Norman Pagett writes:
“People have been coping with economic distress for a really, really, really long time … After several years of tapping all the resources we have, we’re starting to see that we’re coming up short,” said Carrie Calvert, director of tax and commodity policy at Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization
Demand for food assistance always racks up higher as winter comes on, but the summer drought across the USA has made the safety net weaker for 50 million Americans who depend on it for basic sustenance.
The cost of everything has been forced up, but as well as raising prices in the supermarket, it has reduced the need for the government to step in and subsidize farmers by buying up excess produce.
That excess was redistributed through emergency shelters, foodbanks and soup kitchens, offering a lifeline to low income families and senior citizens faced with real hunger. Now there is a real decline in these government donations and major foodbanks across the nation are facing the reality of not being able to meet demand this winter.
Already, diminishing stocks have reduced available food supplies at the Los Angeles regional Foodbank have dropped from over 3 weeks in 2010 to less than two weeks now. last summer things got so tight that they were forced to start a waiting list because not enough food was available to supply any more outlets.
By the end of the fiscal year, September 30, government commodity purchases stood at just over $350 million down from $723 million 3 years earlier. These figures indicate that farmers can sell everything they produce through conventional outlets at higher prices, they don’t need government subsidies. But that also means there is less to be redistributed among the nation’s hungry.
Hunger does not register on the balance sheets of agri-business.
Redistributed government commodities once supplied 28% of food in the Feeding America network, which includes almost all the national network of foodbanks. This year those commodity supplies account for just 17%.
Food poverty is now endemic and this is being reflected across the country. The Northeast Iowa foodbank has seen its government supply drop by 50%.
Food prices are certain to rise in 2013, and while small increases are planned for the Emergency Food Assistance Program, this will the overwhelmed by the proposed billion dollar cuts to the foodstamp program as politicians promote their own partisan interests. This will make it harder to maintain adequate nutrition for millions more, as the ‘fiscal cliff’ of the national economy cuts money available to support the needy.
This is all part of the ‘denial’ that there’s anything wrong with the economic system, but with over 10% of the population on direct food support, we are staring into the abyss of a very different future. As national finances get tighter, one is forced to wonder just how long it will be before some kind of ‘work for food’ program is introduced?