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"Food Security" - A look at poverty in America

Terra T 1 / -  
Nov 20, 2015   #1
The USDA uses the term "Food Security" as a measurement to determine how often a household does not have access to enough food. Saying a household experiences food insecurity indicates the household is either going to go without food in the near future or is currently functioning without sufficient food. According to a recent study by the USDA, 14% of American households experienced some level of food insecurity in 2014 with 5.6% of households reporting chronic food insecurity. With numbers like these, chances are most Americans have either experienced food insecurity at some point, or know someone who has. The question then becomes, what can be done to help families in need of assistance? A few steps the average person can take to help reduce food insecurity in his or her community include familiarizing oneself with the federally funded programs available, familiarizing oneself with the local resources available within the community, and taking opportunities to volunteer time and resources to support local charities.

Looking at the problem of food insecurity from a national level, there are several federal programs available. The most recognizable of these programs is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps. However, there are several other programs that are funded by the same source as the SNAP program, but have higher income limits making the programs available to a wider range of families.

The SNAP program is the most widely recognized program of its type. Created in the 1930's to help the United States start to recover from the Great Depression, SNAP didn't really become the program known today until the early 1970's (FNS). Prior to this period, the program required that participants pay for a portion of the benefits in order to be eligible. This requirement limited participation to those that could afford to participate. The Food Stamp Act of 1977 eliminated the requirement to purchase Food Stamps and established income guidelines that tied the program to the federal poverty line.

Recently, the SNAP program has seen additional changes. According to a recent article written by Merril Goozner, the editor of Modern Healthcare, the program has seen a 5% reduction in monthly benefits. Additionally, the program spending will be reduced $8.6 billion over the next ten years. The cuts to this program will not only mean many will have to learn how to live on less, but those individuals may also start to experience periods of malnutrition and other health risks.

However, along with these cuts, the changes to SNAP takes steps to modernize the program. One example of the more progressive changes the SNAP program is set to undergo is the requirement for some participants to take part in a work program as a condition of eligibility. The goal of this is to transition those that can work, off of public assistance and on to self-sufficiency (Wogan).

Another example of program modernization is a recent partnership with local Farmers' Markets (Dong). This partnership helps to make locally sourced products available to the public at a reduced cost when the customer spends his or her SNAP benefits at the market. The hope is that the cuts to the SNAP program will be offset by the program modernizations limiting the overall impact to those most venerable participants.

There are other, lesser known national programs available to those in need. These programs are also income based; however, the income limits for these programs are higher than the SNAP program. The higher income limits help to make these programs available to more people. The problem is that these programs are not as well-known as the SNAP program, and therefore, underused.

The first of these programs is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, otherwise known as WIC (Coleman-Jensen). This program is available to pregnant and post-partum women, infants up to age one, and children up to age five. This program offers staple type foods such as basic proteins, dairy, and grains. Typical products available include eggs, bread, and milk. Baby formula is also available to any infant whose mother is not able to breast-feed. The goal of this program is to ensure that children get the basic nutrition needed in the earliest and most venerable stage of life. With the higher income limit, these services are available to many families that traditionally have not been eligible for other types of public assistance.

Another of the lesser known programs is the National School Lunch Program (Coleman-Jensen). This program is automatically granted to families that qualify for SNAP or WIC benefits. The National School Lunch Program is also granted to other income qualified children and provides free or reduced rate lunch and often breakfast to. Where WIC leaves off at age five, this program picks up to ensure the children continue to receive supplemental nutritional support. Again, with a higher income limit than even WIC, this program continues to bridge the gap for many children who may not have quality food available for all meals. It also allows parents to focus their available grocery funds on dinner and healthy snacks because they only need to provide their child one meal per day. One of the more unique features of this program is that it is even available through many schools and community centers during normal times of school absence such as summer break.

Federal programs such as SNAP, WIC, and the National School Lunch Program can only do so much to help alleviate the problem of food insecurity in America. The hardest barrier to overcome with these programs is that they are all income based, meaning only those families with incomes close to or below the poverty line qualify for these types of assistance. There is a natural gap comprised of those families that live above the poverty line, but may at times still struggle to put enough healthy food on the table. Local resources within one's own community may can help to provide a back-up safety net to those that may not qualify for federal programs or may not know those resources are available.

The most common type of community assistance comes in the form of the local food pantry. Provided through church groups and community organizations, most food pantries provide emergency food assistance without the necessity of qualifying based on income. For example, if a family finds that there is not quite enough food to make it until the parents receive their next pay checks, the family may go in to one of these food pantries to receive an emergency food box to fill in the gap. The type of food available and the quantity is usually based on what has been donated and may not be comprised of the most nutritious of choices.

