Monthly Archives: April 2014

DO FACTS COUNT ANYMORE?

Recently, I was on a panel talking about hunger and food insecurity. Afterwards, a women came up and said, ” Well, I don’t support people who get food stamps. They don’t deserve it.” The next day my colleague, Bill Bolling, CEO at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, writing in that food bank’s newsletter asked a question that recalled that women’s comment. With his permission, some of the remarks are captured here:

“…She looked me in the eye and said she doesn’t like to support people who use food stamps because they buy things she views as unhealthy like soft drinks, snack foods, beer and cigarettes. When I told her that was not quite true, that people couldn’t purchase cigarettes, beer or even toiletries with food stamps, I detected a chill. She then told me she didn’t think people who could work should get any help at all. When I told her that most people who use food stamps do in fact work, but make very low wages, that access to food stamps is strictly income based, she didn’t seem to believe me. She had a strong narrative about fraud and abuse and worthiness. Facts didn’t seem to matter to her.”

Food Stamps are a lightning rod for most of us, a symbol for all that is wrong in our country. But according to research released this summer by the USDA and by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, food stamps have lifted people out of poverty, reduced food insecurity, provided for healthier newborns, and have correlated with improved educational achievement and less reliance on welfare in adulthood by women who had received food stamps for periods during their childhood. DO THE FACTS COUNT ANYMORE? and if so, whose facts count more?

Bill Went on to discuss, “If we don’t share a common set of facts as a community, how can we plan? How can we determine priorities? How can we trust each other? Let’s move from throwing our personal sets of “facts” at each other like rocks, and determine what works. Today our greatest poverty may be our lack of constructive ideas and courage to try them.”

“May those with a strong moral compass stand up and speak up for what is right. If we can’t agree on the facts, may we dig deep into our collective soul to take a higher path based on common values and higher aspirations to make the world a better place for everyone. It requires a generous heart full of grace and brutal honesty about what we know in our hearts is true.”

Thank you Bill, and thank you, friends, for knowing what in your heart is true.

-Susan Ogborn
Director, Food Bank For the Heartland

This article was taken from the Winter 2014 addition of the Food Bank For the Heartland’s monthly newsletter. To find more information of the facts on hunger in Iowa, visit the Iowa Food Bank Association’s website at http://www.iowafba.org and click on Map the Meal Gap.