Tag Archives: hunger

SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge: contact Congress

Today on the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge, I contacted my Representative and Senators asking them to produce a faithful, fair Farm Bill that protects SNAP from harmful cuts, improves access to food and nutrition, promotes conservation and rural economic development, and implements commodity and crop insurance reforms. Congress is currently negotiating a final Farm Bill in a conference committee.

I used this alert from the Office of Public Witness of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):

This week, hundreds of Presbyterians, including our leaders Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, Moderator Neal Presa, and Executive Director Linda Valentine are taking the  Food Stamp/SNAP Challenge.  The Stated Clerk reflects on his trip to the grocery store in this article.

While living on a food stamp budget for just a week cannot come close to the struggles encountered by low-income families week after week and month after month, it does offer those who take the Challenge with a new perspective and greater understanding.  For more resources, visit our Food Stamp Challenge page and the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

Authorization of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) is included in the Farm Bill, on which Congress is working to negotiate a final deal right now.

Write to Congress now and urge them to produce a comprehensive, fair, and faithful Farm Bill.

Earlier in the year, serious threats were made to the funding of SNAP and on Nov. 1st, SNAP benefits were cut as a 2009 funding increase ran out.  Far from there being room to cut SNAP, we are finding out this week that they are already inadequate to meet reasonable, nutritional needs.  If anything, we need to invest more in Food Stamp benefits.  SNAP is a designed as a counter-cyclical program that expands to meet needs when the economy is bad and people lose income and become eligible.  When the jobs outlook and economy improve, it contracts as participants cycle off the program.

Members of Congress need to hear loud and wholehearted support for a program that catches people in their moments of need.

With the PC(USA)’s long-held convictions about food justice and fair food and farm policy, our interests in the Farm Bill, while very concerned with the nutrition programs, are also much broader that. In a joint statement with interfaith partners, the PC(USA) called on Congress to pass a Farm Bill that:

  • Protects and strengthens programs that reduce hunger and improve nutrition in the United States.
  • Promotes investments and policies that strengthen rural communities and combat rural poverty.
  • Provides a fair and effective farmer safety net that allows farmers in the U.S. and around the world to earn economically sustainable livelihoods.
  • Strengthens policies and programs that promote conservation and protect creation from environmental degradation.
  • Protects the dignity, health, and safety, of those responsible for working the land.
  • Promotes research related to alternative, clean, and renewable forms of energy that do not negatively impact food prices or the environment.
  • Safeguards and improves international food aid in ways that encourage local food security and improve the nutritional quality of food aid.

In light of our experience this week with the Food Stamp / SNAP Challenge, it is essential that Members of Congress hear from Presbyterians who are concerned about hunger and food justice, at home in the U.S. and around the world.

Write to your Members of Congress here.

See you along the Trail.

1 Comment

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

SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge Day 2

snap_logoFive emerging random observations that need further reflection after two days:

1. I have had a number of conversation online and in person about the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge. I think that is part of the point. A big part of the point. Friends and colleagues have affirmed the challenge and raised serious questions about the challenge. We also talk about hunger and poverty and what we can do to end them. We need to have those conversations more deliberately and to act on the ideas we have.

2. My colleague J. Herbert Nelson, director of the Presbyterian Washington Office notes that:

We engage the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge as Presbyterians to claim the biblical truth that God has given us enough. Our waste and greed is the source of scarcity for many in our nation and world.

I agree with that. But I also know that I need to do a better job – when I cut my waste and my usage – of directing those resources to help others and challenge the existing system. I have work to do.

3. Over these first two days, I have found it easier to avoid overeating by focusing on the amount I have to spend and the reality of my brothers and sisters who face even greater challenges daily than I do when I focus on the number of calories I am eating. Not sure what that means but I do need to ponder how it might into future actions and self-care.

4. I sent emails to my Representative and Senators today telling them that I am on the challenge and asking what they are doing and what more they plan to do to end poverty and hunger. However they respond, I plan to ask further questions.

5. Three ideas are emerging about follow up actions. One is to decrease my use of meat and eat lighter for the sake of the planet and to share the enough that God has given. I ordered a vegetarian cookbook a few moments ago. A second is to identify an amount to spend each week and stick to that amount. The third is to become more creative in my food purchase – to use farmers’ markets and locally grown foods. Given where I am starting on that one, it won’t be hard to make progress.

What do you think? Whether you are on the challenge or not, what do you think?

See you along the Trail.

Leave a comment

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

SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge: the menu

snap_logoThat’s right. The menu. One menu for the seven days.

Two major factors contribute to this. First, I am not terribly creative in the kitchen. Second, it made shopping easier.

That said, here is the menu:

Breakfast

  • One egg
  • Three slices of turkey bacon
  • An English muffin (for 6 days – a decision lies ahead on Saturday)

Lunch

  • Two peanut butter sandwiches

Dinner

  • About three ounces of ground turkey (one 20 ounce package divided into seven servings)
  • 1/2 cup of black beans
  • One slice of American cheese
  • 2/3 of a cup of low sodium spicy V-8

That will leave me five eggs and 9 slices of cheese to add over the week.

Water will be the beverage – beyond the V-8

This is not a balanced diet. I know that. I recognize many of the issues with it.

The amount of money to spend imposes limits, but I could also consider nutritional factors more carefully. That I do not have to do so for a week is yet another privilege.

See you along the Trail.

1 Comment

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

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.

2 Comments

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