Food Pantries Food Security

Yesterday’s Thinking Won’t Solve Today’s Problems

I had a meeting today with a ranking member of the New York’s organizations dealing with hunger and food security. It was enlightening; a bit scary, but helpful in understanding the needs and the way in which those needs are being met, or not.

To be fair, there are a lot of people who care. That said, not many of them are willing to think progressively and develop a new agenda and a new way of approaching the problem – which is growing exponentially. Those that cannot get beyond their entitlement way of thinking will inevitably fail.

During my conversation, I suggested a method of feeding the middle class and “near poor” that would cost a nominal fee; but what inspired this veteran of the war against hunger, was the hope – no! His expectation – that their white knight (pardon the perhaps errant pun), was President Barack Obama and his addition of millions of dollars for food funding. Not looking at new ways of thinking, but looking to the old ways that have not worked, and that are facing even bigger challenges as the deficit looms.

Today, House Minority Leader John Boehner said “We believe spending nearly $1 trillion is more than we ought to be putting on the backs of our kids and their kids,” and said they would work with the administration, but challenge unwise choices. But the social service advocates are salivating at the thought of free money – that really isn’t free.

The sad commentary here is that following the worst economic breakdown in the lives of many of these “advocates” today, the wisest and most advanced thoughts here are of how government can pay our way out of poverty.Government has its role, but it is not to fund our way to economic harmony.It is impossibility.

I was shown the types of food they offer to people; a can of processed food with “meat juices” as the protein. I was told that people would sooner eat that for free than pay a nominal and fair fee for quality food, high protein, fresh produce and true balance.

What was worse, was the sad commentary that the system as it is, the system in which these advocates are placing their bets and hanging their hats, is actively keeping the poor and unhealthy, poor and unhealthy.

I was told that a poor family living on New York’s allocation of $27 per person per week worth of Food Stamps would sooner buy unhealthy take-out or prepared meals than cook. They work harder and longer hours for less, and have no time to prepare meals. Also, many do not have adequate kitchen facilities to cook; sad commentary. At that rate, how is anyone supposed to get off that treadmill?

There is a program out there, one that I believe in, that provides nutritional foods for working families for a fee most can afford.Rurally, it is successful, yet in a urban setting, it is relatively new and untested.The fact of competing urban-based poverty agencies actively competing for attention, dollars and bodies to serve, frustrates innovation.The stereotype of non-profits caring more about being in business that doing the business for which it was formed, cuts so deep in the “business” of poverty.Offer a solution that seems like a real answer, they balk.

Truthfully, this organization I met with was only an “ombudsmen” for food pantries and not in a position to make direct decisions for each. It was their backward thinking that struck me. I now know that I need to work harder to appeal to those who are able to see beyond yesterday, and meet the challenge for tomorrow.

Later, I spoke with another anti-hunger advocate who saw the merits of a new ideal. We are continuing that discussion.

Juda Engelmayer is President and Partner with the NY PR agency, HeraldPR and a contributor to the Cutting Edge News.

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