Double Whammy

A depressing little story in the Columbus Dispatch: Almost one in ten Ohioans receives food stamps, and thanks to rising food costs (one presumes both because of rising transport costs and the fact that everyone’s planting corn for ethanol now, rather than food crops) that $1 per meal per person doesn’t go anywhere as far as it used to. As much as it would be easy and dismissive to suggest all these folks just need to get jobs, I’m guessing a lot of them do have jobs, just jobs whose pay sucks, and now sucks more because what they get paid buys even less (related story: people now using 25% of their paychecks for gas). The rejoinder: They should get better jobs. Yes, well. Welcome to Ohio, home of a collapsing manufacturing economy, where the motto is “At least it’s not as bad as Michigan. Yet.”

Note to self: Next Whatever charity drive: Local food bank.

56 thoughts on “Double Whammy

  1. Oh and the best part…in certain parts of the country, you know, you’ve got a work requirement that sets it up in such a way that you have people who can’t afford healthy food, yet don’t qualify for food stamps. It’s food for God’s sake. It’s not like the government is giving away TVs. You need food to, you know, survive.

  2. John, you need to work on your slogan. Too negative. I’m just a bit North of you where this one works for us…

    “Welcome to Michigan. Leaders in the Economic Downturn!”

  3. Food banks in MN are having a special drive, so that families will have enough to feed their kids (who get free or reduced price lunches) are home all day for Spring Break. My son’s school has been collecting food for a week for this food drive.

    They start a big drive in May, to help these families when the kids are home for the summer.

    Just a reminder—people are hungry at times other than Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  4. Food banks all over are feeling the crunch. There’s been a reduction in donations from the federal government because it has had less of a surplus to distribute. With an increase in people whose food stamps don’t go the distance, there have been more people at soup kitchens — which have also felt the crunch.

    It isn’t pretty.

  5. Yes! Yes! People are hungry all year round. If you are able, please give during the summer months. This is a time that can be especially hard for hungry people because A) school is out for the kids and B) it’s not the holiday season so people tend to forget about the hungry.

    The USDA has this program where they pay farmers for extra food, and then the extra food gets canned and distributed to regional food banks…thing is that over the last six months, I’ve seen a huge decrease in the surplus distributed. Everyone is feeling the crunch. I wish we would stop spending so much on the damn war in Iraq, and start spending a little more on feeding people, and helping them get healthcare. Is that too much to expect?

  6. Sadly this is just the beginning.

    The time was when we had actual starvation – visible starvation – in the US. We really have made progress (but not enough) since the 50’s but we will slide back and it is a crying shame.

    Who among us know that the Federal school lunch program was instituted as a national defense measure? We needed healthy youth for the armed services and underfed kids were a big problem.

    Yeah, I know, obesity is now rampant. While obesity is a nutrition problem and not a food problem it is at last partially due to the availability of cheap (but empty) calories. Those days are going behind us.

    I would hope that having seen a generous and compassionate country we will cling to that while it becomes more difficult but I dunno. Fear, greed and selfishness are already rampant and lauded as virtues.

    The ultra Rich have many tools to avoid compassion and loss of power. Denial, control of the media, the use of advertising techniques, scapegoating, setting groups against each other, the insistence that individuals act alone and not collectively, disdain for government, even the hijacking of Christianity to enforce the acceptance of suffering as God’s will.

    Keep your eyes open and you will see all of these already.

    The only real threat the ultra Rich face comes from government. Only governments are powerful enough to enforce any ‘redistribution’ of their wealth. That is why they have made such an effort to make ‘unions’ and ‘taxes’ dirty words. The ‘Inheritance tax’ is relabeled as a ‘death tax’ and derided as patently unfair. ‘Communism’ and ‘socialism’ are already well established as dirty words.

    When you hear popular sound bites such as ‘personal responsibility’ think about where they come from and what they do. “Personal responsibility” is a virtue but it is also used to prevent any team work or collective action. One person against a corporation will never win. Never. One worker against a corporation will never win. Only in the rare case when that one person is not replaceable (entertainment stars) or has his pals on the boards (Executives who get a private employment contract signed by their cronies).

  7. Todd Stull,

    I wish we would stop spending so much on the damn war in Iraq, and start spending a little more on feeding people, and helping them get healthcare.

    We are not spending a single penny on the Iraq war. It is all off-budget and borrowed. Our children and grandchildren will be paying that debt plus interest for a long time.

    The Iraq war is the second longest war in US history and it is the only war funded completely by debt. Not only did we neglect to increase our government revenue during this war, we REDUCED it, especially among the Ultra rich.

