Why Put Forth The Effort?
December 2, 2011
tags: Bill Shore, bill wielechowski, breakfast, child, end, hunger, lunch, politics, school meals, Share Our Strength, United Nations
The American political process is so complex most citizens literally do not have the money or energy to devote the time necessary to fully participate. From the outside looking in, creating positive change appears to take an all out effort; even when the Cause being championed is as bi-partisan and universal as addressing child hunger.
On December 1, 2011, while a KAKM radio program ran, Alaska State Senator, Bill Wielechowski wrote on Facebook, “Alaska is one of a few states in the nation that doesn’t help feed kids at school. We spend over $1 billion on education every year, but if kids are too hungry to learn or not getting nutritious meals – that money is wasted.” That is a pretty “basic” and old argument for supporting “School Feeding” as the United Nations calls it.
According to Juneau journalist, Dave Donaldson, the Alaskan city of Fairbanks is reporting an increase of 277 children accessing school meals from last school year. While 277 doesn’t appear to be very high for a city, in District terms, that’s an entire elementary school!
A national anti-hunger celebrity, Bill Shore, spoke at the Alaska World Affairs Council on October 7, 2011. He visited a few other organizations before leaving the State. I was privileged enough to listen to him. And, for the most part, I saw myself reflected – equal parts passion and intellect.
He reminded the audience that the USDA can count 19.5 million children nation-wide who are qualified to receive free and reduced school breakfast and lunch. However, only 9.5 million access it. Bill Shore worked with a school district in Los Angeles to lower the barriers of access. Interestingly, it was the Teacher’s Union that put up resistance. It was the Janitor’s Union that put up resistance. Not the community! I found that revelation to be extremely revealing.
Considering the difficulty factor, why put forth the effort? Why choose to participate in a process so wrought with human conflict and emotion? Why leave voice messages that do not elicit a call back. Why write carefully edited letters which go unread? Why stand before a public that is too busy to pay attention and sound the alarm?
Because as Gandhi once said, “To a hungry man, a piece of bread is the face of God.”
Food is so fundamental a human need that I have a hard time answering the question: Why should government allocate public dollars towards feeding children? My emotions rise. “First off, they are our children! What self-respecting parent doesn’t want to feed their children? What self-respecting community wants to knowingly allow its children to go hungry? Second, if we choose to not feed children they won’t be able to run America as adults because they will be too stupid.”
Interestingly enough, this sentiment is also backed by research. The United Nations has a policy paper you can download entitled: “WFP (World Food Programme) School Feeding Policy.” It is two years old. The report estimates that 66 million children are hungry around the world. To combat this, the United Nations strongly advocates School Feeding programs – to the tune of 27 pages.
On March 2, 2010, I was privileged enough to present at an Anchorage IGNITE event a grassroots plan for addressing child hunger in the United States by 2015. Two years of activism has only confirmed that my thoughts on a local, grassroots level are echoed by those who have devoted 20-30 years of their lives toward raising awareness of child hunger and the solutions which exist.
What is needed at this time is the coordinated political will to implement that solution. Under the leadership of Stephanie Santos, By2015:AMERICA is hosting a second Street Demonstration at the intersection of Lake Otis and Tudor. It will be held from 6 pm until 7 pm on Wednesday, December 21, 2011. The purpose of this Street Demonstration is to gain the attention of the State House Finance Committee.
In solidarity with those who will stand in the freezing Alaskan cold, we are asking those on Facebook and other social networking sites to please change their “profile pic” to an END CHILD HUNGER picture on Dec. 21. You can take one of yourself or borrow one from the By2015:AMERICA facebook page.
In the meantime, please send a letter in to the Alaska State Legislature. You can get one to print off by contacting us at By2015america@gmail.com