Friday, November 20, 2015

An Unfortunate Choice of Words for the Local Holiday Food Drive

At the risk of being called a "Debbie Downer" during this time of giving, I feel I must add my two cents to the otherwise noble effort by a group of businesses to partner with Roadrunner Food to collect non-perishable food items during the holidays.

The image on the left is a scan of the paper bag that was inserted in between the various sections of The Albuquerque Journal  this week. The paper bag presented a misleading message to the public:"Solve Hunger" by donating food. A better word would be "Help Alleviate Hunger."

To actually solve hunger, we must solve some of the structural problems that cause hunger, one of which is poverty and related factors like unemployment, underemployment, low wages, lack of access to affordable and nutritious food, a high level of debt and other causes. There are 50 million of our neighbors who do not know where their next meal is coming from, including 360,000 in New Mexico who are at risk of hunger.

"Despite the end of the Great Recession and a falling unemployment rate, the nation continues to be plagued by a very uneven recovery; low employment rates; stagnant wages; inadequate public investments; and inadequate public safety net programs. Yes, there has been progress. But it has been too slow," the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) said in its recently unveiled Plan of Action to End Hunger in America.

And how much difference does the food drive make?  It certainly helps increase the amount of food available to Roadrunner Food Bank and all the Feeding America affiliates around that country. That is an important reason why we all should participate in this holiday drive. Go to your local grocery store (instead of emptying your pantry) and buy $10 or $15 worth of non-perishable food items and leave them by your mail box on Saturday. Or better yet, take them directly to your nearest post office.

"More than half the households in New Mexico have to make really tough decisions every day," said an editorial in today's edition of The Albuquerque Journal, one of the sponsors of the food drive.  "Sixty-one percent choose between spending on food and utilities. Sixty-six percent between food and transportation. Fifty-nine percent between food and medical care. Forty-eight percent between food and housing. But there’s an easy choice more fortunate New Mexicans can make today and Saturday. That’s to fill the brown grocery bag in Thursday’s Journal with nonperishable food,"

The brown paper bag also contains some handy tips to help Roadrunner Food Bank, including signing up for programs where retailers donate a portion of your holiday purchases to our local food bank. And you are also given an opportunity to text a donation.  Here is why the financial donations are important.

"Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization, annually serves 46.5 million people across the U.S. through its network of 200 food banks, according to its "Hunger in America 2014" study," said an article The Huffington Post. "But what you may not know is that these organizations have limited resources themselves. While approximately 100 million pounds of food is donated to Feeding America food banks each year via canned food drives, these items alone won’t solve the issue of hunger that so many Americans face. Tight budgets, limited volunteers, finite donations, and the short turnarounds required between receiving fresh foods and distributing them to families in need can be challenges in addressing the issue of hunger – and doing so with nutrient-rich foods."

The holiday food drive should give us at least a small opportunity to show solidarity with those who receive the food. One way to do this is to be aware of the reasons why families are in their current predicament.  It doesn't help when the campaign tells us that we are actually solving hunger through our holiday donations.

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