At the Childhood Hunger Summit

WP_000268

Feeding America’s display in a Bozeman grocery store.

Hunger Summit

September 23-24, 2013

Bozeman

 

What I learned

My thoughts are in italics

I had name redacted, the one who registered me, write on my name badge “Taxpayer” as my affiliation. If people asked, and name redacted, the organizer did, I would tell them that I was “the one paying for all this.” That arrested her and she pursued it with probing questions. I tried to play mum but she dug some of my dissent out of me. I told the representative of Steve Daines, within hearing of the Indian Affairs advisor to Gov. Bullock, that I suspected that I was the only dissenter in attendance. Name redacted asked to talk with me in coming weeks.

 

50 hours of classroom nutrition education per year is the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Education[1]. A 2013 congressional bill to force this did not pass. Yet. Can students please learn long division?

15 attended the clinic I attended about nutrition education. The presenter advertised Montana Crunch Time, October 24, 2013. “Crunch into your apple at exactly 2:00 p.m.”  That is “Food Day” a nationwide (social comity) celebration.

 

We support a menagerie of nutrition education programs. SNAP-Ed for food stamp recipients, WIC education for recipients of Women, Infant and Children food program, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program EFNEP, Nutrition and Physical Activity program NAPA, Montana Team Nutrition, Montana FoodCorps, Cooking in the Classroom, Cooking Matters, MSU Extension Food and Nutrition, MSU Extension 4-H, MSU Nutrition Education Program, Office of Public Instruction-School Nutrition Program, Office of Public Instruction-Family and Consumer Sciences, Office of Public Instruction –Agriculture Education, Office of Public Instruction Agriculture Education Grades 7&8, Montana Action for Healthy Kids, Montana Rural Health Initiative, Eat Right Montana, Eat Smart, Learning by Nature, Gallatin Valley Farm to School, Montana No Kid Hungry, Montana Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, Farm to Cafeteria Network, 21st Century Learning Center, Coordinated Approach to Child Health, Child and Adult Care Food Program, Montana Agriculture in the Classroom. Redundancy abounds. These programs sometimes collaborate, sometime compete for subjects. Results are like needles in haystacks.

 

A Food Corps volunteer works, as her assignment, in the Kalispell Public Schools.

 

One person asked if the “grants for ‘Cooking in the Classroom’ were going to be available again this year.”

 

One FoodCorps member revealed that, “I’m still figuring out what my service plan is because it’s my first week.”

 

Summer Feeding in Billings, “All these other programs that come in.” Programs seem to compete for face time, they are so numerous.

 

“Getting kids to Sommers,” for Summer Feeding program, “is always an issue.” Lunch alone seems insufficient when kids get food 3-4 times a day at school, so concerned activists will try to invent ways to feed that same 3-4 times a day, possibly entailing gobs of transportation, or year-round school, just to make sure kids eat 3-4 times a day. Someone said they need a food truck.

 

I talked with an EFNEP lady. Extended Food and Nutrition Education Program. This program is 45 years old. They have 4-5 FTE in Montana. She touted data on performance of their program and noted that SNAP-Ed, a very similar program, “does not have data.” They ask participants before and after the course about their attitudes toward foods and food preparation. Most improve their attitudes, which this lady measures as success. No commitments are required and no actions are required to be taken and measured. Just attitudinal shifts. They had about 500 people take the course in YellowstoneCounty in a recent year. 200-300 “graduated. For some, it’s the only certificate they’ve ever earned. They prize the certificate and if they lose it, they ask for a copy.” The program worker took this as an indicator of pride in their new learning. Maybe the answer is more mundane. They can present this certificate to Child Protective Services as proof of 5-6 hours of family skills training and it helps them get their child back. This is strong motivation for completion and for holding onto their certificate, much stronger than pride in changing their attitudes toward vegetables.

 

Name redacted, a county Tobacco Use Prevention Coordinator, attended. He’s wasting time. Agency workers attend each other’s meetings to pretend to be doing something. It must be so boring.

 

Name redacted said 250 pre-registered and more were expected. 22-25 men were in one of the general sessions so 90% present are women. Most work for government. Some work for non-profits supported by government. I estimate the payroll cost of the conference at $1 million per day, $2 million for the 2-day conference. Most taxpayers would not pay, given a choice.

 

The A Place at the Table movie co-director, Lori Silverbush, gave a rousing speech filled with mis-information and a call to move more food decisions to Washington, D.C. She favors more affordable housing, a federal food policy and higher minimum wages, the social utopia of central planning. Below is some of what she said.

 

Steady diet of ramen noodles and chips. (Chips is true, ramen noodles is not, based on my sample data.)

The solution is in policy and politics.

Underlying policies that cause poverty in our society.

Requires a federal response.

