7.11.2013

Oh SNAP!

Some days writing does not come easy. It feels as if I am swimming in mud. And I find that I become exhausted from the effort I am exerting. I have notebooks filled with brilliant starts or quotes from which I could perhaps dive from, but far too often that is where they remain. 

But today when I started to write a simple status update the words poured forth. I've adapted here what I wrote on my facebook page, so if you read that this will look familiar. I apologize to you for the repetition, but some things bear repeating. 

Loudly. 

Like so many, I struggle with keeping a balance between my personal and professional lives. I have tried in the last few months to not post about the work I do with RESULTS as a grassroots poverty expansion associate (which I know to many sounds like I am urging one to become poor when in fact my job is to help advocate against poverty) and guide my friends to work pages to find relevant articles or other information. But today I felt that another photo of my cats or another inspirational quote just wouldn't do. Today, personal and professional are actually one. Because when I heard that the House has passed the Farm Bill without SNAP (food stamp authorization), my heart broke. And while I am grateful to my own Congressman, Rep. Yarmuth, who did not vote to split the bill, I am deeply disappointed in all GOP leadership who did. 

I think Melville's quote is apt "Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.” 

We do not have a war on poverty, but a war on the poor. 

Notes from the KYA "Kids Table" Meeting, 7.11.13
In Kentucky (as well as across the United States), there are a great many advocates working every minute of every day for those who are struggling-to find housing, make a living wage, take care of their children or seniors, and just trying to make ends meet. These advocates hear stories of families locked in a cycle where state budget decisions hold them back rather than help them move forward that you would think would compel elected leaders to take positive action, often end up being dismissed and disenfranchised even further. These groups often times work without being acknowledged, but continue to do the work that needs to be done. I spent this morning with several of these amazing champions for children, collected together by Kentucky Youth Advocates, who understand that we can no longer work in isolation (or in silos) on these issues if we are going to have any measure of impact and create long term change. 

I certainly appreciate their efforts and am grateful for what they do. I suspect at this moment many others may feel, as I do at this moment, defeated and disheartened, but it is essential that we do not stop in our efforts. In fact, it is critical that we stand taller, work together, and speak louder.  

More notes from the KYA "Kids Table" meeting, 7.11.13
I also need to thank everyone who responded to action alerts, wrote letters to the editor about the crisis that so many Americans are facing today regarding food security issues, and who have supported me when I took the SNAP challenge. While living off of $4.50 a day for a week was a struggle, it was, to be honest, an exercise. I had a choice. And when my week was over, I could go back to being not just food secure, but food rich. But reality is this: in 2011 in Kentucky 27% of children (that's 275,000 children) lived in poverty . In the United States, 23% of children (16,387,000 million) lived in poverty.* And here is the thing: you have no way of knowing who any of those children are, because no child, or family, wears a sign that says "I am poor." Despite what film or television may want us to think, poverty doesn't have a look or a type. And these stereotypes create a climate of misinformation that allows leadership to make decisions. Decisions made on incorrect information are decisions that do a disservice to us all. 

Poverty is not just the family living in an urban environment, but poverty is in our rural and suburban communities as well. And poverty is not about other-it is about us. It is about what we value and how we regard one another. It is about recognizing that everyone, yes everyone, has something to contribute to our community, and that we are all vulnerable and that at any given time "them" could become "us." It is about our actions as much as it is about our inaction's. Our acceptance of the idea that "the poor will always be with us" or the notion that if a family just budgeted a little better or had planned for a rainy day "they" wouldn't be in a circumstance that "they" created. We allow these myths to become truths, and point blame and pass judgment. We often quote the golden rule, "One should treat others as one would like to be treated" but fail to do so. 

As with much of the work I do, I recognize that this post (like my facebook status) is...unfinished. That as angry as I am, as disappointed as I am, as hurt as I am, I too, am well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed. 

And absolutely everyone should be able to say the same. 


*Data for all states available from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Kids Count: 2013 Data Book (State Trends in Child Well-Being). 

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