Pennies per meal
How about 14 cents or even 20 cents?
How do they do it? Who? The food banks of America.
Those numbers are what is implied by the ratio of donations-to-meals-provided that food banks advertise. Give us a donation of $1 they say and we will feed, respectively, 8, 7 or 5 hungry people. The first is from Feeding America, the leading food bank organization in the United States, the second from a statewide regional food bank in the Feeding America network, and the third from Arvest Bank in their feeding 1 million hungry people program each year. (Note: Arvest Bank is owned by Walmart).
This is both great news and terrible news.
These are great numbers for attracting donations and showing how far charitable donations go toward “helping” those in need. And when families cannot afford to purchase food, or lose their SNAPS (formerly called food stamps) allocations from the government, these gifts of food do satisfy the chronic nagging hunger.
But would you spend so little to feed your family? Could you?
There are two massive problems with this picture. Both are terrible.
The first problem with the food bank system as it exists today is the kinds of foods that are supplied to the hungry. Sure, with $100,000 in United Way donations, a local food bank can supply 500,000-800,000 meals each year. But what kind of food is it and what long-term problems do these donated meals create?
A survey of local food banks, which are largely supplied by a regional food bank, shows that most of the food provided consists of canned food products and processed foods, often cereal and other grain-based products which are processed with various vegetable oils. These foods are often left over and extra food products with expiring dates that have been donated by the large chains and agri-businesses. What isn’t on the shelves are organic foods, fresh vegetables, butter, healthy meats and free range eggs.
In a word, food bank recipients receive the low end of the Standard American Diet food products. And such products are well known to contribute to the epidemic of obesity, diabetes and multiple other chronic diseases. Worse yet, many of these products are well known to contribute to, or directly cause, multiple forms of mental disease and violent behaviors.
So, in essence, the food bank system provides exactly the wrong kinds of foods for people who are often under intense financial and emotional stress. That kind of empty nutrition on top of extreme stress is a recipe for continuing the vicious cycle of poverty and illness.
In America, we should be able to do better than that! I know we can but there is another major problem: socialism, government borrowing, taxes and over regulation that have led to financial decline in America.
I will mention just one indicator: SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called the Food Stamp program that costs taxpayers $78 billion each year. Started in 1969, for most of its existence, this program has provided benefits to about 10% of the population with some minor cycles. But with the Obama administration, the program began to increase rapidly from 9% in 2008 (the year of his election) to 11% in 2009 until in 2012 it had grown by 65% to cover 15% of the population. During the same period, the cost of the program more than doubled (108.4%) from $37.6 billion to over $78.4 billion.
At the same time, the average benefit per person has increased from $102 per month to $133 per month. So a family of 4 would be entitled to $532 worth of SNAP benefits. And among the types of products that qualify for SNAP purchases are soft drinks, candy, cookies, cakes. So a family on SNAP can purchase hundreds of dollars worth of products loaded with sugars, chemicals and carbohydrates laced with processed oils. And they can receive free, the same type of foods from the food banks. All of this, of course, contributes to obesity, as well as to chronic and mental illnesses.
Meanwhile, for those who are willing and able to pay their own way, real unemployment numbers are way up, largely due to the massive government borrowing, the noxious regulatory growth and the increased taxes. And with ObamaCare, the situation will only get much worse. Consequently, the ability of good-hearted Americans to donate and help those in need has will continue to decrease substantially. And the dependency of those in poverty on socialism programs will only deepen. At the same time, the addictions to foods they are permitted to buy and are given free of charge is slowed only by the creeping obesity and resulting chronic medical conditions.
In a word, taxing people more to provide richer socialism benefits is akin to eating more sugar-laced products to curb hunger. Both are leading to very negative consequences of illness, diabetes, obesity, dependency on government handouts, economic collapse affecting all Americans, and multi-generational habits of poverty. This is a true disaster in the making.
There is a better way. Feed them healthy! And provide the means for all recipients to upgrade their nutrition understanding, cooking skills, and intellectual capabilities. It will help make poor people smarter, more emotionally balanced, healthier, and more energetic. In a word, better able to hold a job and start real progress.
That is the long-term mission of Global ResQ.