Some important policy changes that could solve hunger…

“Comically called…”

At a moment of historic hunger…

“SNAP keeps 4 million people from falling below the poverty line.” Progressives usually do not count non-cash benefits in poverty line determinations. She surprised me with this.

She used a term, “home-fooders” I think in a positive context, in a string of terms like localvores. Like providing your own food is a new movement. Ha.

She seems to despise large agri-business corporations because “they lobby behind the scenes to defeat food policy.” She seems to ignore how covetous ConAgra and Kraft and
Frito-Lay are of school food and SNAP as markets for their products, sources of revenue and profit. She is playing the corporate card that progressives love, but denying that corporations benefit hugely from the government over-fooding game.

Raise the minimum wage.

Make housing affordable.

She’s just a progressive standing atop a barricade of manufactured hunger.

 

Name redacted, Indian Affairs for Bullock. He had endearing tales from growing up. “We had mush every morning.” (With his grandparents who raised him.)

 

Name redacted, Special Projects for OPI and Denise Juneau, works on Ending Childhood Hunger. “Canned food drives do not impact hunger. They make people feel good. That’s all. The people are being misled.” I think she was quoting a pantry official, but I’m not sure. Pretty revealing words.

 

“Why are 49 million people not getting enough to eat?” (That is not the meaning of food insecurity!!)

 

She’s looking for “deliveries to food deserts.” She seemed to envision a nationalized food system, including transportation.

 

Government has a role to play in all of this. Some things are just too big for individuals to handle.Like getting and deciding on and preparing and storing and handling food..

 

“Call officials and demand that they ‘end hunger’.”

 

My thoughts: Childhood hunger, to the extent it exists, is not a food problem, it is a deficiency on the part of the adult that is associated with that child. It’s not for lack of government programs- they are prolific and the free food that flows from them is copious. Programs are helpless to solve this problem if an adult fails to get out of bed, cook, shop, supervise and teach in love. For crusaders, childhood hunger is the perfect problem: never soluble!

 

One session was called “Building Communities Through Collaboration.” Collaboration means convening a plethora of taxpayer-funded agencies and non-profits to waste money in conferences and meetings.

 

Name redacted, director of Montana DPHHS,  felt safe to don his progressive hat and deride conservatives who urge frugality and accountability. Access to good food. Better access to good food. Funding. Education on how to shop and prepare food. Partnership between government and business leaders. Helena Summer Feeding “event” was a fun kick-off. Cooking Matters program. “We have children who suffer with hunger in Montana.” His solutions, as most of the solutions given at this summit, were off the mark and instrumental in a larger, socializing agenda.

 

Socially-coerced applause.

 

Name redacted of OPI. No one is a self-made man. Public schools, public university, SBA loans.

80% of MT schools serve breakfast. Nationally it is 67%.

Her goal is to increase participation in Summer Food program, to increase after school supper locations.

 

Name redacted, of Montana Food Bank Network. 10 years there. They brought 10-11 staff to this conference. There were 12 FoodCorps volunteers in attendance. They get a $15,000 annual stipend. VISTAs, of which there are about 85 in the state, get a $928 monthly stipend and they are required to apply for food stamps. Most get it, but not all. AmeriCorps VISTA are in a different program; I think they work in government agencies. Taxes fund them.

 

Ten steps to end childhood hunger. (Let’s certify childhood hunger first!)

 

(Proving that obesity is caused by hunger is progressivism’s Roswell-UFO theory and conundrum. It contradicts common observations and common sense, well-known self-interest models.)

 

Their mantra “access to food” sounds a lot like the mantra “access to health care” which underpinned the Hillary’s 1991 attempt and Obama’s more-successful 2009 health takeover. “Access to food” messaging could presage a push to nationalize food planning, allocation, production, delivery, preparation, storage and service.

 

Name redacted is with NAPA, Nutrition and Physical Activity program, part of NCAT. She’s an EBT-in-farmer’s-markets worker. They got a grant (probably taxes) for $25,000 to get more markets to add the EBT equipment. The equipment costs $1,000-2,000 for a market. Since May she’s added 2 to the 14 markets across MT that use EBT equipment. Whoo-ee! There are 78 farmer’s markets in the state. Most resist because, I would guess, food stamp people prefer convenience store fare to artisanal locally-grown fare. They like food engineered by Gatorade and Frito-Lay. Farmer’s markets are not their gig. Her wages and benefits must be $40-50,000, for two more markets?

 

The food stamp recipient goes to the EBT booth and swipes their card for a certain dollar amount of tokens that they can spend at booth vendors. That’s two places to experience stigma. Vendors cash in their tokens for dollars from the state office handling food stamp funds that spurt into the state from the USDA.

 

Name redacted did not know what was going to happen to the other $16-18,000 unspent grant funds.

