As part of an ongoing fundraiser with TerraCycle, Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank's staff have been collecting yogurt containers and shampoo bottles in the break room. Three months in, we'd managed to fill up a couple of copy paper boxes. Then Whitehall Middle School got a hold of the idea.
The U.S. Congress is debating just how drastically it should cut food assistance to the 47 million Americans who suffer from "food insecurity," the popular euphemism for those who go hungry. In all this discussion, the real face of poverty -- single mothers -- has strangely disappeared.
Politically the moral leadership of the pope is bad news for those Republicans, conservatives, Tea Party advocates and libertarians who politically worship at the altar of the unbridled and unregulated excesses of capitalism that Francis deplores.
While many American families gather around the Thanksgiving table this week, some of us combining this year's traditional dinners with Hanukkah feasts, the nearly 49 million Americans living in food insecure households will be struggling to afford the food they need.
Subsidizing better choices in the grocery store is a lot less expensive than stays in the intensive care unit. We don't need to prevent very many cases of diabetes, heart disease or bariatric surgeries to save back the costs of incentives for nutritious foods, 10 times over.
As discussions swirl around Washington on tax rates, entitlement "reform," and discretionary spending cuts, it seems all too easy to forget that real people will suffer if the wrong decisions are made in the next several weeks.
Given that nine states have attempted to pass bills to try to improve SNAP, (all failed thanks to a combined lobbying effort by the food industry and anti-hunger groups, which also stopped New York City's high-profile attempt) why not give the idea a chance?
Rather than going hungry, millions of Americans are turning to calorie-dense fast food that won't break the bank. But programs that bring affordable, wholesome foods to neighborhoods that crave them are popping up everywhere.
If the economy is showing tepid signs of recovery, we're seeing no indication at the hundreds of food pantries and shelters we serve daily. Record numbers of people are still in need of emergency food assistance -- many for the first time.
Funding anti-hunger programs is an investment in our future. It saves money in health care costs and improves children's performance in school. It is also the moral and ethical thing for Congress to do.