Tag Archives: hunger

SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge day 1: privilege

snap_logoI recognize that the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge is an exercise. In no way does it truly mirror the experience of my sisters and brothers for whom poverty is a daily reality.

Hopefully it may make me a little more aware of that reality. It may lead to conversations about why people are poor. It may result in reflections on the folly of cutting SNAP benefits, further shredding the safety net. It may encourage advocacy to address the cuts.

But I have privileges that most people who use food stamps regularly do not have. I mentioned several of them in my first post on the Challenge. Even as I wrote those words, I knew that I would encounter other privileges during the course of this week.

I had not expected to do so by 9:10 AM on the Challenge’s first day.

I was scheduled to preach at the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone. This involved taking the 1 Train to Penn Station and then taking the Long Island Railroad to the Murray Hill Station.  Not everyone could afford to do that, I realized before the day began. That was not the privilege that surprised me.

I played around on the computer (which not everyone has) for too long and found myself running late. I quickly chose to take a cab.  I could do that because I have the financial resources to do so – resources that others do not have.

That’s not really I learning. I knew that people with limited incomes face challenges that I do not. It’s a reminder of something I already know. And it’s

There will be more.

See you along the Trail.

Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge: shopping

snap_logoI purchased the food for my week on the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge. I used $33.55 of a $34.40 budget.

Ten early observations:

  1. In no way does this match the reality of people who live day after day, week after week, month after month, on low incomes. This is a controlled exercise and witness. Hopefully it will allow me to develop a deeper understanding of the realities faced by my brothers and sisters and of the privileges that I have.
  2. I have a safe place to live. access to a well-functioning refrigerator, freezer, and stove. I have more cooking utensils, pots, and pans that I know how to use.
  3. I do not have to worry about juggling my food expenses with other expenses.
  4. Shopping took far longer than usual. I paid much closer attention to price while trying to take nutritional data into account.
  5. I will eat essentially the same menu every day during the week. That is a function  of my lack of imagination in the kitchen but also the reality of the costs. Food is cheaper in bulk. But when I spent $8.00 on ground turkey, I did not have funds to buy the turkey filet I considered. The ground turkey will make 7 meals.
  6. Looking at the nutritional value, I will consume more carbohydrates and fat than I usually do. In part, that is because I try to restrict carbs and fats. It is also the case, as I suspected, that less expensive foods have more fats and carbs.
  7. There will not be many fruits and vegetables. Several factors enter here. Cost. Where I shopped. I did not go to a farmers’ market. My preferences also played a role. Recognizing the environmental impact does have me wondering about reducing my consumption of meat. That is something I need to consider in the future.
  8. There will be no caffeine unless I find coffee in situations where people who use food stamps can also freely access the coffee. That has me wondering – we have coffee on at the office. Anyone who comes in is allowed to drink the coffee. But how likely are people who use food stamps able to get to our office. I have to work this through some more before Monday.
  9.  Preparing for the challenge has reminded me of how much food and eating is involved in my work. I have already had to reschedule two meetings so they did not involve meals. That’s a luxury that many of my sisters and brothers do not have.
  10. There will be much to learn during this week. I hope I am wise enough and open enough to learn.

See you along the Trail.


Filed under Food, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

I’ll take the challenge – how about you?

I have signed up to participate in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Food Stamp Challenge.

snap_logoNovember 17-23, 2013 the PC(USA)’s denominational leaders, Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, the Moderator Neal Presa and Presbyterian Mission Board Executive Director Linda Valentine will engage in the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge. We invite the rest of the church to join them, either by taking the actual Challenge or by joining in solidarity through various activities, including child and adult education, outreach in communities, and prayer.

The SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge is a discipline to draw attention to the gross injustice of poverty and hunger in the U.S. and to open new opportunities for education, understanding, compassion and solidarity.

This Challenge is not only a call to hunger and poverty awareness, but also a call to action. We are called by God to be in the world and to seek to make it a better place. Changing hearts and minds are the starting point of building a movement and improving policy.

The Challenge simply means choosing for one week to live on the average amount of food stamp support in your state. This means spending only the average allowance, per person, on everything  that you eat, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, seasonings and drinks.

Join us November 17-23, 2013!

I’ll try to let you know how I do.

See you along the Trail.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, Human Rights, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

For all who worked to stop this

This afternoon 217 members of the House of Representatives voted to cut $40 billion over the next 10 years from SNAP (formerly Food Stamps). This will cut some 4 million people from the program, reduce benefits for others, and deny free school lunch to 210,000 children.

The question is not decided.

The Senate, particularly Democrats in the Senate, has expressed deep concerns. The White House has threatened a veto if the bill passes in this form.  The conversation will continue.

For now I grieve that elected officials could make such a decision. I give thanks for my friend and colleague Leslie Woods and all who worked for a different decision.  And I prepare for future opportunities for advocacy and witness.

