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.
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.
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.”
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.