Tomorrow is the Great American Bake Sale in NYC: a charity event set up to benefit Share Our Strength's "No Kid Hungry" campaign, set up to end childhood hunger by 2015. The Food Network, in partnership with Share Our Strength, aired a moving documentary on the subject called "Hunger Hits Home". The film follows various people touched by hunger both in the past and present. A single father struggles to feed his son, while a NYC couple desperately attempt to feed their young children who are constantly sick due to malnourishment. Another father says, "The biggest misconception that someone can have is that when a person works...they're not going to go hungry."
It is not only the homeless and the jobless who go hungry. There are people who work long hours everyday, but still do not make enough money to properly feed their children. In the documentary, Effie Davis shows the camera crew how her food stamps will only buy her one small bag of vegetables -- not enough to feed her family of four for one meal, let alone an entire week. She walks us through her local grocery store where there is not one ounce of fresh produce. The shelves are lined with sugary cereals and overly processed, preservative-rich "food".
I myself once saw an acquaintance eating potato chips for dinner. When I asked why he would waste his money on junk food he said, "It's all I could afford." When I checked out the food stores in his neighborhood afterward -- sure enough -- the only produce available was extremely expensive.
In New York City, the poorer the neighborhood, the harder it is to get fresh, nutritious food. Children deal with chronic illnesses while their parents battle diabetes and heart disease. Kids go to school hungry and then can't concentrate on their work because they are fatigued or in pain. If you can't concentrate, you can't learn. If you can't learn, you can't graduate. If you can't graduate, you're condemned to lead the same life your parents did: always struggling, always hungry.
To make matters worse, Congress voted to cut funding for SNAP - the Supplemental Nutrition Assitance Program (commonly known as food stamps) yesterday. SNAP applications have skyrocketed since the recession hit in 2008. Born in the Great Depression, SNAP was created to ease this very situation: many people out of work and unable to feed their children. Yes, we are cutting funding to a social program because too many people need help. Congress cites abuse of the entitlement as a reason to cut funding. I will not, however, point out that they are punishing the many for the sins of the few.
Congress has until September to make their final adjustments on the SNAP issue.