According to the United Food Bank, an affiliate of Feeding America, a national 200-food bank network, all of the food available in food pantries is the result of donations from both national and local companies and organizations. In addition to providing emergency food assistance to families, many food pantries make food available for purchase at discounted rates. The food pantries also partner with schools to provide backpacks full of food to children in need that may not have enough food available at home to eat over the weekend. Overall, the food bank networks recognize the gap between those that qualify for public assistance and those that do not qualify for public assistance but still require help.

The problems that many food pantries are running into goes back to the recent cuts to the SNAP programs. Many food pantries are finding that communities are requiring more assistance because the SNAP benefits do not go as far as they used to (Resnikoff). By the end of the month, many families may be out of SNAP benefits and not have cash available to buy food. As a result, food pantries are closing on days that they use to be open due to lack of resources. This limits the amount of help some communities in need are able to receive.

With the challenges faced by the local food pantries in mind, it is time to look to alternate ways to feed our communities. Over the last century, every nation has faced its own economic crisis at some point. During these times, many nations have had to get creative to feed their citizens.

One such program was born in Britain during World War I. Lack of food during the trade interruption brought on by the war forced communities to get creative to ensure everyone ate. A grassroots effort "evolved into state-supported 'national kitchens'" (Evans). The basic model was that a person, for a small fee, could bring their own bowl or plate to one of these kitchens and have it filled with nutritious food. It became so popular that the government became involved, which had the added effect of elevating both the atmosphere and the food to appeal to a wider clientele. Due to the popularity, these facilities were even brought back during World War II, when the British nation faced similar trade disruptions.

An alternative to a government supported kitchen is a program currently being run in Toronto that allows individuals at or near the poverty line to participate in the growing, cooking, and eventual eating of healthy and culturally diverse foods (Howes). This food center is community based and allows neighbors to come together to grow and cook food. This food center has the added benefit of enriching its participant's lives by teaching skills such as growing food and cooking. It also provides the opportunity for the community to come together to support each other in all aspects of their lives.

The final way the average person can help reduce food insecurity is to ensure one's own community has a strong safety net in times of crisis. There are endless ways to get personally involved. Donating money and especially time to an organization dedicated to helping those in need, or even an individual that is in need, can do a lot to stabilize one's community.

Money or goods are always appreciated by organizations that can help to distribute the resources to those that need them. Many of these organizations are nation-wide, receiving donations from large corporations as well as private donors. With connections around the country, these larger charities help to alleviate the pockets of poverty, wherever they are found. If a donor wishes to keep his or her donations local, however, it may be best to focus efforts on smaller charities such as community groups and churches.

Monetary donations are the most flexible of resources (LaMeaux: 5 Reasons to Donate). They can be used wherever the receiving organization feels they can do the most good. For instance, if one was to donate a coat, it will only just be a coat. However, if someone were to donate the equivalent in cash, the money could be turned into a coat, a meal for a family, or even go toward helping someone keep their utilities connected. Monetary donations have the added benefit to the donor of being tax deductible.

A potential donor may not have the ability to give money. In this case, donations of unused food or gently used clothing work just as well (LaMeaux: 5 Reasons to Donate). In many cases, none cash donations can be given to larger organizations to be sold and turned into the resource they need most: cash flow. Alternately, giving such items to local charities allows them to place the items or food directly into the hands of those in need. Again, as with monetary donations, these types of donations are also tax deductible.

If money or goods is not an option for a potential donor, volunteering time is just as valuable to the organizations that help the less fortunate. This method of giving back can be valuable to the person volunteering as well. It allows the person to get personally involved in a cause he or she may feel passionate about. It may also be added to a resume as work experience for either a potential job or even college.

Any special skill such as carpentry or electrical knowledge can help organizations and even private citizens (LaMeaux: 4 Ways to Give Back). Having a volunteer complete what can turn in to a substantial expense will allow the person or organization to spend the money on something else needed. For example, if a person does not have very much money, they may need to choose between fixing their heating or buying groceries. Having a skilled volunteer complete the repair will allow the person or family to buy groceries without having to go without heat.

