Just Sign the Bill, Mr. President!

May 20th

Duncan Farms, May 2008 47

You may have heard of the Farm Bill; it’s been in the American news a bunch lately. Last week the Senate approved it by a large margin. The House passed it a day earlier. Today it is supposed to reach President Bush’s desk, where it is anticipated he will use his trusty veto. Thankfully, it seems Congress has enough votes to overturn his veto if that occurs.
I won’t get into the specifics of the politics behind keeping or vetoing this bill from the President’s perspective (or reported perspective), but I will say that as a relatively new advocate in the food banking community, I am so relieved this bill has finally made its way through Congress and will be soon funded. It is controversial. There are subsidies for the farming industry that don’t make sense, but there is a silver lining that does.

Duncan Farms, May 2008 33

In a nutshell, this legislation influences every single American’s life. It addresses food prices (expected to jump 5% this year) by increasing nutritional programs by more than $10 billion. This helps get more food in food pantries and more people who qualify for food stamps enrolled. This isn’t socialism by any means; if there is anyone who advocates for the community — not the government — to be responsible for helping the needy, it’s me. However, there are gaps in that philosophy that I’m not solving anytime soon and this funding will help in the meantime.

It also helps make sure that senior citizens — many of whom are homebound — get fresh fruits and vegetables. The majority of those Arizonans (80,000) who go hungry each day are children and the elderly. That makes me a bit sick to my stomach.

Duncan Farms, May 2008 22

This morning I volunteered to take photos of a gleaning project in the far West Valley. Talk about collaboration — prisoners from the nearby facility are used as volunteers to pick crops from fields donated by a local farm. Duncan Farms has certain fields it plants and then sets aside for food banks state-wide. Today these ladies picked cabbage, which will be sent to food banks this afternoon and hopefully placed in food boxes for anyone in need tonight. My favorite part about this gleaning system is that there is little waste. A lot of the produce within this program would otherwise end up in a landfill and there is nothing more disgusting to me than the fattest nation in the world throwing away food. As one of my colleagues said yesterday, “Hunger in America isn’t a supply issue; it is a distribution issue.”

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If you want to reduce the food waste in your community, check out this blog. And if you’d like to see what the average American family throws away each month, take a deep breath and then click here.

If you are interested in helping your local food pantry, the best items to donate are: canned meat, canned fruits and veggies, peanut butter and juice in containers that won’t break.

On a side note, if you are ever feeling a bit unfeminine, spend your morning with a bunch of female inmates in a sweaty, dirty, hot, farm field. You’ll skip away feeling like the most delicate, fragile ballerina to ever get her slippers dusty.

~K

Posted in
Arizona, Community, Journal, Politico, Reduce
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17 Responses

  1. this is one of the few times i might possibly agree with the president…and we may not like the farm bill for different reasons, i don’t know. all i know is i just can’t support the huge subsidies in the farm bill, i get so angry when i think about it, which is not productive at all. i am so so disappointed in my CA congresspeople, and i let them know. but thank you for blogging about it, more people need to know about the farm bill!

  2. Bravo! Yes, the farm bill has been a hot topic in this farm state. Our local farmer’s market has a program that vendors can donate leftover/unsold produce to our food banks. Every little bit, by each little person, makes such a huge difference.

  3. You also sew and cook for fun on a regular basis… did you really need inmates to remind you of your femininity?

    🙂

  4. No matter what side of the Farm Bill someone is on, that NYTimes article on wasted food is eye opening.

    I have been trying to tweak my budget lately and realized that one of the top places I can save is on my food budget. Not just by shopping from a list or using coupons, but by only buying what I need. Doing this will help me waste less food. It is a small start…

  5. This is a great post, Kell – thanks for shining some light on the progress of this bill.

    Good links, too – Wasted Food is super interesting to follow and absorb into our own lives.

    Food waste, farming, local agriculture and sustainability are all topics that we should be aware of.

  6. WOW, what a great experience you had!

  7. You know, I think part of the problem is people are unsure of what is safe to eat in their fridge. Of course, this is easily remedied by marking dates on stuff, but many are just too busy (or lazy like me) to do it. But I need to. Maybe some more education is needed in that area.

    I sent a letter to our state representatives to support the farm bill. We’ll see what happens!

    Are you packed yet?

  8. The last thing you could call me is a supporter of Mr Bush but this farm bill is a disaster.

    It addresses food prices (expected to jump 5% this year)

    This is true. That means farmers are expecting better margins than ever this year; their income is projected to increase 50% over the average increase of the past decade. Of further note, nearly 80% of subsidies go to fewer than 10% of farmers (all of whom are millionaires and I’m betting, Republicans). Tell me, why are we giving them more money? I have no quarrel funding food programs for the poor (which does not necessarily include the elderly!) but it shouldn’t be packaged in this bill.

