Monday, October 13, 2008

Michigan Harvest Gathering and the Food Stamp Challenge

A few weeks back (Sept. 19th to be exact), I was wandering around the neighborhood and saw this billboard a few blocks from my house -

Feed Michigan

So I snapped the pic, came home, downloaded it with the others I had taken, and went back to obsessing about ... whatever it was I was obsessing about at the time. The picture nagged at me though, my mind always returning to it as I was receiving numerous pleas for money from politicians, who, presumably, were having no trouble feeding themselves because people are always throwing food at them at their fancy shindigs, and, from the progressive organizations that are hell-bent on directing those same politicians should they get elected. That's all well and good because they do need the money for their goals, but the kids... let's just say I would rather feed a hungry child with my pittance, than give more to campaigns. It also reminded me of how disappointed I am with John Edwards - he was the only one out there speaking of poverty this year, while the rest were focused on the mythical middle class - and he BLEW IT, and I'm still mad that the issue was removed from the table, so to speak, when he left the scene. Damn him.

So, that picture was bugging me for all kinds of reasons. About a week later I put it up on my Flickr account - and went and looked up Michigan Harvest Gathering. The term was vaguely familiar; I just couldn't remember who ran it... and it's the Food Bank Council of Michigan, in conjunction with the Michigan Dept. of State.

Michigan Harvest Gathering is an annual event (September-November) during which food and funds are raised to support our members—the state’s nine regional food banks. The regional food banks serve agencies such as food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters in all 83 Michigan counties. Food and funds collected during the campaign are used to keep the food banks' shelves stocked and to assist in the high transportation costs incurred in moving food around the state.

One in ten people in Michigan turn to food banks; 38% are children and 14% are senior citizens.According to smilin' Terri Lynn Land, Harvest Gathering collected over $392,000 and 283,000 pounds of food last year. Good deal. You can donate locally - by cash donation designated to your local food bank, or by dropping off food at the nearest Secretary of State office. Follow that link for details.

And those aforementioned politicians? Well, if I were queen, this next part would be mandatory for all of them - and I would make them do it for a month. The Michigan Food Stamp Challenge starts this week - and various state leaders are going to try to feed themselves on $5.87 a day. Andrew Heller at the Flint Journal is taking part - anyone have the full list of names?

$5.87? For all day? No way. Can't be done. Not by me, anyway.

That was my reaction when I received a challenge from the state Department of Human Services to try feeding myself for that amount, per day, for five days.

It's called the Michigan Food Stamp Challenge, and it starts today. Gov. Jennifer Granholm, legislators, media types and others are taking part for two very good reasons:

1) To build a perception in themselves and others of what it's like to be one of the 27 million people nationally and 1.3 million in Michigan -- look around you, that's nearly one out of every seven people you'll see today -- who receive food assistance.

2) To goad you into donating to your local food bank, which help staggering numbers of people.

1.3 million people in Michigan, and the numbers asking for assistance are growing every month. Not only are people turning to the state, they are turning to their local food banks in huge numbers, and that need is growing as well.

In some parts of Michigan, emergency food providers are reporting 20%-25% increases in the number of people seeking help with food this year.

I don't know about you, but it seems to me that there has been a huge increase in food prices just lately, especially with meat. I don't eat a lot (and thank God I don't have kids), but even for a single person, it has become pretty pricey. With the cost of home heating projected to rise another 20-25% this winter, what happens to those that are on the edge right now? Scary to think about.

Michigan will be holding a Poverty Summit on November 13th - perhaps some of the people participating in the challenge will share their experiences, even if they only lived it for five days. It's bound to be an eye-opener for them.

Arlan, will you be participating? Like I said, mandatory. Especially for certain House Republicans.

Donate what you can here to help feed these folks - and keep on working to remove those that think the trickle-down theory works, because obviously it hasn't. Hunger in a country as wealthy as ours is a national disgrace.