Food News: Using post offices as food sharing stations, the 2018 Farm Bill,ending food deserts in Minnesota

This post covers food news that pertains to food insecurity and SNAP.


First Class , a project proposal by Washington University students that won the  Urban SOS: Fair Share Student Competition, suggest utilizing postal workers and post offices to alleviate food insecurity. Postal workers could pick up food donations on their route and deliver them to the food bank or bring them back to the post office, which would also serve as a food sharing station. Going to the post office would also mean you’re walking into a permanent food bank. This proposal was focused on L.A. county so it doesn’t address accessibility issues for rural folks,obviously but in theory, this is such a great idea.

Screen_Shot_2017-01-26_at_4.58.19_PM.png


Sonny Perdue, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Ag, hasn’t had a confirmation hearing yet but his staffers already have concerns about the lack of basic contact from The White House , as well as support through the hearings.   Perdue is likely to be confirmed without much of a challenge …if he doesn’t feel the need to withdraw his name first.

Meanwhile, the Farm Bill is up for renewal next year and understandably, there’s quite a bit of anxiety about what that’s going to look like. Food and ag policy people have already been discussing what the new Farm Bill might look like.
Civil Eats covered a discussion hosted by AGree and this is what was said about SNAP:

Another key topic of conversation was the future of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or the food stamp program. SNAP and other nutrition programs are funded through the Farm Bill, and account for about 75 percent of the Bill’s spending (in 2016, nutrition programs accounted for around 89 billion of mandatory federal spending).

Republican legislators have in the past proposed removing SNAP from the Farm Bill and converting it to a block grant, which would allocate its administration to the states. Anti-hunger advocates have argued that block-granting the program would result in cuts, as the program would have less ability to respond to emergency situations.

Several participants at the AGree event seemed confident that the SNAP program wouldn’t experience major cuts, let alone block-granting. “Anyone who thinks we’re going to get a Farm Bill by separating [commodity and nutrition programs] is full of baloney,” said Yoder, an Ohio farmer. “It’s not going to happen.”

Jerry Hagstrom, a veteran agriculture journalist, echoed this sentiment. He said that from what he’s seen, there is “complete unity” among agriculture and trade groups that nutrition and commodity programs should remain together in the 2018 Farm Bill.

But Eric Mitchell, from the anti-hunger advocacy organization Bread for the World, was more skeptical. He encouraged the audience to consider political forces beyond the food and agriculture industry. He expressed concern that the Republican Congress might still pursue block-granting SNAP even against the wishes of agriculture groups. Several powerful Republicans have supported a move to block grants, including House Agriculture Committee chair Mike Conaway and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The last Farm Bill process was paralyzed for over a year by political debates surrounding possible cuts to SNAP. Those debates were in large part responsible for the delayed passage of the Bill, which was two years overdue when it was eventually signed in early 2014.

I’m with Eric Mitchell on this. Not to sound dramatic but Paul Ryan is a formidable enemy of poor people and the programs that help them. I fully believe he & others will work hard to move SNAP to block grants and at this point, I can’t be sure he won’t succeed with that.

At this Food Tank  Summit event, Rep Chellie Pingree from Maine laid out what she thought the Farm Bill could look like.  About 2:30 in, Pingree starts discussing food insecurity and SNAP policies. Again, I think it’s highly optimistic to think this is an issue both parties will work together on. There are members of the GOP who can be presented with all the information that shows the different ways hunger in America looks like and disputing poverty as a moral failing and they still won’t try to do the right thing.


New bill aims at eliminating food deserts in Minnesota – the bill expands mobile pantries and asks for funding for more grocery stores and farmers markets ,too.


That’s all for now. I haven’t done one of these news wrap ups in awhile and I definitely missed a lot. I’ll have to aim to let less time pass between these types of posts.

Today’s song of the day… “Do You Still Love Me?” by Ryan Adams, for no other reason than this new album is being played heavily in my house this week.

SNAP News: Beginning Summer 2017, you can use food stamps to buy groceries online (in 7 states,anyway)

snap

The USDA is launching a pilot program this summer to test out the feasibility of allowing online grocers to accept SNAP. The intention is to help serve the needs of low income people in areas deemed food deserts, both rural and urban, as well as those who  have transportation and mobility barriers.