    Remember the “great generation?” US involvement in WWII was shorter than this Iraq war. US involvement in WWI was shorter. The only war longer was the Viet Nam war and if McCain (more wars, less jobs) has his way we will beat that record.

  8. I’m rather glad that I got out of Ohio when I did, thanks to a job offer in…Michigan, oddly enough. I also lucked out and managed to find a place to live that’s within easy walking distance of my office, meaning that gas money is far less of a concern these days. I feel awful for those who are having to spend so much of their paycheck just to get to work and back, not to mention trips to the store and other outside activities.

    I volunteered for Food Gatherers (http://www.foodgatherers.org/) during the winter, and it was a very rewarding experience. I should see if there’s anything I can do throughout the year to help them as well. Hunger knows no season, after all.

  9. I should also mention that Michigan is looking to give Food Stamps out twice a month, so that families will be able to buy fresh vegetables more often and other healthy foods, rather than run out later in the month. Of course, with rising food prices, this does nothing to the actuality of running out of food money twice a month, instead of once a month…

    I also understand that no grocery store chains want to set up shop in Detroit itself, thereby raising the costs and lowering the quality of available fresh foods to anyone limited to buying in their neighborhoods in the city.

    Sigh. If it’s not one thing it’s everything else.

    Dr. Phil

  10. That’ll be the American Dream then will it? Every Uptown address has a gutter right outside.

    Pardon my cynicism – my country’s no better.

  11. We noticed the other day that even the prices at ALDI have gone up significantly. Ungh.

    Finding a job up here in Toledo is an exercise in hopelessness. When I lost my job in January, I put out more than 200 applications in 4 days and posted my resume everywhere. Leaving out the “customer service” positions that were actually insurance sales and MLM, I only got 3 callbacks.

    Fortunately, I haz mad skillz and a bunch of contacts. I’m working again…for contract holders in Germany, the UK, Pennsylvania…and Michigan. Heh.

  12. In the model of teaching a man to fish, and as a more effective and lasting response to rejoinder #2 (They should get better jobs):

    Why not host a series of free writing classes for the poor? Communication skills, particularly written communication (your area of expertise), are among the most essential for increasing earning power. Help the people get better jobs, forever.

    Or, give them half as much food and a bus ticket out of Ohio…

  13. so… is it finally time to rise up and declare corn ethanol to be a crime against humanity?

  14. Some of those receiving food stamps are probably the combine drivers harvesting the corn and the truck drivers hauling it to ethanol plants.

    Two weeks ago I was at a talk about alternative fuels given by a board member of the Corn Grower’s Association (can’t remember if it was American or National). It’s been awhile since I’ve heard so much BS spewed forth in such a short timeframe.

    “Corn is good for America!”

  15. I’ll try to throw some positive energy into this:
    I read about somewhere fairly rural (might be Ohio, I don’t remember) that took their deer over-population problem and their poor people problem and put them to work against each other once.

    Since deer populations used to be held in check by wolves, which are disappearing, many places are facing explosions in deer populations.

    Most places you have to buy licenses to hunt deer. This particular state / county / whatever (I read the story a while back) would sell you additional hunting licenses at a reduced rate if you agreed to donate the extra deer to charities that fed the poor. Excess deer fill the gap in the food deficit.

    Gas prices still suck and people still need well paying jobs, but at least some people in government are thinking, and have acknowledged that this is a problem.

    .

  16. My oldest son works with a group in his church that supports a food pantry in Athens county. Most of the pantries in that county have closed as donations have dried up. Deliveries that used to keep the pantry running for a few weeks are now gone in a day. And, due to the cost of gas, the church group has had to cut the frequency of deliveries.

    A plan in other states that we are trying to get adopted in Ohio may help cut the food problem and make the roads safer. Under it, hunters can bag extra deer but any over the limit goes to a food bank. We got a lot of deer in this state. On Saturday evening we counted 40 in fields along a 3 mile segment of road near our house. Lots of car/deer accidents all the time. Thinning the herd would put food on the table in poorer areas.

  17. Jim @ 21 – at first I thought you were going to say they made roving packs of poor people that work together to take down the deer population, but then the hunters hunt the poor people.

    I could just see the tableau – an Ohio (or other rural area) family sitting down to dinner when Dad looks out the window, tells the kids to eat their dinner, grabs the family shotgun and heads out to the field to keep out the poor.

    Wait – that sound a lot like what the cops doin most metropolitan cities already.

    Weird.

