Fight the war on hunger with whatever weapons you have

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Howard Buffett is the eldest son of billionaire businessman Warren Buffett, and for obvious reasons he has never been hungry a day in his life.

“No. I wouldn’t understand hunger,” he told CBS News, “because my kids have never been hungry. I’ve never put them to bed hungry. I’ve never been hungry. What I can understand is the humiliation, the frustration, even the embarrassment of some people who have to walk into a food bank for the first time and ask for help.”

Howard Buffett serves on a lot of companies’ boards of directors and conservation philanthropies. But he’s also a farmer. And as he visited food banks throughout the Midwest, he saw a disturbing picture: people living amid some of the most fertile farmland in the world – and not getting enough to eat.

So he approached Feeding America, a national hunger charity, and Archer Daniels Midland, the food processing giant, with an idea – the Invest an Acre program.

About 80,000 farmers use processing plants run by Archer Daniels Midland. If each farmer volunteered to donate the profits from at least one acre of their crop land, that money could go to Feeding America food pantries to fund meals for people in desperate need.

If an acre of corn yields, say, $100, that $100 could pay for an estimated 800 people to eat. Multiply that out to the maximum, and pretty soon you’re funding an army to fight hunger.

What a brilliant idea.

“I don’t think the level of hunger in this country is acceptable. Not for the kind of society that we are,” Buffett said. “It is absolutely not acceptable.”

Closer to home, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens kicked off a great charity initiative earlier this year. Apparently, when he wasn’t busy fighting for open government and better sunshine laws for Georgia journalists (thanks, Sam!), he was challenging lawyers across the state to donate money or food to the Georgia Legal Food Frenzy, to help the state’s seven regional food banks. Golden Harvest Food Bank in Augusta is one of them.

How did it turn out? In its first year, law firms, legal organizations and Georgia’s five law schools amassed 612,497 pounds of food to give to the hungry.

Of course, not all of us can fight hunger on that scale. We can’t all be Sam Olens. We can’t all be Howard Buffett (although occasionally I wouldn’t mind being Jimmy Buffett).

But when you think about it, we use – on a much smaller scale – the same methods Buffett and Olens employ.

When I drop my kids off at their school, sometimes there are boxes at the entrances waiting to be filled with whatever food donations the kids can bring from home. There are similar boxes at our church – and our church isn’t the only one. A lot of places of worship around the CSRA have thriving ministries devoted to feeding the hungry.

We give based on what we have. You may not have profits to give away from an acre of farmland, but I’ll bet you have a couple of cans of food or boxes of pasta that you can part with and donate to a food bank.

Why bring up all of this now? For the same reason the Legal Food Frenzy timed the ending of its drive in May – just before the start of summer.

Most people traditionally think that holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas are the biggest times of need each year for food banks, and to a degree they’re right.

But when summer begins, many reliable food donors leave town on their vacations. Also, food drives usually occur during the school year, so those pipelines of donations dry up.

On top of that, the kids who qualify for free or reduced-priced school lunches too often have to turn to food banks for meals when school is out.

One in six Georgians don’t have access to adequate food.

If you’re reading this column over breakfast, please think about what you can do to make sure someone else has lunch or dinner.

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specsta
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specsta 06/10/12 - 01:59 am
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It is sad that most folks

It is sad that most folks don't consider the needy. All too often they blame the hungry and poor for their circumstances. How can this country call itself a beacon of hope when so many of its own go to bed (if they have a bed), hungry at night. We have serious room for improvement.

Poverty is real. It knows no color boundaries or age restrictions. There are 49 million Americans at risk of hunger in this country, including 17 million children. Why this is not front page news is beyond my understanding. This country gets up in-arms-about one child that goes missing - but neglects 17 million children that do not have enough to eat and face malnutrition. Where is the round-the-clock coverage of hunger in America?

The government makes it harder and harder to qualify for food aid. The system has taken a process that should be helpful, simple and reassuring and orchestrated it into an interrogation that is humiliating and offensive. The lack of respect for folks in need is appalling.

Most people are so far removed from the situation of hunger, they do not care. They can tell you the names of every cast member on a reality TV show, but cannot name one organization that tries to address hunger in this country. They can tell you the latest gossip from Hollywood, but they have not ever given one dime to a homeless person. What an absolute shame.

I commend Mr. Hotchkiss for his contribution to bring more attention to this serious plight in America.

Retired Army
17513
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Retired Army 06/10/12 - 05:14 am
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Great Comentary Joe

However, I think this comentary also has bearing:

“When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist.”
Dom Helder Camara (1909 -1999), Archbishop of Brazil

JohnBrownAug
1962
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JohnBrownAug 06/10/12 - 06:30 am
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RA, I guess the Archbishop

RA, I guess the Archbishop never heard of North Korea and every other communist country where hunger was prevalent. Americans are a generous people. We don't let our people starve.