    It also helps make sure that senior citizens — many of whom are homebound — get fresh fruits and vegetables. The majority of those Arizonans (80,000) who go hungry each day are children and the elderly. That makes me a bit sick to my stomach.

    Most poor people in this country (and AZ) are children (50%) or working families (25%). Contrary to popular belief, few of the poor are elderly (less than 10% of the total poor) and I’m guessing the percentage of poor elderly in AZ is even lower than the national average. I’d rather feed poor kids (and their parents) than an elderly person who can pay to have food delivered. Of all demographic groups in the US, the elderly are the best well off. Those senior citizen discounts annoy me; if we’re going to give blanket subsidies (discounts are subsidies, you make up the difference) to a given class of people based on need, then it’s the disabled who should get the discounts. 90% of the disabled are poor.

    In general, food programs make me nervous. Part and parcel, included are mandated dietary recommendations that are politically motivated. People would be a lot healthier and save a lot more money if they stopped eating meat but you won’t find that in the recommendations. It’s also healthier for the planet.

  9. am I the only one scared by the idea of prison inmates with large knives? I take it they are in for welfare fraud and the like? must have been quite an experience, I wonder if they enjoyed it?

  10. In my local groceries store, at least once a month there’s a private collector company that provides the food you donate to the needing ones in our community. I often buy things to donate but at the same time I’m really angry with our politics, I mean how is my duty to provide food to those who can’t? What the governement does to help them? Where my taxes are going?

  11. Thank you for sharing more information about the farm bill and the gleaning project. The latter is new to me. You’re such a good soul to volunteer to photograph the inmates’ work in this project. I donate non-perishable food a lot, but I am glad fresh foods are also being considered in such programs as this gleaning endeavor.

  12. In our community the food bank prefers money to hard items. They can usually get twice as much of the dollar value, by buying items in bulk. And you can donate online!! Just another option for people who forget to buy canned items, or who are house-bound.

    Yay for gleaning! The waste of food and resources in this country disgust me too.

  13. PS. I think women working hard, is extremely feminine. But I know what you mean!!

  14. I bought a pie this weekend at a pie stand, and the crust is just not very good – I’ve been consuming it steadily but there’s still half a pie left and this morning I tentatively resolved to just scoop out the remaining filling and throw the rest away rather than force myself through it. And I made a cup of rice last night and burned it. Both of these tear me up inside – and my only consolation is that it’s a drop in the bucket.

    Widespread, institutionalized waste should be criminal. I never gave much thought to the fact that those deli case foods are trashed every day – there must be a way of penalizing overproduction. Like when you go to all-you-can-eat sushi and have some left over, they charge you extra for what you *didn’t* consume. But with what resources would we monitor that? Clearly the food is cheap enough that stores don’t have market incentives to monitor themselves.

    On the Farm Bill, the ethicurean website has been running well-considered commentary for a while – the site has its own politics, obviously, but it has made me aware of the Bill’s wide-reaching effects and disparate moving parts.

    Kathleen makes a good obseration about “politically motivated dietary recommendations.” So true. How certain lobbies have hijacked things like school lunches blows my mind. I’ve written to my congresspeople but I feel pretty helpless in the face of powers like “Big Ag” and seemingly inevitable political greed. I’m so frustrated with our purported public servants.

  15. I wish all food were grown naturally, processed less and never wasted. (sigh!)

  16. Linda May 22, 2008

    Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel puts it all in visual perspective for me. I also got Women In The Material World. Check out the whole series on Amazon.com

  17. with regards to methane produced in landfills, in germany, and now also in ireland, there is a ‘brown bin’ collection, which means all food and other organic waste is collected seperately from the ‘recyclable packaging’ bin and the ‘landfill waste’ bin. it is then brought to composting facilities, where (i think with help of worms?) it’s turned into compost, which in turn can be used to help grow new food.
    while this of course doesn’t tackle the problem of wastage, it does help with the problem of landfills.

    i think the problem of wastage has a lot to do with how cheap food has become. 100 years ago a much higher percentage of average wages was spent on feeding families, and to waste it wouldn’t have occured to anybody! you don’t waste what’s precious.

    and portion sizes in restaurants/diners/cafeterias! a lot of wastage could be avoided with smaller portions, and the option to get seconds if you want. (might help some with weight problems, too!)

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