This may prove to be a crucial service for some people affected by the new USDA requirements that convenience stores and other vendors offer a wider variety of foods in order to qualify to accept food stamps and have been left with a larger gap in their accessibility to grocery stores. So far the program will be limited to just seven states to begin with – New York, Maryland, New Jersey,  Pennsylvania, Washington, Iowa, and Oregon, and only a few vendors have been selected. Amazon, FreshDirect, Safeway, ShopRite, Hy-Vee, Inc.,Hart’s Local Grocers , and Dash’s Market, the grocer behind the Rosie app.

This new pilot program could be a huge step forward to bridging that “healthy food” accessibility gap for low income people. The push for this began last summer with Thrive Markets (not chosen vendor) and Russel Simmons being among the biggest advocates.

Also in (trivial) SNAP news, a Republican guy who wants to be a politician in Oregon was on food stamps after his first Senate run, after spending $15,000 of his own money. Mike Callahan was unemployed and had joint custody of his two daughters. He qualified for food stamps and received them.
Ok?
He wasn’t earning enough money. He and his kids had to eat. That’s what the program is for. The gross thing here is that he fully admits that yep, he got food stamps but “it was a meager amount in comparison to others”. He’s better than everyone else who ever needed help. And sure, he basically squandered $15,000 that he could have used to support his family but so? He was trying to make something of himself!
(you know, not like the struggling Americans who get assistance who are thousands of dollars in debt because they spent money they didn’t really have on their own education who are now working in low wage jobs instead of what they have a degree in)

I’m not mad about the food stamps. I’m mad at the hypocrisy. Don’t tell me you want to represent “The People” if you think there’s a distinction between certain kinds of people.


If you like the work I do here at Poor as Folk, please consider being a supporter at Patreon! You can pledge as little as $1 a month. Your support will keep content on the blog free and available to all on the internet, as well as help me develop printed publications.  Donate here:  Poor as Folk on Patreon or one time donation via Paypal to luckyfishhomestead@gmail.com

I finally made it to Aldi’s and didn’t swoon (and other thoughts on food shopping w/out transportation)

All the people who told me that I needed to go to Aldi’s if I really needed to save money on food will be relieved to know that we got a car a few months ago and now I can go to Aldi’s.

I mean…if the car starts. Which it didn’t one day last month. It needed a new alternator which we had to wait weeks to get fixed until a) we had money to fix it or b) we got approved for a special loan program that helps low income people fix their car.

Or  if it’s not one of those weeks where it’s the day after payday and we have $15 until next payday, which means absolutely no unnecessary trips besides husband getting to work and home.

But otherwise, I can now go to Aldi’s. Before, I had to take two buses to get there. I would have to take at least 2 kids with me. We live in NY. In the winter, it gets really cold. In the summer, it gets really hot ( so, that’s a no to buying anything frozen). Plus, here in Ithaca we have special weather. Ithacating. It isn’t fun. Sometimes there could be as much as an hour+ long wait at a bus stop to get our bus home. One trip to Aldi’s might take me 6 hours, even though it was 20 minutes away.
Bus fare for one trip to Aldi’s: $5.75 . One of those children required hand holding or sometimes carrying. Since we didn’t live directly on the bus line, we would have to walk about ¾ of a mile to our house from the bus stop (don’t make me mention the weather again).

Total bags of groceries I could get without hurting myself or losing track of my kid: ONE.

I never went to Aldi’s. It was too much work.

Now that I have been to Aldi’s, I think I’m supposed to tell you that it was a life changing experience and with the money I saved, I can send my kids to college!

Sorry. No.

And on and on and on those chips and snacky foods go.

For one thing, my nickname for the Aldi’s here is Ithaca’s Snack Food Emporium. Are Aldi’s like this everywhere?

Nothing against chips but I can’t feed my family just chips. Although at those prices… I could divide a bag among my whole family for 36¢ per serving! That’s a more economical snack than the fresh peaches at Aldi’s. Peaches were 59¢ EACH, and that was when peaches were in season. My food budget is roughly $3 per person per day. I’m not spending 20% of my day’s budget on one peach. I could buy a can of peaches for around $1 and there’s 3 servings in a can. That’s 30-ish cents per serving.
I hear the cries of the real foodies right now telling us poor people that “Yes, you CAN eat fresh produce on a budget!”. I swear, those people just cannot do math.

