Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

First off, simply I do not have the greatest food security. With little
income, I supplement me and special someone's diet with food stamps and
the local food pantry. The end of the month can be a little rough, but
overall with assistance the two of us do alright.

But, foodstamps have their problems. As a student, with an internship I
am required to work 20 hours over the 18 at the internship and 12
credit hours not including homework and general school stuff.

Special Someone,'s income has not changed in the last year but do to
many errors the foodstamp amount recievede changed 8 times... no
exaggeration. There have been countless hous, appeals, and visits to
fix the problems. And dating a social worker helps dramatically.

In addition, DHS (thats where you get foodstamps) is open from 8-5 only
and requires atleast four hours of time per visit. It takes more than
one visit to get foodstamps normally (due to paperwork, doc**entation,
and other things that may be missing) . So someone who works, but
income is very low will not be able to go. And, then the buildings are
generally very uncomfortable with strict rules (no cellphones, no
standing, no talking loud, seats close together). And, for families,
who can affoard to pay for child care when they can't afford food. So
add cranky babies into the mix with little way to entertain, comfort
and be with them. So, there is alot of screaming children noise,
secrurity gaurds watching out for infractions (leaning against the wall
for example), and then yelling to get people's names. Not quite

On top of that, if you are lucky to get foodstamps being homeless (it
is more complicated than you think) you cannot buy hot or prepared or
microwave-in-store foods. Yes, the policy is to curb costs by prohibiting buying more expensive
foods. But a person with no kitchen, no storage, and no prep space- cannot buy foods
immedately available to eat, unless they are processed enough to be packaged ready.
Beef jerky is an example of that.
So, homeless tend to be overweight as they cannot buy meat, vegitbles (unless they eat them immedately)
and fruit. They cannot prepare rice and beans, unless they are from a
can. Sweets look alot more appitizing and generally appealing. Some
soups are okay, but unless they are creating fires (which is prohibited
in city limits in most states) there isn't a way to warm it up.

Thats why soup kitchens are so important.

BUT- what happens if you have a health problem that requires a special diet? You are simply out of luck.

Where I work- there is prepared food for every meal, and a communal
kitchen and storage space for food. However- we get MOST of our food
from the Greater-Chicago-Area Food Depository, which relies on
coporation and private food donations. Health factors are not taken
into concideration, and adaquate nutrition isn't exactly allways
possible. The meat that is mostly delivered is high-fat sauage that is
made of who-knows-what. So, our food, which is relied on from their
food donations ends up being generally high-fat, high carb. It takes
alot of working and prep to make lower-carb alternatives for those with
Diabities (and we have a few). Add in obesity, hypertension, religious
food preferences, and just actual food preferences.... food security
isn't all that great... the reality is, for these women to be on the
diet they need- would cost much more than my agency can afford.

Views: 66

Comment by Raymond M. Kristiansen on March 11, 2010 at 4:28pm
I am stunned. In a positive manner. Thank you for sharing. Sharing your own story, and sharing some of those details which are so important. The silly rules, the things done to control people, their time, make them feel even more unwanted. As if going there to ask for food stamps is something people enjoy. Basic respect for fellow human beings is thrown out the door, maybe as a result of 'getting sick and tired of all the sc** who make a mess, shout, lie down on the floor, use drugs in the facilities, etc' - the lack of patience with others due to the gathered mistakes of thousands of people before.

Thank you once again for sharing. Would you be interested in exploring some of the 'reasoning' behind this? Talk to a politician maybe, or a group of people who are fighting for a reform of how things are done?

What do you think can be done to improve the situation?
Comment by Crystal Bellar on March 11, 2010 at 4:52pm
The Policy? Most of it goes back to the Welfare to Work program started in the Clinton Administration to control the myth of "Welfare Moms" living a good life by having more children, getting more money and not having to work.
Like- yeah, that works well.

So- there are all these crazy rules. Homelessness is a political game. Voting Middle Class want them AWAY - so police, have the right to enforce all sorts of laws that say "you don't have the right to be anywhere" because they have no home- loitering, sleeping in places, and various other fines show up and of course, they cant pay the fines so they get a warrent... it goes on and on.

Foodstamps go under the 'Undeserving Poor' which is a philospophy that goes back to Queen Elizabeth I in Europe. When the US was settled, that was brought with them. So, wow! There is a majority of who vote don't want the 'undeserving' to have food. So these laws get inacted and things go wrong.

Now, for the first time, the Middle Class is directly effected by the policies they voted to have implemented. Its causing more of an uproar.

Comment by Claire Moylan on March 11, 2010 at 4:56pm
I realize food stamps are a program to help the disadvantaged, but I wonder if it wouldn't be better for it be managed as a program that makes people work in the creation of the food supply. If you're standing in line 4 hours to get your food stamps, that's four hours of work you could do in a greenhouse, a garden, or some other part of the food supply chain. We also have to take into account that we're a nation of "fast food" people who think food should appear all ready to microwave at the last second, when in past times, food cultivation, cooking, and preservation was a main activity of the day. Now, spending 1 hour at the grocery store to buy our food is too long and cooking a pot of rice for 1/2 hr is deemed ridiculous. Maybe our expectations are a little out of whack? Thanks for sharing your story, it took courage and I gave you a courage vote.
Comment by Crystal Bellar on March 11, 2010 at 4:56pm
Advocasy NOW is important in the US. Because of the enconomic climate- reforms to give people more foodstamps, is more likely to happen. Except that the budget crisises are causing cuts to human services.

