Teaching a man to fish


I grew up in a family that celebrated food. We discussed plans for the next meal at the dinner table. Summers were not idyllic; they meant endless days in our massive garden and late nights of shelling butter beans, harvesting honey, canning tomatoes, putting up food. My father and brother hunted, so the meat on the table was mostly venison, sometimes dove or rabbit that we had cleaned and butchered ourselves. We rarely ate beef, pork or chicken.

So it's painful to imagine the depth and genesis of problems described in Amy Goldstein's piercing story on childhood hunger. In a portrayal of Anajyha, a serious girl who lives with her two brothers and mother who has lost two of her three part-time jobs in Philadelphia, Ms. Goldstein writes:

In her home, in a scuffed neighborhood called Strawberry Mansion a few miles north of the Liberty Bell, food stamps arrive but never last the month. There can be cereal but no milk. Pancake mix and butter but no eggs.

And about Christina Koch, 26:

Not long ago, when she had the money, Koch bought more than 20 boxes of macaroni and cheese and stored them under her kitchen sink. The sink leaked. Every box was ruined.

Then, this:

In early November, when $650 in food stamps came, she splurged on $18 in Chinese takeout. When the food stamps run out, she buys on credit from Indio's Mini Market, a few blocks away. In October, she ended up with a $300 tab.

As Congress prepares to take up reauthorization of the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act, perhaps it can mandate and fund classes in self-sufficiency, from pre-K to grade 12 - along with adequate funding for school meals and increased vegetables, whole grains, fruits and whole foods on those trays.) A $650 credit can buy an abundance of nutritious food, but without skills of cooking and planning, hunger can be quickly handled with dry cereal, pancake mix or boxed macaroni and cheese - until the money runs out.

And perhaps lawmakers can also follow the lead of Martha G. Scott, a state senator in Michigan who led the charge to change the payment of food stamp assistance to twice monthly. Ms. Scott's sensible bill (SB 120) signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2008 addresses problems of monthly disbursement: high demand for groceries in only the first 10 days of the month, forcing a boom/bust cycle of fresh foods early in the month that peters out (along with grocery workers' hours) as customers run out of money. And then there's the hunger.

President Barack Obama has pledged to eliminate childhood hunger in the U.S by 2015. As Ms. Goldstein's story shows, other problems of poverty are interwoven as well. How can we teach a man to fish? And to celebrate his catch?

Tags: Child Nutrition Act, childhood hunger, food insecurity, hunger

blog comments powered by Disqus