by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Hunger

Nov 28 2013

Happy Thanksgiving: three reports on hunger and politics

New York City’s Coalition Against Hunger has issued a new report on the city’s Superstorm of Hunger.

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Bread for the World’s offers its 2014 Hunger Report: Ending Hunger in America

It comes with an Infographic summarizing the principal action points:

  • Create good jobs
  • Invest in people
  • Strengthen the safety net
  • Build strong partnerships

And Circa provides an illustrated, interactive (check the links!) account of an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation of how lobbyists and tax dollars affect the cost of your thanksgiving dinner.

The bottom line: Agribusiness spent $71 million on campaign contributions and $95 million on lobbying in 2012.  For example:

The National Turkey Federation — a member of an agricultural businesses coalition —has given $1.37 million in campaign contributions since 1989, focused mainly on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. The group has also spent $3.58 million on lobbying during that time, taking aim at laws for turkey exports and antibiotic rules.

Enjoy your dinner!

Nov 15 2013

Weekend viewing: new films in the making

I’ve gotten announcements about two films in the making.  Both are worth a look.

Gleason Ranch: Risking Everything.  This is about

a family struggling to salvage their relationships and their 150 year-old, 5th-generation family ranch in Bodega, California. The project began four years ago with the intention of documenting the everyday difficulties of maintaining a family farm. Now, however, it has turned into a much larger, much more personal story of loss, life, pain, and resilience.

What Does 48 Million Hungry People Look Like?

This is a 78-second animated video aimed at getting people energized about ending hunger in America.  It’s a follow-up to A Place at the Table and an introduction to the faces and stories of SNAP alumni.  I’m guessing a longer version will follow soon.  In the meantime, have a look.

Jun 14 2013

Music for the weekend: Jen Chapin’s video “Feed Your Baby”

I was sent a press release this week: “Thought this evocative and provocative song/video “Feed Your Baby” about our broken food system by Jen Chapin (daughter of the late great Harry Chapin) might interest you.”

It did.

I thought the drawings were gorgeous.  But I couldn’t understand the words.

When I complained, they sent them and promised to get the words posted on YouTube.

“Feed Your Baby” (words & music by Jen Chapin)

city shut down the B84
was our only good ride to the grocery store
paycheck goes to the glucose strip
patience goes to the 95 minute bus trip
30 hour week — I wish they’d give me more
and I wonder what it’s all for
when I can’t feed my baby no more

worry worry work and cry
full warm breast goes limp and dry
wilted leaves still priced too high
red raw fingers fill the sack
raid the trailers send them back
silos rotting still I lack
enough to feed my baby
its tough to feed my baby

Granma grew her yams in the yard
in the Carib sun chile it’s not so hard
but she traded that sun for the cold and the cash
strong hands picking up office trash
you never dig dirt with a new green card
but her fingers still ache for the yard
now that feeding her baby’s so hard

worry worry work and cry
full warm breast goes limp and dry
wilted leaves still priced too high
red raw fingers fill the sack
raid the trailers send them back
silos rotting still I lack
enough to feed my baby
its tough to feed my baby

junk food minefield on the tv
dinnertime battle him against me
change the channel try not to see
starvation
still starvation
in the 21st century

worry worry work and cry
full warm breast goes limp and dry
wilted leaves still priced too high
red raw fingers fill the sack
raid the trailers send them back
silos rotting still I lack
enough to feed my baby
its tough to feed my baby

Here’s what the press release says this is about:

Chapin says, “I’ve been thinking about food justice issues for as long as I can remember, but it was only when I became a mother (and a mother of an exhaustingly picky eater in my 2nd son Van, at that) that my ideas coalesced into a song.

Being responsible for the nourishment of small children really brings it all into stark and harrowing detail and you experience the joys and heartbreaks of our industrial food system in a new way — the good and the bad, the plentiful and the scarce, the gorgeously natural and the mindlessly over-processed.

Maria Eugênia (with animation assistance by Nick Matias) brought all these contrasts, and really, a lot of the heartbreak, to their powerful video.  

Apr 9 2013

Let’s Ask Marion: Who’s got the power to end hunger in America?

This is one of those occasional Q and A’s with Kerry Trueman, this time in solidarity with Food Bloggers Against Hunger.  It’s posted here.

Trueman: We produce more than enough food in the U.S. to feed every man, woman and child. In fact, we’ve got such a surplus that we throw away almost half of it. But more than 47 million Americans — including roughly 16 million kids — struggle with hunger.

And with budget cuts undermining our food stamp program, aka SNAP, this problem’s only getting worse. Who has the power to change this shameful state of affairs, and how?

Nestle: I’ve just seen A Place at the Table (a film in which I briefly appear), which lays out today’s hunger problem in a particularly poignant way. It was clear from the film that its low-income participants had to deal with what is now called “food insecurity,” meaning that they couldn’t count on a reliable supply of adequate food on a daily basis and sometimes didn’t have enough to eat. But they also had to deal with another problem: the food that they did get was mostly junk food. So the question really should be worded somewhat differently: How can we ensure that everyone in America can afford enough healthy food?

I’m guessing that the makers of A Place at the Table intended it to do for the 2013 version of food insecurity what the CBS television documentary, Hunger in America, did in 1968. That film showed footage of children so starved and listless that they might as well have come from countries at war or refugee camps.

What seems impossible to imagine in 2013 is the effect of that documentary. It shocked the nation. Viewers were outraged that American adults and children did not have enough to eat. Within that year, President Nixon called a White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health to recommend programs and policies to end hunger, and Congress appointed the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs (the McGovern committee) to develop legislation. This worked. Food assistance and other programs reduced poverty and hunger. Our present-day WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) and SNAP (food stamp) programs are the legacy of that outrage.

Where is that outrage today? Without it, Congress can ignore the millions of people who depend on SNAP benefits and view the nearly $80 billion cost of those benefits as an enticing target for budget cutting.

Who has the power to do something decent about hunger? In a word, Congress. Unlike the situation under presidents Nixon, Kennedy, and Johnson — all of whom took decisive action to help the poor — hunger in America today is nothing but a pawn in Washington power politics. We have come to value personal responsibility at the expense of social responsibility. It’s hard for many Americans to think that we must be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers when our own economic status feels at risk.

If we can’t count on Congress to do the right thing, we have to try to create our own local food security and engage communities in helping to care for one another. This means advocacy and coalition-building on two levels: national and local. On the national level, it means exercising democratic rights as citizens to lobby congressional representatives to address poverty and its consequences no matter how futile that may seem. On the local level, it means working with community residents to address their needs. It means engaging the media to get the word out.

That’s where Food Bloggers Against Hunger can help. Your job is to generate outrage and to encourage your readers to take 30 seconds and send a letter to Congress asking them to support anti-hunger legislation. Go for it!

Follow Kerry Trueman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kerrytrueman.  Marion Nestle is at www.twitter.com/marionnestle.

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