Even without a special skill, volunteering time to any worthwhile cause helps mitigate the cost of doing business (LaMeaux: 4 Ways to Give Back). United Food Bank reports that last year, volunteers provided over 51,700 hours of work which they equate to almost 25 full time paid staff. Saving that much on their payroll allows them to use the donated funds they receive in whichever way will best benefit the community. Additionally, businesses and families can use these volunteer opportunities to help build professional and personal relationships.

Overall, it is clear that times have changed. This nation has turned a blind eye to suffering for too long. It seems that every time communities start to stabilize, some new financial crisis comes along and knocks it off track. Awareness is the first step to ensuring a community stays strong. Whether on a national level, or in one's own backyard, keeping aware of the need as well as potential opportunities for education and support, we can make our nation strong one community at a time.

Works Cited
"A Short History of SNAP." Food and Nutrition Services. USDA. 20 November 2014. Web. 19
November 2015.

Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, Matthew Rabbitt, Christian Gregory, and Anita Singh. "Household Food
Security in the United States in 2014." United States Department of Agriculture
Economic Research Service. USDA. September 2015. Web. 23 October 2015.

Dong, Diansheng, Biing-Hwan Lin, David Smallwood, and Steven Yen. "Economic Incentives for
Dietary Improvement Among Food Stamp Recipients." Contemporary Economic Policy 28.4 (2010): 524+. Academic OneFile. Web. 18 October 2015.

Evans, Bryce. "Here's a Better Alternative to Food Banks: Subsidized National Kitchens."
CityMetric. 26 February 2015. Web. 12 November 2015.

Goozner, Merril. "Congress' Food Stamp Cuts Undermine Efforts to Reduce Healthcare Costs."
Modern Healthcare. 3 February 2014: 0022. Expanded Academic ASAP. Web. 15 October 2015.

How We Help. UnitedFoodBank. n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

Howes, Valerie. "An Alerternative to Food Banks." Open Kitchen. 20 October 2014. Web. 11
November 2015.

LaMeaux, E.C. "4 Ways to Give Back to Your Community. Gaiam Life. Web. 12 November 2015.
Lameaux, E.C. "5 Reasons to Donate to Charity. Gaiam Life. Web. 12 November 2015.
bluekitty 1 / 1 1  
Nov 20, 2015   #2
That was really very good and so true. So many people don't know that children go hungry in this country. It was inclusive yet concise. Great job! ;) bluekitty
justivy03 - / 2,366 607  
Nov 21, 2015   #3
Terra, your research on Food Safety is just very timely, with the advent of take aways and food in a box, this is a growing concern not only in the under developed countries but also in well developed countries. As much as the world has a lot more problems to face, it is imperative that we focus on health and well being of the humanity and your research is talking just about this issue and will definitely be an eye opener.

I also want to highlight that you did a good job in your citation work, you did an extensive research that made the paper worth reading through.

Now, the only enhancement that I would suggest is to compress your idea into bigger paragraphs as it looks a little bit crowded when you have all the little paragraphs all over the place, as much as your idea of the issue at hand matters, your presentation of the paper also has an impact of

the overall presentation of the research.

I wish I was able to help.
irfan727 49 / 68 29  
Nov 22, 2015   #4
hello Terra let me try to give some recommendations on your passage

However, there are several other programs that are funded by the same source as the SNAP program, but have higher income,(you need yo put comma here to make the sentences flow) limits making the programs available to a wider range of families.

One example of the more progressive changes in(preposition in here is needed) the SNAP program is set to undergo is the requirement for some participants to take part in a work program as a condition of eligibility

overall, your passage is great
solely minor grammatical mistakes
thanks, hope it can helps
vangiespen - / 4,134 1449  
Nov 22, 2015   #5
Terra, your thesis statement is not as complete as it should be. As an overview of your research, you did not really establish the parameters of research and the topics that will be covered as the essay progresses. It is important that you develop a more solid presentation of your topic that will include the overview of the solutions you plan to discuss and the presentation of the basic solution to the problem. All of which should culminate in the results of your research.

You presented one of the ideas for the solution to the problem using an example from World War 2. That is a nice concept that you should develop some more in order to make it more relevant to our times. You referred to the "evolved into state-supported 'national kitchens'" model for this concept. How would you update it for implementation in peace time? When you present such examples as solutions, you must always remember to present an updated application for it because, if it worked in World War 2, a little updating should make it work for us in the 21st century.

While you presented a research paper based upon historical, practical, and current accounts, you should try to develop an original idea for a solution to the problem prior to concluding your research. Don't forget that a research paper still requires the voice and thoughts of the author. So developing a possible solution to the problem, based upon your research, should be able to help you present a new solution to the existing problem.

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