  18. One of the options in my recent job search was a position in Miami, OH.

    Now, Miami itself is kinda cute, at least in places; but the trip to there from the Cinci airport (even leaving out the signs for the creation ‘museum’) was enough to scare. The only viable local industries appeared to be porn stores and bars. Well, and churches.

    Just like the LA tent cities, the reporting on this is much better from e.g. the BBC than from any US source I’ve found, too. I fear that it’s going to get worse, and one can only hope that that will, in fact, be followed by getting better.

  19. Jim – I think Indiana has a lottery for a one day pass to hunt in the state parks, where hunting is usually banned, but one of the provisions is that the meat has to go to a food pantry.

    Foxmarks – this is a group in Cincy, InkTank,

    http://www.inktank.org/

    that does just what you suggested. They have writing for empowerment sort of programs for the homeless and urban poor.

  20. Tripp,
    We are not spending a single penny on the Iraq war. It is all off-budget and borrowed. Our children and grandchildren will be paying that debt plus interest for a long time.

    Go look at the recent weakness in the dollar and the rising cost of imports (including, for example, oil), and then tell me we aren’t paying a single penny. This is all caused by the huge budget deficit and the trade deficit flooding the market with dollars.

    Kiji,
    I feel awful for those who are having to spend so much of their paycheck just to get to work and back, not to mention trips to the store and other outside activities.

    It gets even better when you realize that, thanks to the recent drops in housing prices, many people now cannot afford to sell their home to move closer to a job, or relocate when they lose a job, since they owe more on the house than it is worth.

  21. Miami is only cute if you go for the “land of many blonds thing” its full of spoiled kids who wanted to party through college in a school were they would never have to meet a person of color, or anyone who wasn’t a suburban republican.

    You must had gone on some weird scenic route from Miami to CVG, Ewan. Hamilton county, and the surrounding areas have some of the tightest anti-porn laws in the country. There are no adult stores or nightclubs in Hamilton county that’s what Northern Ky is for. Also, the Cincy area has a pretty diverse economic base for the mid-west. The I-75 corridor is butt ugly, but full of industry

  22. As a response to comment 17, part of the problem is that jobs that pay living wages are disappearing. You now have a lot of people who work service industry jobs that do not make a living wage. You can help increase the communication skills of these people, but that will not help them get better jobs if the better jobs do not exist anymore.

  23. @ mfitz, #27

    Head north, just north of 275 on 75, look to the left just before you approach Big Butter Jesus. Tell us what you see.

    Ohs! It’s a big old hustler store!

  24. From what I remember that Huster store is pretty tame, although it’s been a while. It’s also in Bulter, not Hamilton Co and to the best of my knowlege it’s the only store of it’s type anyplace in the area, so it’s not really an infestation or a major industry.

    I like to think it’s “I’m Sinking” or “Help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” Jesus by the way, although I admitt that Big Butter Jesus has a ring to it and I like it better that “Touchdown” Jesus.

  25. The US doesn’t support a living wage. I don’t know why. It’s like the government wants a sufficient amount of the population to die of starvation.

    I blame Puritanism. It’s the old “if you fail you only have yourself to blame, because if you worked hard enough, God would have provided” line.

  26. derf,

    Go look at the recent weakness in the dollar and the rising cost of imports (including, for example, oil), and then tell me we aren’t paying a single penny.

    Point taken. The current costs are hidden and the future costs are left to balloon.

    I’m sorry no one has mentioned the “food stamps used to purchase lobster” urban myth because I have the perfect rebuttal.

    I was in a local grocery store when a weary mother with an excited kid bought a store-made birthday cake with food stamps. The cake was obviously for the kid.

    The idiot behind me said something like “It figures, food stamps for junk food.” Without thinking I turned around, looked her in the eye, and said “I can’t think of a better use for my tax dollars.”

    I was fuming and only my age allowed me to leave off the cuss words I wanted to use. Sometimes it is VERY hard to remember that we are all God’s children, Yes, even the people with the bitter hurtful comments. I still don’t have to like them.

  27. Scalzi

    one presumes both because of rising transport costs and the fact that everyone’s planting corn for ethanol now, rather than food crops

    You forgot to add all the people who are making inefficient use of their land by growing “organic” and selling the produce to people who can afford the extra cost.

    Jim @ 21

    This particular state / county / whatever (I read the story a while back) would sell you additional hunting licenses at a reduced rate if you agreed to donate the extra deer to charities that fed the poor. Excess deer fill the gap in the food deficit.

    I like it. But why not make it easier for the poor get their own deer? Those on food stamps should be allowed to get their deer hunting permits before all others and at a reduced cost.

