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Above the Noise, Not Part of It

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April 4, 2020

From SNAP to USDA “Boxes”?

I think I should chime in on this. Here’s my tuppence. It’s a “good” idea. Not a GREAT idea, but a good one.  Come on along and I’ll try to explain.

Years ago my Mom worked at a food bank for senior citizens. They gave out such things a “guvamint cheese”, peanut butter, dry milk and other necessities. It was in the “multi-purpose room” in the senior housing center and it took FIVE YEARS to fully catch on. During that five years there was a lot of waste. A LOT. Because people were embarrassed to part take. Benjamin Franklin once said that the best way to free people from poverty is to make them uncomfortable in their poverty. So, while folks would like to think that, if you’re currently on SNAP, you have already forfeited your dignity…

Bullhockey. Having a “USDA BOX” showing up at your door? IF the motivation is to shame people off SNAP, for their own boon or bane, is the most detestable approach to an issue that I can fathom! Certainly NOT a worthy thought for ANYONE calling themselves Christian. (Full disclosure, I do not).

Tell that to the VETERANS you’re tripping over yourself to “stand by our” and “support our”. Tell that to the single mother of a couple of kids. Don’t hand me that…you DO know one. Nearby. Even within your family. If you DON’T, you are phenomenally blessed. Do you remember yourself ranging from anger to tears trying to get your kids to eat what was in front of them because it was all you could muster? If not, well, there’s that blessing again. I’ve seen this happen with folks that COULD afford pretty much anything they wanted. Look, VAST numbers of our lower enlisted rank ACTIVE MILITARY families are on SNAP! Tell it to grandma. Living alone, these years, now. In an apartment she was put into after she lost the house she raised her family in for all those years after Pop passed on. She lives on bacon and greens. On soup she makes from bones the way she has for three quarters of a century. What the HECK is she going to do with a box of cereal every month? What if you’re celiac? No, NOT a “fad diet” excluding gluten but, truly celiac. My brother is truly celiac. Not that he’s in any way EVER going to be eligible for SNAP, but he’s not the only person I know. My wonderful Mother-In-Law is, too. So what happens to the pasta? The garbage man comes and gets it.

Peanut butter? I’m told that it is THE most common food allergy in school-age children. Now, I’ve HAD government peanut butter. It was in an olive-drab #10 can and was better than 30 years old…it came from old Civil Defense stocks found when we were cleaning out a shelter. Best damn PB I EVER ate! But, I’m not allergic. Ignoring the allergies, what about the cereals? Well, AS a fan of shredded wheat, I…but I digress. Do you really want kids eating a chemistry set? I don’t.

So what happens to the food that one either can’t or shouldn’t use? Can it be returned? Exchanged? What is the mechanism for this? Another layer of guvamint jobs? Can folks exchange or trade it with others? Would that be a no-no? An invitation to defraud the system?

Something I found out last Spring while starting our first garden at the new homestead…Vegetable plants are SNAP approved. Yup. Big sign on the row with the ‘mater seedlings. There are several papers about how “if kids grow it, they’ll eat it”. Now THAT is a win-win! Do a quick search on “grow some s***”, (but spell the word out). France, recently, outlawed the disposition of foodstuffs from markets. It MUST be cycled to food resources. This impresses me more than most things from the EU, these days. When we moved into our new “digs”, we were very happy to be back to a supermarket chain we knew well. I’m going to tell you, (because they deserve the recognition), it’s ShopRite / Wakefern. I looked at all the food in the various departments that was either fully or partially prepared. This concerned me, so I called the management. While I can’t, at the time of this writing, figure out exactly what I did with the notes I made with the gentleman’s name, suffice it to say that they donated “every last scrap” to several different anti-hunger agencies. Needless to say, I was over the Moon.

I also had some very real experience with this sort of thing. In my position as chief engineer of a food-storage facility I was absolutely shocked with the amount of IN DATE CODE food, (meat, cheese and other dairy products), that was wasted because it couldn’t get to the shelves and sold before it expired. in some cases, the time frame was longer than a week. I spent days on the phone with every major and every minor food resource I could find by phone book, internet search or word of mouth. The BEST answer I got, (considering I was talking in trailer loads, here), was “sure, we’ll take a couple of cases a week if you’ll drop them off”. That was more than a couple of years ago, I know, but I wonder has it changed enough?

Many years ago I emcee’d a party on Hallowe’en night. It was hosted by motorcycling celebrity chef Biker Billy Hufnagle. The cost of admission was non-perishable food. His whole point, (as was and is mine), was that no child should ever go to bed hungry in the most prosperous nation on Earth.

To be clear, here, I believe that what you’re looking at is a Michelle Obama School Lunch Program just WAITING to happen. One that will cost MORE rather than LESS in very short order.


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