms should center.  It is still a federal/state funded and run program, and the ideas may indeed be unworkable when examined.

      •  Diarist has adopted meme, argues from that point (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Horace Boothroyd III

        By adopting and aruging from the basis of the racist/classist meme, the diarist grants it credibility and traction.  She is arguing as though the mem is true and accurate, and presents her program as a 'solution' to the false meme.

        The men and women in Washington cite fraud, waste, abuse, and dependency, especially the dependency, we are creating as reason to cut the $40 billion from the program.  


        Currently we rely on the food stamp program, food banks, charity, but if we transform this program we will not only reduce fraud, waste, abuse, but reduce the stress on local food banks and above all reduce dependency.

        The second sentence in the quote above is my basis for saying that the diarist has accepted, and thus is pushing, the false GOP racist/classist meme.
        •  I guess (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          a gilas girl

          I read a qualifier into it,  there is FWA in any system where large amounts of money changes hands,  but it is the emphasis on whether it is a driver of the costs of the system that is the difference.  The right wing pushes it as mostly FWA,  the left see it as negligible and acceptable.  I read it the way I believe again especially in light of retaining a government program rather than parading out 'charity' will save the day approach.  I still don't beleive this is adopting a racist/classist meme the tone is so different than what I here from the real world people on the right.

        •  Can't ignore (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          a gilas girl

          The diarst would be dishonest if she were ignoring the facts of how those in Washington view this. And for any of us to ignore that is to not accept reality. She is clearly not bought into their claims but certainly has a grasp for what has been happening for far too long. And if you read into her bio, she has a fairly first-hand experience with this subject matter.

  •  The ONE good idea Milton Friedman ever had was (4+ / 0-)

    the "Negative Income Tax". He thought it would (and should) provide a basic level of income for everyone, enough to keep a roof over their head and food in the house.

    Of course it was never really implemented - even the "Earned Income Tax Credit", which is a skinned-to-the-bare-bone version of the general idea, only covers people who DO work and earn enough to bother filing income tax returns at all - and is so pitifully small for persons without dependent children that it's hardly worth the trouble of filing.

    If it's
    Not your body,
    Then it's
    Not your choice
    And it's
    None of your damn business!

    by TheOtherMaven on Thu Sep 26, 2013 at 08:35:04 AM PDT

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