Archive for Food Security

Traditional anti-consumerism boycotts of Black Friday have company this year.

In the wake of the grand jury decision not to charge Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, activists are encouraging black consumers to turn to economic activism and boycott the busiest shopping day of the year.

Under the title “No Justice, No Profit,” the boycott aims to capitalize on the purchasing power of the black community, which Al Jazeera points out is about $1 trillion, and prove, in a language businesses will understand—money—that injustice doesn’t come without consequence.

Dacia Polk of the Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition explained the boycott to St. Louis Public Radio, saying:

“There will be no business as usual while those who are supposed to protect and serve us,” she said. “Until this nation begins to place value on black lives, there will be no value placed on this business because black lives matter.”

Protesters are urged to avoid large retailers and to support instead local, black-owned businesses. Hashtags: #BoycottBlackFriday, #BlackOutBlackFriday #HandsUpDontSpend, #NotOneDime, and #BrownFriday.

Walmart, the crown jewel of the low-wage economy, is still in the running for “worst corporation in the world.” Again this year, the home of low, low wages faces Thanksgiving and Black Friday protests from community activists and its own employees — I’m sorry Associates:

OUR Walmart first burst onto the scene two years ago, when it used Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, to launch an unprecedented, nationwide strike against Walmart. The group originally demanded that Walmart pay all employees a base salary of at least $25,000 per year, but has since joined with striking fast food workers in demanding at least $15 per hour.


As with OUR Walmart’s first major action in 2012, this year’s Black Friday protests will not be a typical strike. Many of those picketing Walmart — perhaps even most — will be outside supporters of the OUR Walmart campaign, not store employees themselves. Those employees who do walk off the job will likely do so for just one day. Yet OUR Walmart has said that their prior work stoppages are legally protected strikes, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has agreed. Strikes over wages and working conditions, or over an alleged ULP (unfair labor practice), such as illegally retaliating against workers, are protected by federal law.

Besides fringe benefits like missing Thanksgiving and Christmas with families, Associates also miss meals:

This year’s protests by Walmart workers will kick off on Thanksgiving with a 24-hour fast by 12 protesters. The fast, which is protesting the hunger suffered by some Walmart workers who can’t afford food, will be staged outside a Los Angeles store.

One of the workers participating in the fast is Richard Reynoso, an overnight stocker at the Duarte, California store. Reynoso is one of those workers who cannot afford to purchase three meals a day. As a result, he only eats once a day on his lunch break.

“Sometimes all I have money for is a can of tuna and crackers,” he said.

But progressives need to be careful. Even as living wage advocates demand higher wages from big-box retailers, such protests can pit them against the very communities they hope to help. Those everyday low prices enable the Waltons’ clientele in poorer neighborhoods to stretch their limited incomes. Perhaps a new slogan?

Walmart: We make poor affordable

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Hunger Next Door

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Several stories about hunger in America popped up this weekend, a couple online and another just down my street. Among people you wouldn’t identify as poor and struggling just by looking at them. PBS Newshour reported on women in Denver who fell into poverty, women who don’t fit popular stereotypes of people on SNAP.

CAROLINE POOLER: Any one of your fellow peers, colleagues or fellow parishioners may be hungry, but you don’t know that about them, because people don’t want to advertise that about themselves. There’s lots of people out there who do not have enough to eat until next payday. There’s a lot of working people who give their last five bucks to their kid for lunch and they go without. And so that’s kind of a different face of hunger than people are thinking of hunger.

Over at Crooks and Liars, Susie Madrak reposted Jenn’s story from Poor As Folk blog, “Living in poverty is like being punched in the face over and over and over on a daily basis”

That brings me to the hunger. The hunger is extraordinary. There is a constant gnawing in your stomach, an empty feeling that has taken up permanent residence. Even as you’re eating a meal, you feel the hunger. It never goes away because you don’t know when you’re going to eat again…

As food stamp benefits continue to be cut and food pantries struggle to feed communities, that uncertainty will just continue. I hate to think of my children feeling the same way. They get first dibs on all food that comes through this house. There are many days when my kids get their three meals and I get half of one and my husband … well, I never see him because he is working all the time, but he barely eats, too.

A chance meeting my wife had this week brought the problem home. This is the story pretty much in her own words: Read More→

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Crushing NC’s Unemployed

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As states cut back on unemployment for the long-term unemployed, North Carolina leads the way. From Bloomberg’s opinion section:

Across the country, the unemployed will lose from 14 to 47 weeks of insurance when the extension ends. Five other states will join North Carolina in providing fewer than 26 weeks of payments — the standard in the U.S until this year. What’s happened in North Carolina since July is an indication of what will happen nationwide. The picture is troubling.

The federal extension expires on January 1, 2014. North Carolina got a head start last summer when it cut the maximum benefit length and reduced the payments.

