Saturday, August 29, 2009

Meating the Need

First of an occasional series about Family of New Paltz.
I've spent some time at Family of New Paltz helping out recently, and I've gained a broader perspective on all the food drives held during the year to benefit them. I've been a pretty typical donor to those drives, I think: I look in my pantry for stuff that we haven't eaten and probably never will and toss it in the collection bin. I've learned a few things about how Family (and probably other food banks) operates which will inform my donations, and might even change my philosophy on people in need.

Crisis in Timing
Family of New Paltz gets a big chunk of food every month from a food bank service, but this month the timing sucks. The food bank is involved indoing an inventory that will keep Family from its regular pickup until late September. Typically the regular food drives are enough to supplement what they get, but August was a light month, with only one drive by the Green Party, and even though they were packed to the gills last week, most everything's gone now. August is a time of vacations, so I doubt there's ever a lot of drives in August. And this year, of course, a hell of a lot more people are out of work and looking for help. The end of the month always sees a spike in demand, because Family only gives out emergency food every 30 days to the same people, so typically those packages are picked up when the food stamps have already run out.

Dare I say it? It's the perfect storm in hunger?

What to do?
If you want to know all the reasons why I think Family and organizations like it should have to be providing food to people, stop me in the street. You'll probably condemn me as a heartless conservative, but I'll tell you what I think. However, if you think you'd be nodding along with me as I go on my rant, read on as I try to convince you that now's the time to do a little more.

The economy's in the crapper, not because the Republicans free market deregulation old-boy-network system didn't work, but because they didn't have the guts to let the cycle finish because some companies are "too big to fail." Yes, I believe that George W. Bush's biggest economic mistake was demonstrating that he's not a conservative, doesn't have faith in the American people, and doesn't believe that capitalism actually works. There are no atheist in foxholes, they say, and apparently there are no free market economists in a recession. The Great Recession was lengthened and deepened by a failure to stick to solid Republican values when they were needed most. So if you're conservative, if you're Republican, and if you were secretly disgusted with Bush, please recognize that many people are now down and out because he ran the Republican philosophy into the ground. It's not your fault that many people believe that Republicans are soulless and uncaring, but it's up to you to show them how wrong they are. I know you believe in individual responsibility, as do a lot of people that were screwed by this recession, so take responsibility for paying it forward by buying a couple of things and dropping them off at Family.

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What food do they need?
I've always held the attitude that beggars can't be choosers, but I have to call shenanigans on myself here. If we all take the creamed corn out of the pantry and buy a box of spaghetti, there's going to be a lot of badly-balanced meals out there. I've seen the kitchen there, and I have asked the staff what's most needed so you can get a better idea of what to give.
  • Meat. Do you buy meat in bulk, either delivered to your house or from Sam's Club or just when it's on sale? Grab a steak or some chicken legs from your freezer. Every food package is supposed to have some meat in it, and even giving only one piece to a family the stuff always goes fast.
  • Vegetables. Many area farms donate extra fresh produce (the Gardens for Nutrition even has a plot that volunteers tend just for that purpose), so during the summer there are days when there's lots, but of course they don't keep. Canned vegetables are a great supplement to those donations.
  • Fruit. Canned fruit never stays on the shelves.
  • Cereal. Every emergency food package should get a box of cereal, and does if there's any around. People generally donate stuff that's a little more nutritious than Froot Loops, which I'm sure is a disappointment to the kids but generally better for their teeth.
Family has an awful lot of pasta, and it makes meals stretch a long way, but this week you can probably get more of a bang for your buck with another food donation choice.


Steve Greenfield said...

By all means, donate to Family.

But you've got it wrong about Bush and the economy. He never was a free marketeer. There are no free marketeers during booms, nor during busts. Private enterprise profits vastly more on government policy than on market mechanisms -- that's why they spend so much on lobbying, which is tax deductible as a result of government policy. The whole thing is a scam. Of course they got bailed out. They were getting bailed in during 8 years of Clinton and 8 years of Bush. Why wouldn't you expect them to get bailed out?

The war in Iraq was started, and is being continued, to "bail in" the oil industry, which was previously state-owned in Iraq, and which, unsecured and left available to market forces, could have been bidded for by China or other economic competitors, raising the specter of both losing Iraqi oil and raising the worldwide price. There is no separation of market and government. There never has been (see history of empires, all built to obtain and secure natural resources for the empires and away from competing empires). We really need to have our heads fully wrapped around that before we try to offer insights into consequences of "government" decisions.

Once one has convinced one's self that whatever brings the highest marginal return to a dollar placed in any particular activity is the most moral thing to do, there is no distinction between government and market. The whole "free market" concept is a Barnum-esque scam to which only its victims fall prey. The operators know the truth, just as they know there's a sucker born every minute.

Please, Terence, don't be one of them. And keep helping out at Family. I bring them what I can, and everyone should. Especially Dick Cheney and the rest of the pluto-kleptocracy, because the millions of hungry and unemployed people in this country, and the chronically homeless and noveau-homeless and near-homeless of the mortgage crisis, should also be thought of as "too big to fail" -- but I won't hold my breath.

Brittany Turner said...

That's a really disappointing policy. I'd love to see them requesting balanced meals through proteins rather than requiring that each meal include a "meat." The enormous population of hungry individuals in the world isn't only the result of bad planning and economics; it is one that could easily be reduced through a denial of wasteful and unnecessary slaughter.

kt tobin flusser said...

