Luskin: Feeding The Hungry

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Debate in congress continues over the Farm Bill. And writer and
commentator Deborah Luskin would like to see adjustments made to the
military budget, in order to accommodate an increase in funding for
nutritional support programs at home.

(Luskin) I recently read about the final audit
report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq
Reconstruction Funds. According to an Associated Press account, the
auditors had huge problems tracking 51 billion dollars. Some of the
money has apparently just vanished, but eighty dollars was traced to a
contractor for a pipe fitting that normally should cost less than a buck
and a half. The Office of the Special Inspector spent more than 200
million dollars conducting its audit.

Such government fraud is
not new. I remember similar discoveries during the Vietnam era, and I
can’t help but wonder how much of our national security budget is
misspent and unaccounted for. And yet, I know I risk being labeled
unpatriotic for suggesting that the military and homeland security
budgets be given the same close scrutiny as Title Four of the Farm Bill
currently up for renewal in Congress.

Title Four covers the
federal domestic food, nutrition and commodity distribution programs
that serve the 46 million Americans who depend on food assistance. In a
show of fiscal responsibility, legislators are proposing cutting these
nutritional programs by increasing administrative oversight and
restricting eligibility. In other words, they’re making less food
available to those who are hungry while making themselves appear more
fiscally responsible. I’m dismayed that the lack of congressional
oversight allows military contractors to pad their accounts while the
same, well-fed, politicians scrutinize every calorie doled out to the
young, the elderly, the unemployed and the poor.

In my life, I’ve
worked up a good appetite on occasion; more often, I’m overfed. I’ve
never suffered food insecurity, when I didn’t know when or what I’d eat
next. In the summer, especially, food seems to be abundant, and I could
throw a pretty good party for eighty bucks. We could play Frisbee, eat
well, and then collapse on blankets in the dusky twilight and wait for
the stars to appear.

But for the 96,080 Vermonters who receive
federal food assistance, summertime is just as lean and hungry as the
rest of the year. 37,000 of those Vermonters are school children who
depend on free or subsidized meals at school. For the majority of them,
summertime – when school is not in session – can be hunger-time.

Vermont Food Bank, Vermont’s largest hunger-relief organization, does
what it can during these lean summer months. Through a network of 280
food shelves, meal sites, senior centers, shelters, and after-school
programs, the Foodbank helps feed those who need food assistance.

eighty dollars, the Pentagon can buy a pipe fitting. I routinely spend
eighty bucks to feed my family, who only know hunger as a signal for the
next meal. But every dollar donated to the Vermont Food Bank supplies
enough food for six meals.

So for eighty dollars, The Vermont Food Bank can feed 480 hungry Vermonters.

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