See you along the Trail.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, Food

Bad habit meets guiding principle

I felt a tug on my arm as I left the number 7 train at Times  I turned to see the woman who had sat across from me. Her hand held a crumpled dollar bill. My crumpled dollar bill.

photo (4) (775x1024)I have a bad habit. Or I probably should say, “Among my bad habits is the fact that I carry bills in my pockets.”

I simply cram them into the pocket. They end up resembling the spit balls that my friends and I used to create in junior high school. Little wads of green.

Some interesting things result.

I receive bemused looks when I pay with cash. I dig into my pocket, pull out what bills are there and straighten them. I have reminded more than one cashier, “It all spends.”

I find little wet wads of green now and then when doing laundry. I delude myself with the line, “Made money again.”

And I drop bills from time to time. It happens. I confess I do not know how often it happens. Sometimes I find the fallen bills. Sometimes, as today, I rely on the kindness of friends and strangers.

When this happens, I come up against one of my guiding principles for money. If I find money, I first try to find the owner. Failing that, I give it away. Coins end up in the hands or cups of strangers on the street. Larger bills usually go to a program addressing hunger in some way. It may feed people or help people feed themselves or work to change the reasons people are hungry in the first place.

I will join today’s dollar to some others and pass them along before the evening ends.

Guiding principles trump bad habits. At least on this one.

See you along the Trail.


Leave a comment

Filed under New York

Two weeks in January 2012

I had the privilege to spend the last two weeks with a January Term Doctor of Ministry class that met at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations – my employer. Mark Douglas of Columbia Theological Seminary led the class as it considered the Environment and Ecumene.

Class participants included Elizabeth Adams, Katie Preston, Carol Underwood, and John Weems. My colleague, Ryan Smith, helped coordinate and lead the class. Ricky Velez-Negron, our office manager, provided wonderful hospitality and organizational support; she also took the picture of the class beside the Isaiah Wall. Volunteers Peng Leong, from First Chinese Presbyterian Church, and Grace Bickers, Columbia University student, joined us for a number of the sessions.

Speakers came from ministries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), UN programs and our colleagues and friends from the UN NGO community.

The content included the UN and environmental concerns to climate change, land and water, women and the environment, children and the environment, indigenous peoples and the environment, food and hunger and the environment, conflict and the environment, and more.

The class attended a policy lunch on climate change and agriculture sponsored by the NGO Working Group on Food and Hunger. The class also attended a meeting of the Sustainable Development Working Group of the Conference of NGOs.

On Thursday, January 12, class members led worship at the Church Center for the United Nations.

Representatives of First Chinese Presbyterian Church, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Huguenot Memorial Church, Old Bergen Church, and the Presbyterian Church of the Mountain joined the class on Thursday, January 19 for conversations about how congregations can care for creation. Rebecca Barnes-Davies, PC(USA) associate for Environmental Ministries helped facilitate the discussion.

Worship ended the class. We gathered in the Tillman Chapel of the Church Center for the United Nations and walked to the Isaiah Wall for closing prayers. After quick goodbyes, class members returned to their homes with new visions for ministry.

Gifts to the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations make possible the class.

I look forward to 2014 when another group will gather for another class on another topic.

See you along the Trail.

Leave a comment

Filed under Friends, Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations

Love wins?

Love wins.
Love always wins.

Do the people
watching their friends perish,
wasting away from hunger,
leaving their children by roadside
   unable to carry them,
deciding who will eat
   and who will die,
on the Horn of Africa
experience that affirmation?

12 August 2011
Cleveland Heights, OH 44121

Leave a comment

Filed under Poem

10 Million

Reports from UN agencies on the ground in the Horn of Africa estimate that 10,000,000 people are experiencing a severe food crisis.
That’s more people than live in New York City (not including urban area). 
That’s more people than live in Wyoming, Washington D.C., Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine combined. 
Here are some ideas of how to respond: 
10 Ways You Can Help
Give to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, New York

Crisis in the Horn of Africa

A poem prayer for our sisters and brothers in the Horn of Africa:

O God,
the ground is parched,
the food is limited and costly,
and your children, our brothers and sisters,
hunger, sicken, and die
in the Horn of Africa.
O God,
strengthen our sisters and brothers who hunger;
comfort our brothers and sisters who grieve;
accompany our sisters and brothers who leave their homes.
O God,
we give thanks for aid workers who
distribute food and water,
create and maintain camps for refugees and displaced persons,
and extend caring hands.
O God,
touch the hearts of people and nations,
fill us with a desire to reach out to the people in the Horn of Africa,
show us effective ways to respond to our brothers and sisters.
O God,
help us structure our living so that
all people in all places
might have enough of the abundance you provide
even in times of drought and hardship.
Inspire us and guide us, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poem