As intended, presumably, the number of North Carolinians receiving unemployment benefits has collapsed. It’s down by 45,000, or 40 percent, since last year. Expiring benefits aren’t the only reason for this. Far fewer are filing a claim in the first place. Initial claims are running at about half last year’s rate. Unemployment insurance is a thinner safety net than it has been in decades.

In addition, North Carolina’s labor force began to shrink. The state is experiencing the largest labor-force contraction it’s ever seen –77,000 fewer people were working or searching for work this October than a year ago. This should, but won’t, settle a partisan debate. Cutting unemployment insurance apparently hasn’t encouraged the unemployed to look harder for work: It has caused them to drop out of the labor force altogether. [Emphasis mine.]

That’s understandable, in part because nationwide there were still three job seekers per job as of May.

Food pantries are stretched, becoming, as Alan Briggs, executive director of the North Carolina Association of Food Bank suggested, “the safety net of the safety net.”

Please help out your local food banks this season. Decision after decision by the legislature in Raleigh seems aimed at worsening the situation for struggling North Carolinians.

Merry Christmas.

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Our food banks here are struggling to keep up. Please help if you can this holiday season.

Food charities struggle to cover meals lost from food stamp reduction

The $5 billion cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will affect 47.7 million people, one out of every seven Americans. A family of four will lose $36 a month in food assistance, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, dropping from $668 to $632 a month.

In New York City, with 63 percent of pantries and kitchens reporting shortages, the cuts will add stress to an already strained system, says Triada Stampas, a spokesperson for Food Bank for New York City. That food bank, the nation’s largest, delivered 72 million meals last year. The organization calculates that across the five boroughs, SNAP cuts will mean that New Yorkers who get assistance will eat a total of 76 million fewer meals acquired with food stamps in the next year.

“We’ve been talking to private donors for months about these cuts,” said Stampas. “But I want to dispel the notion that private charity can make up for the cuts, that’s simply not possible.”

Donate here (Asheville area):
Manna FoodBank
Meals On Wheels of Asheville and Buncombe County

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Facing the “Hunger Cliff”

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Here’s a Halloween scare for you. Chris Hayes looked at coming cuts to the SNAP program last night on “All In.” Ned Resnikoff writes:

Food activists expect a “Hunger Cliff” on November 1, when automatic cuts to food stamp benefits will send a deluge of new hungry people to places like the River Fund Food Pantry, which are already strained.

“I thought we were busy now; I don’t know what it will be like then, because all of those people getting cut will definitely be accessing a pantry,” said Das. “It definitely will be a catastrophe.”

This crisis has gone largely unreported, and now it’s at our door.

According to the Off the Charts blog interactive map, in North Carolina 1,708,000 people will be affected, including 758,000 children, 285,000 elderly or disabled.

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Asheville City Council Agenda 10.22.13

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It’s been a few weeks, and your Asheville City Council is coming together again to deliberate and decision-make. This Tuesday we’ve got a big consent agenda, a report from the School Board, five public hearings zoning and development rules, and several various new business items. We took the October 8th meeting off due to the Mayoral Primary election, so there’s lots to do.

Have a look at the entire agenda after the jump, or click here to see it at the City’s website. Please offer your thoughts in the comments.

Please remember that early voting has begun for Mayor and City Council members. You can click here to see locations and hours of operation for early voting. Thank you for being a part of deciding Asheville’s future.

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Brace For Impact

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From Think Progress:

Emergency food pantries say they will have to do more with less, thanks to the government shutdown. Food banks across the country are bracing for the suspension of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food assistance programs, which have become increasingly important to feed the needy.

As private donations dried up during the recession, the USDA’s Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and Commodity Assistance Programs have helped charities and non-profits keep their inventories stocked. The USDA warned Monday that federal funds will halt until Congress strikes a deal, leaving food banks wondering if they should start planning for food shortages.

L.A. Times:

About 800,000 federal employees have been sent home. Analysts say the shutdown means a reduction in collective American income of about $200 million per day. Communities near national parks are expected to lose $76 million a day in visitor spending. In Yosemite National Park, lodges and cabins had been scheduled to be filled to near capacity. Instead, thousands of visitors were given 48 hours to leave.

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Cutting Off Food to Poor Children

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From ye olde email inbox:

Funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps—a vital support for low-income families and children, that lifted 4 million people out of poverty in 2012—is yet again on the chopping block. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on a nutrition-only farm bill, which would cut $40 billion from SNAP over the next 10 years, causing at least 4 million to 6 million vulnerable individuals to lose their food assistance, including 210,000 kids who will lose their school meals. These cuts would come on top of a benefit cut that will impact all SNAP participants beginning November 2013.

The nutrition-only farm bill would be devastating to families struggling with hunger as well as to the national economy—translating into about 1.5 billion lost meals for hungry families each year for the next 10 years, and 55,000 job losses in the first year alone. We can’t let that happen.

