November 1, 2016
By Brian Riddell, Executive Director, Dutchess Outreach
Since the Great Recession the stock market is hovering at all time highs. The number of people “officially” out of work has been cut in half. Oil is affordable again and gasoline costs two-plus bucks per gallon. Relatively happy days are here again.
And while food has become a source of recreation, hunger seems to have become a matter of fact.
The appeals in the mail are no longer only for children suffering in foreign countries but for those in our own backyard. Food pantries have come out of the closet. The problem of hunger is being highlighted almost (see below) everywhere. In our nation’s schools, teachers and volunteers are filling backpacks with food for students to take home on weekends. They recognize there’s a need that must be met if their students are to flourish. Food pantries are now even a part of many of this country’s military bases. The Olympic Village set up their own soup kitchen for hungry people in the host city. You never saw that before.
So many people don’t have enough food for themselves or their families. They can’t always afford it. It’s that simple.
But not a word was heard of hunger in America during the general presidential campaign. Nor since. No politician likes to use the word “poverty” either. Who knows what the November 8 results may bring, but cutting food assistance programs has always been a part of their agenda. The House Speaker’s most recent budget proposal called for eliminating food assistance for people in school or in job- training classes, for example.
However, we the people understand our fellow habitants must eat and are willing to support programs that work to ensure that poor people can nourish themselves. Around the time when housing costs were a third of a household’s budget we approved spending for efforts to supplement a person’s or family’s food budget. Food stamps, now properly titled the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), did just that.
But now, with the cost of housing, heating and other basic necessities what SNAP supplements is meager at best and at worst, zero. Poor people are either only eating the SNAP supplement or living on a food budget that can be easily depleted with unexpected costs.
So with that hunger here comes in many forms. At Dutchess Outreach, with the help of so many generous people, we have mounted an attack on a few fronts, to combat local hunger. Our Lunch Box program provides needed regular sustenance for between 200 and 400 people each month who either have no means or so little as to make a difference. The Beverly Closs Food Pantry is there for seven or eight hundred people a month who live on that margin between enough food and an emergency. Our after-school meal programs nourish the growing minds of elementary school age children; the unseen victims of hunger and poverty. And our latest effort, the Poughkeepsie Plenty Food Market (PPFM) is increasing the quality of healthy, fresh food available to our most vulnerable; senior citizens and women, infants and toddlers nutritionally at-risk.
We may not be able to end hunger, but with an array of efforts like these , and so many other ingenious initiatives across the County, we can impact the local problem. The idea is to think how you, we or I can reach out to ensure those within that reach get enough to eat. It’s really that simple and we’re here to help.