Mark Bittman, the New York Times columnist and author of the seemingly ubiquitous, How To Cook Everything, is spending the week fasting to call attention to the cuts to food assistance programs currently churning through the House. In the name of measly deficit reduction the bills in front of Congress would make deep cuts to numerous programs that feed the hungriest amongst us.
I stopped eating on Monday and joined around 4,000 other people in a fast to call attention to Congressional budget proposals that would make huge cuts in programs for the poor and hungry. By doing so, I surprised myself; after all, I eat for a living. But the decision was easy after I spoke last week with David Beckmann, a reverend who is this year’s World Food Prize laureate. Our conversation turned, as so many about food do these days, to the poor. Who are — once again — under attack, this time in the House budget bill, H.R. 1. The budget proposes cuts in the WIC program (which supports women, infants and children), in international food and health aid (18 million people would be immediately cut off from a much-needed food stream, and 4 million would lose access to malaria medicine) and in programs that aid farmers in underdeveloped countries. Food stamps are also being attacked, in the twisted “Welfare Reform 2011” bill. (There are other egregious maneuvers in H.R. 1, but I’m sticking to those related to food.)While I applaud Mark's goals and use of his national platform to call attention to food security and availability issues, there are also more concrete things we can do in the short term to help. If you want to do something more, make a donation to one of Philadelphia's food banks, such as Philabundance, and help immediately feed people who are hungry. A major focus for many of us at the Co-op is improving access to high quality food in our area. Rest assured, we will be accepting food stamps and WIC at our eventual store. Though it applies to everything contributors to this blog write, it should be expressly stated that any opinions below are solely those of the author and DO NOT reflect any policies, rules, or decisions made the South Philly Food Co-op’s steering, legal/finance, or outreach committees.