Connect! Unite! Act! 42 million Americans face food insecurity

Food insecurity has a lot of hidden costs we don’t even think about. You see, while CNN discusses the price of milk using numbers that aren’t accurate, the real problem is that poverty itself has an incredibly high price. The family in question in those CNN profiles talks about buying groceries. Groceries, however, require multiple components: the ability to spend the money, store food to cook later, the use of reliable appliances, and the time to complete cooking the food needed. When you are poor, some of those things are difficult. A jug of milk simply doesn’t make a meal. You can’t feed a family with a carton of eggs. For many Americans, the complaint about the inability to put together an effective grocery shopping list can be a hassle, but if you’re riding the line of poverty, working to keep up, you are more likely to buy worse food or find yourself running to fast food because you can put a small amount of money together to get some sort of meal.

Nearly 1 in 6 American children are food insecure. Food insecurity also affects people we wouldn’t expect. At a recent presentation near me by the Johnson County Christmas Bureau, presenters made it clear that insecurity also impacts college-educated women, people with degrees, and those who want to get ahead in life. Despite the portrayal Republicans want to put forth, everyone can be touched by poverty.

They can also be touched by, frankly, misogyny, in ways that stun me. Recently, talking to my girlfriend, we discussed a recent appearance she made talking to others within her industry. Despite having great success at what she does, in the first 10 minutes of the discussion, a man across the table posed this question: “So, do you have any kids? And how old are they?” The only reason to ask this question was simple: “Sorry you have a child. It means I don’t think you can work enough to keep up with what we do, and I think it’s okay to punish you for having a child.” When women have children, they can find themselves out of the workforce for a period of time. That gap in their resume—or even the fact that they have a child at all—is used as a black mark against them, preventing them from finding the right job fit that can lift them from poverty.

Food banks can’t be punishments, and they can extend beyond food

At the front of grocery stores in the metro area around me are collection areas for people to donate canned food and goods to distribute to those in need. If I go and look in those areas, right now, what will I find? I can tell you right off the bat: I will find plenty of cans of spam, garbanzo beans, black beans, red beans, raw noodles, ramen, and anything else that constitutes the cheapest possible items to get in a store. It makes the donor feel good. It gives the person who most needs food and goods feel truly second class, often with little actual usable food that will be acceptable to families with children.

In fact, when we look at ways to help communities in need and we look at our local food banks, we should be offering food that we would buy for ourselves, our family, and our children. While we cannot give fresh produce or meat, unfortunately, there are often options that are deeply appreciated in food banks that aren’t given nearly as often. Canned pasta for children? Sure. It’s microwave-ready and easier to go. Microwave-ready non-frozen soups and meals? Yes. Cereals of many different kinds? Absolutely. Canned chicken or tuna fish for tuna fish sandwiches are also an example. All of these items rose up the list of requested items at local food banks, but they’re items that are seen less often. Most appreciated were personal items: toothbrushes, women’s hygiene products, soaps, deodorants, makeup, toothpaste, mouthwash, tampons. And the ability to choose.

Many poor households struggle to make ends meet, and if they have to choose between food and soap, they will choose food, which isn’t healthy. A choice between food and feminine products? A much harder choice.

We can and we must do better.

When the Democratic community joins together to help each other and to help the community as a whole, we can go a long way in changing the message of who we are and the terrible ways in which some wish to brand Democratic voters. Even if it doesn’t change a single mind in the moment, you can go home knowing at least one more child and another family is better fed and wakes up with new opportunities they did not have before.

Our CUA team is here to provide support and guidance to new and existing volunteer leaders of each regional and state group, helping them with recruiting, organizing and executing social and action events. We invite you to join in this effort to build our community. There are many ways to pitch in. If there isn’t a group to join near you, please start one.

What are you working on in your local area
to move our progressive agenda along?

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