TAKE ACTION: Give us 5 minutes to call or write your Congressional representative TODAY!

We need your help to send a strong message to Congress to urge members of the House to vote against this harmful bill:

  • Participate in Feeding America’s national call-in day today, September 17, by calling your member of Congress on this toll-free hotline: 866.456.8824.
  • Enter your ZIP code here and email your member of Congress.

Take action today to stand with low-income families working to put food on the table.

Categories : Action, Food Security
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Feast with FEAST

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Screenshot 2013-09-03 at 10.52.03 AMFresh, Easy, Affordable, Sustainable, and Tasty – That’s what FEAST stands for, and they’re giving you the opportunity to support their mission! Website here.

The mission of FEAST Asheville is to promote healthy eating choices and make them accessible to people of all income levels through hands on cooking classes that encourage and empower participants by teaching skills needed to make fresh, wholesome and tasty food.

Mtn. X:

All that eating raises money for one of Slow Food’s educational program, FEAST (Fresh Easy Affordable Sustainable Tasty), which serves 800 school children in Buncombe County every year. FEAST shows students how to incorporate fresh ingredients into their meals.

Feasting for FEAST takes place Thrursday, Sept. 12, from 6-9 p.m. More than a dozen restaurants, breweries and wine shops will provide samples. Tickets cost $25 in advance and $35 at the door.

Buy your tickets here.

Vendors include: All Souls Pizza, Ambrozia Bar and Bistro, Chorizo, Doubletree Catering – VIP only, Earthfare, Everyday Gourmet Catering, Farmer’s Daughter Catering, French Broad Chocolate Lounge, Mayfel’s, MG Road, Sunny Point Cafe, The Junction, The Laughing Seed, The Cantina, True Confections, Beer provided by Oskar Blues Brewery and Burial Beer Co. – VIP only.

I hope to see all of you there!

Categories : Action, Food Security, Local
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We will not shrug our shoulders

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I had the distinct honor of being invited to speak at the 32nd annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast at the Grove Park Inn this morning. If you’ve never attended, I urge you to get a ticket next year. You’ll be inspired by the legends in the room, people like Oralene Simmons and other founding members of ASCORE. People who integrated our city by putting themselves on the front lines and standing up for racial justice.
I had three minutes, here’s the text of my prepared remarks:

Good Morning!

I’m Asheville City Council Member Gordon Smith, and I want to thank Ms. Oralene Simmons and the Martin Luther King Jr. Association.

Mayor Bellamy sends her regards. She’s in Washington, D.C. representing Asheville at the National Conference of Mayors and inauguration, the reinauguration, of President Barack Obama.

I’m very honored to be here to celebrate Dr. King’s vision and our place in bringing it alive in Asheville. Dr. King famously said, “I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day, education and culture for their minds, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

Three meals a day. Three meals a day.

Today, as we come together over this fine meal there are families going hungry. And let me tell you what – you don’t have to look half a world away to find them. Right now, here in our community, there are children going without their breakfast. Others have food, but they lack the nutrition necessary for a healthy, developing mind. Too many in our community either do not have the means or the knowledge to meet their most basic of needs.

Is this acceptable? Is this acceptable??

No. This is unacceptable. We all know it’s unacceptable. Dr. King teaches us that when injustice presents itself, it is our responsibility not to turn away from it, but to address it.

We can address the issue of hunger in our community. We can do so with an audacious faith that, together, we can make a better world, right wrongs, and recognize that we are one human family – In my family, we don’t let other people go hungry.

For the last year and a half sometimes it feels like all I work on for City Council is food, water, and shelter. We’ll leave housing policy for another day, and I’d rather not talk about water…

But on food? I come today with good news and a call to action! On Tuesday, your Asheville City Council will take a historic step to reduce hunger, improve the health of our community, and strengthen our local food systems with the City of Asheville Food Action Plan.

This plan, with its five goals and fourteen initiatives will create the conditions for increased food production, processing, distribution, and education.

It will mean more people growing more food. You are going to see more gardens, more farms, more markets, more grocery stores, even food growing in our parks!

And this is the part where I ask for your help.

Folks, if we are truly committed to taking audacious steps to end hunger in Asheville and Buncombe County, then it’s time we Stop Mowing and Start Growing. Stop Mowing and Start Growing.

We can convert lawns to gardens, church fields to farms. By joining together in this mission we can come together – across generations, across cultures and across faiths to turn to lives of greater independence and better health.

We can come together to feed our community, our city, our county, our spirits.

We can ensure that every child has the nutrition they need to succeed in school and in life.

This will be justice, and it’s going to take all of us to make it a reality.

We will not shrug our shoulders at the injustice of hunger. We will aspire to justice through an audacious faith in our potential to make a better world.

Please join together in supporting the City’s Food Action Plan and in ending hunger in our community.

Thank you.