Well, and obviously, they have no idea how to deal with lack of transportation or food deserts either.

People think of food deserts as being a city thing but they’re just as much a rural issue. Where we live now, the closest place that has something that resembles food is a gas station convenience store 2 miles away. Obviously, the selection is limited to snacks and a few pre-packaged meals that are way overpriced. I could probably walk there if I needed milk but then I’d have to pay something like $5 for a gallon of milk. A gallon of milk I’d then have to carry 2 miles home, dragging kids along, and ugh, did I mention the weather here sometimes? And no, that milk is totally not organic or hormone free or whatever I’m supposed to be eating/drinking to be a healthy and ethical human these days. This scenario is not on my top 10 list of “Ways To Save Money On Food When You’re Poor” . It doesn’t even make the top 50.

We are fortunate out here to have rural bus service, even if it does run a frustrating schedule. It can be hard to even get to the food bank, let alone the closest real grocery store (16 miles).
There are a lot of people in my area without cars. I think some assume automatically that those who live in the country have vehicles. Not so much here,anyway. There is a great group of retired individuals who will give parents a ride to events and meetings at the school. It’s necessary to have such a thing here.  So, with grocery shopping… when people are able to get to the store, they are more likely to NOT buy fresh or perishable food. Who knows when you’ll be able to go to the grocery store again? Dry goods and canned foods is the way to go.

I don’t know what my point is here. The man gave me his Man Cold and my brain is fuzzy. I think I’m just trying to ask people to think before they give advice to low income folks on how and where they should shop for food and what they should eat. Generally, we (“we”= poor folks) know what we’re doing and are just doing the best we can. It might not match what OTHERS think is the best but it is what it is.

*So Many Addendums*
I had no idea so many people felt so strongly about Aldi’s. If only some of those people were as upset by poor people not having access to good food as they were by me not liking Aldi’s!

But really…people also do have to remember that their Aldi’s may not be the same as my Aldi’s and Ithaca Aldi Lovers need to think about what a new shopper’s 1st impression might be in the local store. You walk in and *boom*….it’s all the snacky stuff straight up in your face first thing. I did buy trail mixes for my daughters who are at college. They seemed to have a good ratio of dried fruit to everything else. My one daughter complained that most of the pre-packaged trail mixes are more like candy and those weren’t. So, score one for Aldi’s!
The produce is NOT impressive. I picked apples off the neglected trees in our field that looked better than their organic apples (upcoming post!) . Everyone told me I had to go to Aldi’s ESPECIALLY for the produce but when I got there ,I was like “meh” and I couldn’t really afford a lot of it,anyway.

My key point was about transportation and food shopping. Writing while sick probably didn’t help me get that point across. Note to self: camp out on the couch and binge watch Netflix next time.

Ron Finley and guerrilla gardening in a food desert

When I wrote about why poor people can’t just grow their own food, Ron Finley came to mind as an example of people helping people to overcome these barriers I talked about. Ron Finley is a guerrilla gardener who is tuning the South Central LA food desert into a place where bountiful harvest is possible.

He started turning traffic medians,curbs,empty lots…any vacant space…into edible gardens in his community. As he says in his TED talk, “The drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys”. He recognized that food is the problem but it’s also the solution.

THIS is exactly what happens when someone fully grasps what it is that makes a large percentage of  Americans eat junk and has a passion and compassion for helping people. Crazy,right? You might have thought the answer was to bitch on Facebook about how poor people shouldn’t drink soda or passing state bills that stop people on food stamps from buying potato chips. How amazing that nope, that’s not how we help people eat better. We just simply make better food more easily accessible.

It takes work. Let’s hope Ron Finley can inspire than drive in others.

Ron’s TED talk is a 10 minute Must Watch:

The key points from his TED talk:

ron-finley

 

401793_541237162584785_1642956177_n

 

How Guerilla Gardening Can Save America’s Food Deserts | Ideas & Innovations | Smithsonian Magazine