  28. Mfitz, the airport is also in KY, which means they’d have to drive through Coventry (I think that was the place on the other side of the river, it’s been years). That side of the river is a pretty bustling place. You know, right within walking distance of downtown Cinci.

    And I also worked in in Oxford for a time. I remember the one place stopping work at one on the Friday of Final Exams to celebrate the students leaving. Seriously. Was handed a beer and told to stop working and come join the party.

  29. Covington – and you can walk there from Cincy if you don’t mind playing chicken with the traffic, it’s not too pedestrian friendly past the ball parks.

    I lived there in the Riverside neighborhood, for ten years. I could smell the hot dogs from Riverfrount stadium if the wind was right. Great pre-civil war housing stock, and river views that can’t be beat. There were still a few strip clubs around back then, including one across the street from my building that claimed to be home to Kentucky’s most beautiful girls. :-) Looked road hard and put away wet to me. Anyway, most of Northern KY along the river has gotten a makeover since the mid 90’s. It’s all fancy condos and law offices these days. I think there is only one men’s club left in Covinington now and they can have dancers, but not strippers. It’s Newport, on the other side of the Licking, away from the highway, that was famous back in the day for the strip clubs and gambeling, but most of that is gone now. The whole area has become a “destination” entertainment district with movie theater, shops and upscale restaurants.

  30. I like it. But why not make it easier for the poor get their own deer? Those on food stamps should be allowed to get their deer hunting permits before all others and at a reduced cost.

    Personally I’d like discounts or subsidies for the butchering as well. But around these parts there is GREAT resentment for any help towards some of the poor trying to fish. Do you know to whom I am referring?

  31. I find myself wondering when we’ll go back to horse and carriage days as local delivery methods because of fuel costs.

  32. The rejoinder: They should get better jobs.””

    Yeah, that’s my favorite. I can just imagine a Wal-Mart full of managers with nary a cashier in sight…

    Well, now that you’ve got a job, get a better one.

    I’ll get right on that…

  33. Frankon 25 Mar 2008 at 3:47 pm wrote:

    “I like it. But why not make it easier for the poor get their own deer? Those on food stamps should be allowed to get their deer hunting permits before all others and at a reduced cost.”

    But the deer do not oblige by being near the poor and, nowadays at least, poor and hunting skills do not go together. The rural poor used to rely on hunting in many areas and some still do. But a lot of the poor today are in small towns and urban areas and lack the skills and chance to hunt much. Hunting is something that takes a fair amount of training. Especially hunting large critters like deer.

    Some states, New York comes to mind, have set up programs where processing plants will handle surplus deer for free and send the meat to pantries. The deer hides are usually discarded. I have been looking into having the hides processed and using them as the basis of a cottage industry for the poorer areas. A local business of making deerskin clothing might be a nice addition to the local economy.

  34. Mark Evans

    But a lot of the poor today are in small towns and urban areas and lack the skills and chance to hunt much. Hunting is something that takes a fair amount of training. Especially hunting large critters like deer.

    Ahhhh. But give a man a deer and you feed him for today. Teach a man to hunt deer and he can potentially feed himself and his family forever.

    Perhaps for all the poor who need training in hunting, perhaps the government’s money would be well spent to send them for training with “The Nuge

  35. Heh. Coincidentally I’ve been looking into reconfiguring my own monthly budget recently, for how I’m going to come up with the funds to pay the giant gas corps more money this summer so that they can better line the pockets of their board members.

  36. Frank @33 – WTF? Organic is a fairly small part of the market, from what I know (though growing), so the impact of increasing organic production on overall commodity prices is going to be less significant than other factors (like diversion of corn into ethanol production, diversion of land previously used for other grains into corn production aimed at the ethanol market, and increased demand elsewhere in the world all combining to exert strong upward pressure on grain prices.)

    Besides which, conventional agriculture is highly dependent on extractive industries and processes (diesel fuel for agricultural equipment, also freight for getting crops to market in a timely manner; and refined/chemical fertilizers and pesticides; sometimes irrigation also) for getting the yield per acre they do. In the long run, that starts getting problematic as the resources extracted (oil, minerals, water) become scarcer/more expensive to obtain.

    Small scale farming & local-distribution market gardening are worth serious consideration if (when) fuel prices keep ratcheting up the way they have. And that’s the scale where organic and semi-organic practices work most effectively.

  37. So many people have to drive 60-80 miles (or more one way) for work because most of the little manufacturing jobs in rural Ohio have dried up.

    I live in Columbus, and much of my extended family lives in Lancaster. They all drive up here. The gas prices are killing them.

