How To Use Hunger To Fuel Political Activism

8 years ago

Last year, after reading BlogHer CE Alanna Kellogg's post about The Hunger Challenge, I joined in though I am not a food blogger like those who created the challenge. I did so because I wanted to challenge myself to increase my awareness of the political issues involved and to motivate my activism to fight hunger in America.

I hope this year other political bloggers will join me in taking the challenge. In 2007 several Members of Congress took a food stamp challenge, where they (including my Representative) lived, like last year's hunger challenge bloggers, on a food stamp budget of $21 a week.

The Congresspeople who took the challenge were not the ones who were least aware of the problem. However, the value of them taking the food stamp challenge was that it brought attention to the issues and problems and raised the members' commitment during the time that The Farm Bill was up for re-authorization.

The Farm Bill is an important piece of legislation of which many political activists are not much focused or aware. Which is a shame because it affects many issues of concern to us wonky types. In addition to being the legislation through which food stamps are authorized, it is the mechanism through which commodity crop subsidies are administered (which, if you've read The Omnivore's Dilemma, you know means we are a nation of giant ears of corn with a side dish of edamame). In addition it affects many other areas of policy such as caring for the environment and how we provide foreign food aid.

As a result of the current recession, one in nine Americans receive food stamp assistance. As governments shed workers because of recession related funding crises and they layoff workers wait times to receive assistance grow. Food banks are overwhelmed by the increased need and gap-filling required. It is a vicious cycle that demands we as a nation examine what our basic values. Do we believe our neighbors, our community members, any human being should go hungry? And if we do not it is our duty, as citizens, to make that known to our elected representatives.

Having taken The Hunger Challenge last year, I can tell you that the effort to eat healthy on a limited budget even without some of the limitations many face (e.g., lack of access to grocery stores, no stable or secure home, food storage and cooking facilities) is more difficult than you might imagine. My consciousness and commitment to fighting hunger and raising my political voice were raised. And though my one week of individual action won't change the world, raising awareness and letting those in power know that I want structural change will.

I hope you'll consider joining me.

Related Reading:

The Hunger Challenge

San Francisco Food Bank Blog The Food Feed

Feeding America: September is Hunger Action Month

Teachers Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard challenged themselves to eat on $1 day which is the amount on which many around the world subsist.

Deborahmichelle at The Dollar Community: Small food stamp gripe

The challenges in applying for food stamps after her husband's death

BlogHer CE Catherine Morgan: The High Cost of Cheap Food

This post touches on why food policy results junk food calories being cheap and nutritious calories from foods like fresh vegetables being expensive.

BlogHer CE Britt Bravo: Try Eating for $4 a Day. Join The Hunger Challenge

Melissa Lafsky at Discover Magazine Discoblog: Incentives Incentives! Why Being on Food Stamps Up Your Obesity Risk

Why is this? Because food stamps offer a very small amount of credit—$81 a month for the average recipient in 2002—with which to purchase food. As such, people relying on the stamps have a strong incentive to buy cheap foods that are filling—in other words, the exact type of foods contributing to the obesity epidemic.

As we’ve said before, there are two camps when it comes to fighting obesity: punishing or restricting bad behavior (like oh, say, banning new fast food restaurants in poorer neighborhoods) and rewarding good behavior. We’ve come out in favor of the second option before, and this time is no exception. Rather than penalize food stamp recipients who buy unhealthy foods, we should offer incentives and rewards for purchasing produce, whole grains, and other ingredients that don’t pack on the pounds.

Julianne Hing at RaceWire The Colorlines Blog: The Record-Breaking Great Recession: Food Stamps Edition

There are also new reports to contend with these days, like the latest that links food stamp usage with obesity, and it’s making me extra angry. These sorts of conversations inevitably ignite vile and racialized “personal responsibility” attacks on poor people’s bad decisions and lazy lifestyles. But the real issue is about access and availability.

The affordable food that fills the belly very often isn’t the food that can keep the body healthy.For low-income communities of color, a very serious and well-documented “grocery gap” of food deserts exists. According to the USDA, 26 million people who live in low-income urban neighborhoods do not have a single supermarket within walking distance of their homes.

If only the food stamp bounty in real life included gallons of milk, stacks of turkey legs, miles of bananas, yogurt cups (okay who knows what they are but that's what I'm seeing) and dozens of apples! In truth it's very often made up of what you can get at the corner store, where you'll find more varieties of whiskey and potato chips than you will fruits and vegetables. Sure you can buy a gallon of milk at the liquor store, but there, fresh food is priced at a premium. It's not always a matter of choice when the milk costs over $4 a jug.

BlogHer is a media sponsor of The Hunger Challenge.

BlogHer CE Maria Niles will be taking The Hunger Challenge at PopConsumer

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