Politically it is a disaster. Socail Workers try hard to advocate for changes to policy to help men, woman and children get what they need. Recently I advocated for a tax increase in Springfield, IL to prohbit MASSIVE cuts to funding that will take place if the budget isn't balanced. But, tax increases look bad. But, in this state, they could litterally shut down the entire education system, fire all the teachers and IT WOULD NOT BALANCE THE BUDGET. There would still be a deficit.

Comment by Jane A.W. on March 11, 2010 at 5:09pm
You nailed it on the 'undeserving poor'. As long as the empowered cla**** ($ and representation) can assume that poverty, food insecurity, etc. are things that only happen to those morally deficient and unmotivated to work - well, then it's a losing political struggle to improve things.
It's like the people who (many seem unaware unemployment only pays a fraction of your working wage) assume that folks would rather stay on unemployment than find a job. I always wonder how many of them have ever actually LOOKED at how 'easy' it is to be a welfare mom.

When they can't see the barriers (like realizing that 8-5 office hours are a major limitation for workers who can't just 'take a long lunch') - the barriers don't get removed.
Comment by Nicole Catanese-Wilkinson on March 11, 2010 at 5:17pm
I admire your courage to stand up and say that you are one who gets assistance. So often the stigma of someone receiving public assistance is so shameful that many do not admit they are getting it or are too proud to go ask for it.

As someone who has had to go to a food bank before and ask for help, I can honestly say that while my family was grateful for what we were given, it really lacked anything of nutritional value....

I recall looking through the boxes the man had loaded into my car when I got home and found things such as jars of garlic stuffed olives, marshmallow whip in a can, some kind of paste you spread on crackers...

Like I said we were grateful but I wondered, where is the meat? Where are the grains? The veggies? I know they were just giving out what they had and were doing their best, but as someone who has to live on a specific diet for health concerns, it was very challenging to me.

I also can relate to the feelings of humliation and helplessness that come with going to the local welfare office. These case workers are being paid to evaluate people who are not working or who are only employed part time and they are making the decisions for these people's very lives.

There is so much focus now a days on how to make things better for the next generation - which is great. No Child Left Behind....every child having access to healthcare, but what good does it do for that child when the parent isn't receiving the same opportunities? What good will it do for the child to be able to see a doctor if their parent is dead or too sick to work and denied assistance?

I posted a story about how some members of congress had taken on a Food Stamp Challenge in 2007 and I am starting to believe that we need to encourage another challenge to our lawmakers. These people who make our laws and regulations are comfortable, sometimes more than comfortable and we are employing them to make decisions that affect OUR lives.
Comment by Linda Holt on March 11, 2010 at 5:57pm
Crystal, thanks for sharing this. I have definitely walked a mile in your moccasins. While the soup kitchen was right next door to the shelter I worked at, it was still a rare occasion for there to be fresh produce.

I participated in the National Summit on Gleaning and Food Recovery in 1997. It was convened by then Vice President Al Gore and Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, following census and Department of Agriculture surveys that showed simultaneous high rates of hunger and food waste in America. The surveys found that in 1995 “11.9 million households experienced food insecurity,” and that 96 billion pounds of food, “27% of the 356 billion pounds of food available for human consumption,” were wasted. This summit was aimed at decreasing hunger by decreasing food waste.

I worked in the foodservice marketing sector at that time and, though Ithe national efforts seem to have fallen by the wayside with the suceeding administration, this is a real possibility for innovation (and urgently needed)

One of the most postitive outcomes from the "gleaning" summit was the legislation that allowed foodservice companies, ie; restaurants, food processors and farmers to donate gleaned food to food banks, pantries and homeless shelters by allowing the deduction of the full market value of donated food. I can't remember the exact wording, but it also helped to free the foodservice companies from liability (I'll re-research this and do a post about gleaning.)

I think this is a really opportunity for grassroots innovation and collaboration with existing organizations. I live in Florida and gleaning is practiced here - we have a very high percentage of homeless and transient population, many are the migrant workers who move with the crops.

Just watching the political debacle play out regarding the extension of unemployment benefits, and the decreasing budget for social programs - gleaning may be one of the most important alternative non-profit contributions to society!
do think that Al Gore did alot to improve the distribution of available food when he helped push through the law that allowed
Comment by Crystal Bellar on March 11, 2010 at 6:08pm
That is very helpful information! :) I didn't know about gleaning -- I know people who do - sponanious gleaning i guess- by giving leftovers to random homeless.
But, that isn't a cureall. I know here- we do not get direct 'gleaning' donations. But, we do get occassionally gift cards, and/or monitary donations for food, and the ladies are allowed to eat what we can order. I do not know the specific laws in Illinois regarding this.
Good thing for me to look into! Thanks.

P.S. if you post that, I will definatly PV it ;)
Comment by Sayel Cortes on March 12, 2010 at 2:19am
For my point of view relying on food donations of corporations is a very risky way to improve your food security. I want to share a different approach I met in Austin where the Sustainable Food Center helped people grow their own organic nutritious food: http://www.urgentevoke.com/profiles/blogs/sustainable-food-center-a


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