Terence we definitely disagree on this point - eating meat is absolutely not necessary for a balanced diet. Further, eating meat is wrong for the animals, for us, and for our planet.

Billy said...

Put your self-righteousness aside for a second and recognize that for people for whom the source and timing of their next meal may be constantly in doubt, meat may represent the most efficient delivery of protein to tide them over. By all means, Family should try and accomodate all diets, but it shouldn't be in the business of proseltyzing on behalf of vegans and vegetarians.

Terence said...

Actually, Family does go out of its way to accommodate various dietary restrictions, both voluntary and involuntary, and wouldn't force someone to eat meat against his or her will. I'm a little disappointed that the comments are more about animal rights than human hunger, to tell you the truth. Is eating less meat better in millions of ways? Sure it is. But trying to make poor people into vegetarians is no better than trying to make them into Christians or soldiers - just because they're having a tough time doesn't mean we should be forcing that kind of philosophical change down their throats just so they can get some food as a chaser.

kt tobin flusser said...

It is not that complicated... easy enough to give beans instead of meat.

Terence said...

Personally, I can't stand beans, and that's the main reason why I'm not a vegetarian. I'm not saying we should donate lobster and caviar, but if I ever need emergency food from Family and they tell me that they stopped giving out meat for philosophical reasons it would be pretty offensive to me.

The idea of forcing someone to become a vegetarian just because he or she lost his job is just a little offensive to me, and it's also the worst possible way to foster goodwill and behavior changes for a better world. That's like saying that Affirmative Action makes racists see the error of their ways, when in fact you're more likely to create a more divisive world with those sorts of strongarm tactics.

Family is not the place to advance an animal rights agenda.

kt tobin flusser said...

It is not advancing an agenda. Choosing not to eat meat is a moral choice (yes, moral, eek gads!) and asking vegans and vegetarians to support it would be much more of diss to the poor than your characterization above.

I am not about to preach to Family about not giving meat, but don't ask me to give meat to the poor if I am a vegan or vegetarian.

Terence said...

Please, please, please tell me how I asked any vegetarians to give meat to Family. I asked people who have meat in their freezer to do so. Do vegetarians normally keep meat in the freezer? If so, why wouldn't they want to give it away?

Brittany Turner said...

It was simply concern over the policy. It'd be a problem if their policy required that meat never be included in a package, as pointed out by Terence and Billy. Similarly, it seems strange that each package should include a portion of meat, as policy.

On a philosophical level, it is also closely tied to the issue of hunger, as the meat industry can be highlighted as one of the root causes for this problem. That's all.

Anonymous said...

What Brittany and KT said. Seriously. I'm not even going to jump into this one because they made such good points. No one should be eating meat, that's the main point, and if that "offends you," you've got a problem. Rich people eating meat is a direct cause of poor people going hungry, as Brittany said.

More importantly: "Personally, I can't stand beans, and that's the main reason why I'm not a vegetarian."

What a very strange thing to say. What vegetarian subsists on beans? I've been vegetarian for 20 years and vegan for 16, and want to know something? I pretty much never eat any protein. Like: NEVER. I'll eat refried beans in tacos once in a while, (and I cook & nibble on beans when they are on the menu for my clients) but I pretty much subsist on fruit (50% or so of my diet, for real!), greens, fat (LOTS of it) and carbs.

And I work 15 hour days every day and have perfect iron counts and blah blah.

My (vegan) partner eats tons and tons of beans, seitan, tempeh, and tofu, and my (vegan) mom is somewhere in the middle. I'm sure Brittany and KT eat very differently than me too.

The idea that vegetarianism is one type of diet, and therefore if you dislike one vegetarian food you can't be vegetarian, is....weird.

Anonymous said...

Also, Billy, check your facts before you say that meat is the most "efficient" way to get protein.

Martin McPhillips said...

When I was a vegetarian (a pretty strict macrobiotic, in fact) I was often awakened in the middle of the night by memories of the horrible screams of the carrots and onions I had cut to pieces that day. I couldn't afford to eat in restaurants where the vegetables would be killed and cooked for me, so I gravitated back toward meat, which was available in stores already killed. Yes, I could have tried frozen or canned vegetables, but that would have violated my commitment to eating only fresh foods.

Anonymous said...

OH COME ON. I simply CANNOT STAND IT when discussions like these are hijacked by these idiotic arguments. Martin, stop being ridiculous. (Of course, as all macrobiotic people are insane, I would expect no less.)

Do I even need to talk about how many more vegetables and grains are killed by cycling them through animals and how by eating (vegetarian) animals you're the biggest vegetable eater ever? MY GOD.

Why must you insult our intelligence with stupid comments like this?

Martin McPhillips said...

Your are clearly eating an irony deficient diet, Lagusta.

Anonymous said...

People pull this crap on vegetarians all the time, completely un-ironically.

kathy said...

Actually, the policy at Family of New Paltz is: when one registers for the food pantry we, "ASK what a person's needs are". If vegetarian, the index card that contains their information is marked "vegetarian". Other cards may indicate "diabetic" "no salt" "no pork" "no nuts" "no milk products". We try our utmost to accomodate each person's needs. But most importantly, we honor each person as a human being and give each person the respect to choose their own dietary choices. Kathy Cartagena