Sunday, November 25, 2007

Are food banks distracting us from ending poverty???

Here's something you don't see every day. A truly controversial op-ed about Food Banks. From the Washington Post comes "When Handouts Keep Coming, the Food Line Never Ends." It is a challenging look at the way our system of food banks do business. Feeding people is good, but are we really working toward ending poverty or are we just creating more demand and more efficiently handling food waste? No matter what you think about the opinion, I believe the article gives the background for why every soup kitchen worker should also be engaged in contacting members of Congress to make real changes to put themselves out of business (see links to RESULTS or Bread for the World to get involved). Here's an excerpt:

"My experience of 25 years in food banking has led me to conclude that co-dependency within the system is multifaceted and frankly troubling. As a system that depends on donated goods, it must curry favor with the nation's food industry, which often regards food banks as a waste-management tool. As an operation that must sort through billions of pounds of damaged and partially salvageable food, it requires an army of volunteers who themselves are dependent on the carefully nurtured belief that they are "doing good" by "feeding the hungry." And as a charity that lives from one multimillion-dollar capital campaign to the next (most recently, the Hartford food bank raised $4.5 million), it must maintain a ready supply of well-heeled philanthropists and captains of industry to raise the dollars and public awareness necessary to make the next warehouse expansion possible.

Food banks are a dominant institution in this country, and they assert their power at the local and state levels by commanding the attention of people of good will who want to address hunger. Their ability to attract volunteers and to raise money approaches that of major hospitals and universities. While none of this is inherently wrong, it does distract the public and policymakers from the task of harnessing the political will needed to end hunger in the United States."

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