Twice I lived on a food stamp budget. Twice I learned that it is impossible to get both the needed calories and nutrition the human body requires on such a budget.
I became known as The Food Stamp Chef and as a result I still get a mail from people daily seeking help with the problems accessing SNAP. The problems are legion, but that would have to be an article of it's own.
With SNAP being so badly run in many states, and keeping away those who need it most, the only way to prevent severe hunger in America and the rest of the world is via the charities who feed people.
SNAP cuts have created more hunger but the worst culprit is the low minimum wage.
It has long been my belief that the minimum wage should be at least $18.00 an hour. All welfare is corporate welfare. It goes to supplement employers who refuse to pay a living wage. I consider the Walton family the biggest welfare family in the world.
How can you help?
Donate. Pick a charity that matters to you and when you have a spare dollar or package of food, donate. Feeding America can get 90 meals out of a $10 donation. It is remarkable how much these organizations do on so little, so never think those few dollars are not enough to make a difference. They are.
Meals on Wheels. They deliver daily meals to seniors. These meals provide much-needed nutrition, but they go beyond satisfying hunger. Those deliveries provide the elderly with a portion of respect and thanks for their contributions to the world. I live in Harlem and I consider our seniors to be living history. When I talk to some of the women in my building, those who lived history, I learn so much. Much of history is not in books; it is in the minds and memories of the elderly. Love them, cherish them, feed them.
New York Food Bank. All food banks in fact. With community partners they provide desperately-needed sustenance to those in need. It is not all donated cans, those dollars you donate allow them to buy food in bulk, including much-needed fresh produce. SNAP cuts have put an even greater burden on our food banks. Even a dollar and a can of tuna can make more of a difference than you would imagine. If you can't spare that can or dollar but have a few hours a week, volunteer. An excellent list of local food pantries can be seen here.
World Central Kitchen. One of America's favorite expression "teach a man to fish" World Central Kitchen does exactly that. You all remember Haiti and the disaster that befell them. Many of you probably donated via a telethon and later found out that much of that money was mismanaged. This is the little organization that could, can and does. In Haiti they teach people in a culinary school to prepare students for much-needed jobs in the tourist industry. In the Dominican they work with beekeepers, giving them the needed skills to manage a hive and sell honey. This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what they are involved with and are working towards. I have spent a lot of time looking at this charity and the work they do. Help them help the world.
Broadway Cares. They make grants and donations to over 120 different charities that feed the hungry nationwide. In addition they are great supporters of The Actor's Home in New Jersey that cares for and feeds show biz professionals in their later years. That $10 donation will be spread across the country and help more individuals than you can imagine.
Feeding America. Via an amazing distribution Network Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest) 97.9 percent of every dollar donated goes to provide food for the hungry. When you speak with them the passion for their mission is palpable. They feed America without discrimination, they help those that need help.
Trinity Place Shelter: a tiny, little shelter for homeless youth located in a church basement. Despite the location, no religion is thrust upon these kids. Instead they are given counseling, help with jobs and training. Food is purchased, and they are given the means to have a big dinner and breakfast before they begin their day. I volunteer and teach periodic cooking classes to the kids who are interested. I preach the gospel of vegetables.
Though I was not confronting the same issues at the kids at Trinity, I left home at a very young age and was fortunate to fall in with the right crowd -- friends who helped me to grow up and learn how to navigate the world. Many kids are not so fortunate.
Trinity is not the only shelter in need of help. Look to your community and see what you find and if you find nothing maybe you can start something?
When I was a teen, my mother was divorced. She was left with nothing but debt. She worked three jobs to make sure that none of her kids EVER went to bed hungry. I did not know how close to poverty we were.
Today even singles often cannot find a job with wages sufficient to live on. Parents often cannot find a single job, and even three minimum wage jobs are not enough are not enough to sustain.
I don't want any person on this planet to go to bed hungry. Do you?
Follow Karl Wilder on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fusiononthefly