On Fridays this summer in Chicago I went to the Department of Human Services offices on 63rd Street to invite people to visit the farmers' market. Unless I had more outreach to do in Woodlawn or South Shore, I didn't ride my bike. The first time I rode over, I was encouraged by the security guard to bring it in and since I hated the time it took to lock up my bike and ostentatious display of bike-riding, I just started walking over from my office a couple blocks away. Timing was everything for this outreach: If you went at 9 when the office opened nobody was there, and any later than 11 and the same was true. The benefit of going at 10 meant it wasn't too hot yet and I'd still manage to grab a donut and iced coffee at Robust Coffee Lounge on my way back.
In the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, poverty rates are high and people are hungry, yet 38.5 percent of the residents there are considered obese. Part of this reason, according to this feature by Eli Saslow in The Washington Post (Saslow's fifth story in this series), is because food stamps can be used to buy junk food at many convenience stores, which sell lots of processed, or fried food, and a $1 snack I hadn't heard about until now: a bag of Flamin' Hot Cheetos with hot cheese poured over it.
Yesterday, the Republican-controlled House voted 217 to 210 to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program over the next 10 years. A Census Bureau report released earlier in the week "found that the program had kept about four million people above the poverty level and had prevented millions more from sinking further into poverty", according to the Times.
Eli Saslow is really doing a bang-up job reporting stories about how people are faring in the current economy (i.e. this story) and his feature yesterday following a food-stamp recruiter who visits low-income seniors to let them know that help is available and a man who needs assistance but doesn't want to be a "taker" is excellent
This New York Times Magazine feature on how Obama's early experience in the poverty-stricken neighborhood of Roseland in Chicago kindled his political ambitions for change, and made urban poverty a focus of his campaign is comprehensive and very interesting—mostly because urban poverty has virtually disappeared as a key issue for the president.
Over at the Motley Fool, a popular investment news and tips site, Morgan Housel writes that adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage has declined by 30 percent over the course of 40 years, while the percentage of Americans on food stamps rose. This indicates, as we've noted previously, that the public is essentially subsidizing low-wage work.
Kind of hard to believe this isn’t a game show yet.
Over at the Guardian, Suzanne Moore offers up a bite-sized analysis of the nexus between food choice, class, celebrity chefs, and rising inequality in Britain.
If you are eligible for food stamps, ain't no shame in applying for them.