EDITORIAL: Thanksgiving feasts side by side with hunger and poverty

credit: UNICEF

 It is extremely ironic that as the community celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday, characterized mainly by overindulging in a feast, thousands of Americans have little to be thankful for as they agonize in poverty and related hunger.  

40 percent of Americans living in poverty

Earlier this year, a UN report indicated that 40 percent of Americans were living in poverty, including 5 percent who were living in “absolute poverty” similar to the poor in Third World countries.

Associated with this high level of poverty usually is a high rate of hunger, especially among children in rural America and American inner cities.

Millions of Americans have or are experiencing hunger mainly because of poverty, brought about by either unemployment, underemployment, disability, or misuse of whatever money they have on addictive habits like gambling, alcoholism and drugs. However, very few people accept a life of poverty and hunger by choice. Rather the poverty they experience is a result of often inescapable circumstances.

 

Meanwhile, it is questionable, whether or not some people, although they are financial burdened could avoid the hunger afflicting their families.

Contradictions  

A local study in which CNW participated recently revealed a contradiction relevant to poverty being experienced by some South Florida families.  The study found there are poor families who are cutting back on food and groceries in order to have their low and declining incomes meet their expenses. The food budget in most households included in this study was down by an average of 12 percent. On the other hand, the study revealed some of the same families were deliberately cutting back on expenditure for food and were saving at least $50 a week to spend on holiday shopping.

Fifty dollars a week could easily have made the difference between eating decently for a week or going hungry.

Mis-prioritizing scarce income

The implication from this study is some of the over 40 million Americans experiencing poverty and related hunger could result from them mis-prioritizing scare funds at their disposal.  

There are incidences of heads of so-called poor households,  driving expensive, late model motor vehicles to supermarkets to purchase food with food stamps. It’s assumed these people received food stamps to assist them to be food secure because they met poverty guidelines that qualified them for government assistance. Then, some of these same people complain their food stamp allocation is insufficient to adequately feed the family, and further complain when their assistance is terminated. Yet they hang on to their expensive vehicles, when trading them for less expensive units or utilizing public transportation, could help to put food on the family table.

Sometimes, it isn’t possible to differentiate between Americans who are experiencing hunger because of mis-placed priorities, and those who absolutely have little or no financial resources with which to feed their family.

Poverty has no particular identification

In America, unlike some poorer countries, hunger or poverty have no particular identification.  A well-dressed individual could be someone who is unable to buy a decent meal for days. Well-dressed children attending school daily may have no dinner to go home to. Only few people go walking around with signs indicating, “I’ll work for food.”  

The fact is, whether deliberate or through real unfortunate circumstances no one, much less over 40 million Americans, should having limited access to food, even occasionally. Like personal wealth, food is too unequally distributed in this country.

Hunger not solved by chartable feeding

The problem of hunger is not solved by the occasional charitable meal offered to the poor and hungry at Thanksgiving, Christmas and on weekends, or by delivering buckets of leftover food to homeless shelters. The society, not just the government, must find ways to effectively distribute the prevailing lopsided wealth experienced by only a few to those perpetually locked in the cycle of poverty.

Regardless of the status of statewide and national economies it should be a priority to sustain (and better manage) social programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamp program. Means should also be taken to ensure more children from financial needy homes have access to school meals daily, and even when schools are not in session,  

Granted, society usually bear the financial burden of these extended measures to the financially challenged.  But, it’s worth bearing this burden, rather than having over 40 million Americans, including 15 million children experience hunger and its long term social and physical negative effects. It’s also necessary to somehow find ways of educating those who are financially challenged to place food and nutrition for their families before unaffordable holiday shopping and acquisition of unnecessary material possessions.

 

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