    I heard a bit on van pooling yesterday on the local NPR station.

    http://osuvanpooling.morpc.org/

  38. Hope @41

    Yes! “Frankie say ARM THE UNEMPLOYED!”

    Hmmm. You know, it has been deemed that abortions are a Constitutional right. So much so that governments will pay for abortions for the poor. Now given that abortions are at best a derived constitutional right, while the Right to keep and bear arms is actually written into the constitution, perhaps giving arms to the poor can be justified.

    I think you’re on to something Hope!

    Thena

    the impact of increasing organic production on overall commodity prices is going to be less significant than other factors (like diversion of corn into ethanol production, diversion of land previously used for other grains into corn production aimed at the ethanol market, and increased demand elsewhere in the world all combining to exert strong upward pressure on grain prices.)

    I quite agree. But given that these farmlands are being taken out of the food-producing arena, it means that the remaining land needs to be as productive as it can be. And the recent study by the Swiss shows that that just isn’t the case. In fact, buried in the fine print (and written in Swedish!) it said

    “since crop yields were considerably higher in the conventional systems, the difference in energy needed to produce a crop unit was only 19 percent lower in the organic systems.”

    As Sally Hall said over at Common Dreams “Organic farming is a slow-to-grow, low-yield industry favored by middle-class parents who have the time and money to meander the overpriced aisles of Waitrose, deliberating over wild rocket or white asparagus.

    OK, so I took that completely out of context and as a result have totally reversed her argument. But that’s only because this is the only part of her piece I agree with.

  39. Frank, I suspect Hope was making an 80’s T-shirt-based joke:

    Morley launched his Hamnett-inspired T-shirt campaign in earnest with the release of “Two Tribes”, augmenting “Frankie Say Relax Don’t Do It” with new designs such as “Frankie Say War Hide Yourself” and “Frankie Say Arm The Unemployed” (a design that itself courted controversy, prompting Johnson to explain in a radio interview that the slogan was meant to incite the government to arm the unemployed with jobs).

  40. I know this thread is dead but I have to stick up for Frank regarding organic farming. Actually the same holds true for low tech farming in general. I have seen Amish farms in person. Their production is maybe a fourth what a modern farm can produce, maybe less.

    The only way the earth has supported so many people is with modern farming practices, which are simply not sustainable. Organic farming today is a luxury for people to indulge in. The same is true for burning our food to drive our cars. The same is true for meat.

    It is hypocritical to complain about factory farms while eating meat and burning ethanol or even while supporting “organic” farms.

    As usual these subjects are not simple and as our food supply dwindles we are going to be subjected to more and more hard ethical choices to make.

  41. Frank & Tripp –

    I think we are basically in agreement that organic agriculture sacrifices short-term yield for increased sustainability and conventional agriculture sacrifices long-term sustainability for increased short-term yield.

    I also think we are basically in agreement that it’s stupid to burn food to fuel cars and power plants.

    I’d rather see more land under cultivation, using sustainable agricultural practices, and distributing to local or regional markets, than the direction we (USA) as a culture have gone.

    As expensive as cucumbers are around here (Maine) this time of year – and they should be, they’re usually brought in from California, more than 3000 miles away – I don’t think the cost at the supermarket checkout accurately reflects the total cost, iterated through the supply chain, of the impact of presenting that fresh green cucumber to me, in the store, when I’ve got two feet of ice on the ground outside. I’ll take my cucumbers from my own vines, come august, and in the winter enjoy my MIL’s pickles.

    YMMV, of course.

  42. Would you say than that if populatoin is the real problem for long term survival on humans on this planet it would be better to put government development/PR resources into promoting global ZPG than alternative fuel sources?

  43. Trippon said, “… regarding organic farming. Actually the same holds true for low tech farming in general. I have seen Amish farms in person. Their production is maybe a fourth what a modern farm can produce, maybe less.”

    However, that doesn’t take into account the technologies OTHER than Amish farming. Look up Masanobu Fukuoka and learn how he’s been producing bumper crops of rice on his small natural farm with not only organic methods (no pesticides or chemical fertilizers) but he doesn’t even weed, or till the soil. If people could learn to farm sustainably, it need not have lower production than modern farming methods, and would save our soil for future generations. I could mention lots of other authors with different (but compatible) philosophies, methods, and natural farming technologies, but I figure anyone interested can find these things out for themselves.

    Still, the point of the thread is that poor people get shafted. And that is true. As long as the system is rigid, patriarchal, and more interested in numbers than in human beings, there will never be room for “common sense” answers which SOLVE problems. Problems will at best be delayed from having to be faced. Actually facing and solving problems is a lot more complicated than people who won’t plan past the next election can deal with.

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