My Apologies Children
According to KTVA (Channel 11), your best bet to stave off hunger this summer in Anchorage is George Bell’s Children’s Meal Mission operated out of the Mountain View Boys and Girls Club. (In rural Alaska, see Food Bank of Alaska’s Summer Foods distribution program.) The State legislature has decided to determine whether or not it will add 35 cents to school breakfasts and 15 cents to school lunches next year. Which means another 18 months before the State steps in to assist in feeding you.
I experience emotional pain over this failure, children. After all, the By2015:AMERICA movement supported Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Senator Bill Wielechowski. In the Anchorage Press we published our intentions to conduct a letter campaign. Together, with the Alaska Food Coalition we were able to inspire The Anchorage Daily News to do an expose on high school lunch before the end of the Session. All in all, I thought we did a good job of keeping the issue before the public.
However, this was not enough to communicate our will to House Finance committee for a second year in a row. While local talk show host, Shannyn Moore, announced over facebook how $1.5 million is slated for Astroturf in the Valley and $600K for “potato seedlings,” $2 million to help school-age children get the nutrition needed to make their education worthwhile did not.
The argument presented by the House Republicans is that feeding children is the responsibility of parents, not city or state government. Yes, I agree. However, that is not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is how to fully fund food services provided by schools districts, not parents. Somehow, we failed to communicate this.
It goes back to something the legendary organizer, Saul Alinsky taught: You cannot do anything outside of people’s experience level. Child hunger is outside of the legislators who tabled our issue’s experience. Hence, they can appeal to a value shared by many in our society and side-step the responsibility of the legislature insuring our educational dollars are spent on children with the capacity to absorb the education. If a child is hungry, all available studies say – universally – a child cannot focus on the information teachers are trying to impart. Thus, it doesn’t matter how much money is spent on capital items, such as the building or textbooks, the education is wasted on a mind that cannot absorb it due to a lack of the necessary nutrients.
This is an old counter-argument. It goes back to Count Rumsford’s efforts to address hunger in the 1780s, shortly after the Revolution. Sigh.
I could get angry. Yet, I have learned that this doesn’t work. The only mature response to political failure is to organize. Or so, civil rights icon, Kwame Toure advised, which means, I must go back to the basics.
On May 14th I was at the Mt. View Block Party, children. I met George Bell and Don Burrell Jr. there. After exchanging pleasantries I started working. I took a few pictures with an End Child Hunger sign. Then, I seeded Price Street with copies of “Address to College America.” On my way out of Mt. View that afternoon I seeded Richmond Street.
I did not stop. That night, Sage Francis, a conscious hip hop artist, performed at Tap Root. I was present with Rithm aka George Martinez, the first MC to be elected to political office. I got over 100 pictures before losing my camera in the crowd. So, I did the next best thing and seeded the parking lot. 350 people were exposed to our ideas that night, children.
Again, I am sorry children. From now on, I will remember that I am a grassroots organizer, not a lobbyist. While I recognize that every American citizen needs to participate in the political process, I will choose to use my time, talent and energy in a manner that I imagine best benefits you.
We will feed you, children. Because, contrary to State or Local politics, you deserve to eat. And, I have a feeling, I am not alone in this conviction. School is out next week children. See you then.