 

She’s trying to get a “double your money” program worked out where the EBT food stamp customer gets $20 in tokens for swiping their card for $10, for example. This seems like a way to entice reluctant EBT recipients to comply with social engineers who think they should like locally grown vegetables.

 

Name redacted of MT Dept of Ag would know the total $ volume going through the Farmer’s Market EBT program each year. This would be good to know. I emailed her Sept 24 and Oct 3.

 

Name redacted. Blackfeet.

Lots of low-rent housing projects. 8 Summer Feeding sites. Up to 900 kids eat at those sites.

Food truck. All day, three meals.

“I go for every single thing that’s offered,” in the way of government grant funding.

All food is hot.

3,000 breakfasts, 6,000 suppers one summer.

All our students eat free.

 

Name redacted

All of WV has gone to free school meals.

(So has Boston.)

“Pride is a problem.” I’m not sure name redacted said this. Someone did. (Strip people of pride! Welfare dependency does this.)

 

Name redacted

“Kids lack adult supervision.” (Thus they can’t get fed.) (The kid-associated adult, one barely wants to call them “parent,” has reneged, a dire situation that governmental efforts seem  incapable of rectifying. The adults in their residence lack acumen and will.)

 

 

Billings volunteer

 

7 food pantries in schools. Called “Teen Pantries.” 100 kids use them each weekend. She’s an odd one; she considers falling numbers of backpacks-she showed the numbers on some slides- being picked up as a success. In social services, success is usually measured by how many extra people they have signed up, though they continue the lament, “we keep getting more, but that means we’re needed, thus successful.”

 

She talked about runaway youth and self-emancipated youth.

 

“It’s a moral imperative to feed the hungry,” and that seems safe to say based on the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus.

How? is the zillion dollar question.

 

The whole hunger advocacy edifice is built on an exaggerated, shaky foundation.

 

Helena has an Early Childhood Coalition. My wife and I were our own Early Childhood Coalition to our children.

 

Name redacted, an RN with the Lewis and Clark County Health Department was tasked with a nutrition education program. Bigggg success. She collaborated with 8-10 other public partners, maybe one was a for-profit business, to put on a “cooking at home” clinic. They did an elaborate “needs assessment.” They made their plan.

 

They targeted people in low-income housing where one of the maladies is “single young men becoming predators, moving in on their space.” Duh.

 

The day arrived. The photos showed maybe 6 adults and 10 kids involved. Wowsers! The program content looked beneficial, but the cost per “student”, mostly in the time of all the public agency employees, not the direct costs for food stuff- the participants bought that with EBT cards-seemed to be very high.

 

They were proud of their 6 people because the “Helena Housing guy said, ‘We try to offer these classes all the time but no one shows up.’” That tells me that many “education programs for the poor” fail.

 

The USDA FNS people from Denver were there. I asked them questions. Indians go on FDPIR for two months, then on SNAP for a month. What a bookkeeping and eligibility nightmare. They’ll go on SNAP “to replenish their pantry with things they do not get in their food packet from FDPIR, like spices for cooking.” Hogwash. No low-income people bake or perform other multi-step cooking operations with spices, according to the receipts I have.

 

They said a good system for checking county-to-reservation for dual enrollment in SNAP and FDPIR exists and they catch people and cut them off both programs. I asked them what happens to those starving people. They did not know.

 

They told me about rule-making. It’s completely administrative. They’ve stripped carbonated beverages from school vending all across the country, something that our school board wrestled with. That’s top-down. It goes into effect one year after promulgation. Major corporations are not too upset; they have substitute beverages to sell in vending machines. The school nutrition and CACFP guidelines are going forward.

 

They did not know if a state-to-state checking system exists to stop people collecting SNAP and TANF EBT in multiple states. I emailed name redacted to ask if such a system exists.

 

I told them that my receipts show that no food preparation is happening. They had never heard of the IMPAQ study of fine-level detail of food stamp purchases, but thought the heavy redaction Argus-Leader got was due to personal privacy. Not likely. My receipts have no such worrisome personal info.

 

Blueberries are not on the standard subsidized crops program but ag producers of any product can lament they “have a surplus” and ask USDA to buy their surplus. USDA polls schools, primarily schools but other takers also, to gauge demand, then they make a buy and offer it. Pretty crazy terminology in a free market society. Surplus is a function of prices and demand and should not be ameliorated by government tinkering.

 

I pointed out that schools get reimbursed $2.86 for a lunch-the USDA man told me of another .17-.21 reimbursement on top of the $2.86- and that our county pays $1.48 for a meal at the jail, where the private contractor makes a profit. They said some schools claim to be losing money even at those reimbursement rates. I mentally counter, “that’s the nature of money in a system like monopoly schools:  the only way to get more is to be out of it.” I’m indebted to David Owen, author of The First National Bank of Dad, for that phrase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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