Oct 312005

It kills me to know how many American kids are going hungry each day.

Last week I saw the kind of news clip that makes me think whatever Scooter Libby and Karl Rove and Dick Cheney have done is small pickings. From Yahoo News:

The House Agriculture Committee approved budget cuts Friday that would take food stamps away from an estimated 300,000 people and could cut off school lunches and breakfasts for 40,000 children.

The action came as the government reported that the number of people who are hungry because they can’t afford to buy enough food rose to 38.2 million in 2004, an increase of 7 million in five years. The number represents nearly 12 percent of U.S. households.

The cuts, approved by the Republican-controlled committee on a party-line vote, are part of an effort by the House GOP to curb federal spending by $50 billion. The food and agriculture cuts would reduce spending by $3.7 billion, including $844 million on nutrition, $760 million on conservation and $212 million on payments to farmers.

"The fact is, our country is going broke," said Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio. "We’re spending money we don’t have and passing it onto our kids, and at some point, somebody’s got to say, ‘Enough’s enough.’"

The $574 million reduction in food stamp spending would affect families who receive food stamps because they receive other non-cash government assistance. The change is estimated to shut up to 300,000 people out of the program.

I know it’s really important to funnel money to Halliburton, but really–when one out of every ten American households doesn’t have enough money to feed itself adequately, you have to say we’ve hit the wall. And with fuel costs rising and credit card debt hitting new levels, you know it’s only going to get worse this winter. Forty million hungry Americans? Fifty?

This is crazy. The poor didn’t cause the deficit. Bush and his pen full of pigs did. If anyone should be skipping meals, it’s those guys.

You want to know how out of alignment with the universe George Bush is? Texas–his so-called ‘home’ state–leads the nation in rate of households at risk for hunger. Yes, over the last three years, more Texans were at risk of going hungry than the residents of any other state. The stats: between 2002 and 2004, 16 percent of Texas households had trouble providing food for their families. And in 5% of Texas households, at least one family member went hungry during those years–the fourth-highest hunger rate in the country.

Right there, that’s ‘compassionate conservatism’ in action.

But it’s not just hard-hearted Republicans who make me sick. It’s weak-kneed Democrats. Really, what’s the practical difference between the parties? If Senators wore decals of the companies that own them, they’d look like NASCAR racers.

So it comes back to what I can do, to what you can do. That is: what’s needed is a way of reaching people in need as directly as possible–to do the right thing even if our government won’t.

Jesse Kornbluth who wrotes a column at Beliefnet is a fan of Billy Shore, founder of Share Our Strength, an anti-hunger crusade of total commitment and 100% integrity. Kornbluth wrote him to ask: Can civilians fix this? What can we do? What can we help you do?

He emailed the following:

Jonathan Kozol says you should pick battles that are important enough to matter but small enough to win. Childhood hunger is exactly that. Despite the massive, outrageous problem with food insecurity, we can actually do something about feeding chronically hungry kids. A victory in ending childhood hunger in the U.S. is within our grasp. Maybe 500,000 children. That’s why we are trying to get on the ground in community after community to find the obstacles to accessing food and nutrition programs, and to then remove them.

I’m going to lighten up on the holiday presents this year. I’m going to cut back on my vices. And, every chance I get, I’m going to lobby you (and others) to do the same. Contacting your Congressman and Senators is not a bad thing either. Let them know we could take back the millions being used in Alaska to build the "bridge to nowhere," and redirect it to feeding Children.

If you want to learn more about Share Our Strength and, possibly, make a donation, go to Strength.org.

I believe in choice. You might also consider Second Harvest.

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