JRC2024
10537
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JRC2024 06/10/12 - 07:18 am
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Specsta the system should be

Specsta the system should be harder because too too many abuse it. They sell the food stamp card and refuse to do any kind of work. Just go to Kentucky chicken on Walton way and someone will say they are hungry and offer to buy lunch. They say give me the money and they will go across to the pizza place. All they want is beer money. It is sad that children go to sleep hungry or that working people go to bed hungry and I have no problem helping them but not the person that asks for food and then refuses it but still wants the money.

howcanweknow
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howcanweknow 06/10/12 - 11:47 am
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specsta

You point out a problem, but offer no solution. That's not much help.

I can tell you that I've personally worked at the Golden Harvest Foodbank and served the folks there a number of times. It was a rewarding experience. What surprised me was about 90-95% of those in line were Black males -- most of working age. I know some had mental issues and probably could not hold down a job, but I can't believe that out of the 150 or so folks we served that a number of them could have been working to better their situation.

It's the old adage: If a man if hungry, give him a fish. Teach a man how to fish, and he'll never be hungry again. I think the way to combat a lot of hunger is to combat poverty. Get folks working. Also, do more to help folks that have kids be more responsible for those kids, rather than just walking off and deserting them.

I think there are ways to help address this problem.

#1, Help the person to feed themself. Find out what their problem is, and why they cannot support themself.

#2, Look to the person's family for support. No decent family should let one of their own go without food.

#3, Support the efforts of charitable organizations (e.g., Golden Havest, Salvation Army, churches) to feed folks. If you can't actually go and work with them in person, send them the money to aid their work.

#4, Lastly and only as a last resort, provide some governmental assistance. Notice, this is a LAST resort. We should not be dependent upon the gov't for anything. Nonetheless, there are some cases where this is needed -- where people truly cannot help themselvs. These folks should be given some assistance.

I'm all for helping folks out. But, only those who are mentally or physically disabled and cannot support themselves. People need to first look to their own situation and seek help from their own family. If that doesn't do it, then look to a charity. Lastly, only then look toward gov't programs.

Unfortunately, it seems folks demand the gov't take care of the problem first. I think gov't is only a LAST resort.

JohnBrownAug
1962
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JohnBrownAug 06/10/12 - 11:47 am
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1
I agree with my conservative

I agree with my conservative friends, but am trying to be mild and not criticize Joe's effort. Candidly, there probably are hungry in Augusta, and other places, but it's more the result of dysfunctional parents. So there are two sides to the story. We can help those people from bad situations who show up wanting to eat, yet not lose sight of the opportunity of America.

jic
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jic 06/10/12 - 12:03 pm
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Most who need support
Unpublished

The assumption that most needing support are able-bodied men is wrong. Most are children (mostly raised by their grandparents), the aged and infirm. I too have put in a respectable number of hours at food pantries and soup kitchens and can produce real numbers. Take a look at http://www.dccmaugusta.org for starters. As for able-bodied men, yes indeed teach them to fish but don't generalize and over simplify. Good nutrition starts at conception, good prenatal care produces healthy babies, mentally and physically fit to compete in school and then on the job. Stop blaming the victims. There are no statistics to support cynical comments like "most abuse the system."

Retired Army
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Retired Army 06/10/12 - 12:16 pm
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jic writes: "There are no

jic writes: "There are no statistics to support cynical comments like "most abuse the system."

I heartily agree, although it seems to be a mental disorder shared by many of the posters here.

Reporting that "most abuse the system" helps those folks reporting avoid reality and lets them feel good/smug about themselves. Any lie that victimizes the unfortunate or codifies them as 95% young black males is tolerated only by like minded individuals.

faithson
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faithson 06/10/12 - 12:17 pm
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There are no statistics to

There are no statistics to support cynical comments like "most abuse the system." Just a bias cynical media outlet (fox) telling people what they want to hear, not what the facts on the ground are.

dichotomy
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dichotomy 06/10/12 - 01:39 pm
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Hunger is another one of

Hunger is another one of those words like "poor" where the real meaning of the word has sort of been hijacked. Foks, you can have hunger before your next meal even if you are getting a 4000 calorie a day diet. I read. I watch the news. I travel. I don't think I have heard of or seen anyone falling out from malnutrition in this country.....with the exception of a few cases of small children who were being abused by their drug using parent(s) who were spending the welfare money and selling their EBT cards for liquor or drugs. In fact we have an obesity problem in this country.....much of which is in the subsidy portion of the population.

I see hungry people on the news. They are in Africa, North Korea, Bangladesh, Myanmar, the shanty towns of India and various South Amercican countries. They are thin, almost skeletal and the have distended stomachs. When someone throws out an arbitrary number that we have 49 million in this country "at risk of hunger" that does not mean they are hungry. That means that there are ZERO starving people in the country. "At risk of hunger" is a long way from "are hungry". We are all within three days of being "at risk of hunger" for many reasons to include economic collapse or transportation interruption.

Those folks you see loading up at the food banks are not necessarily, and probably are not, hungry. They are mostly folks who are taking what's free in order to supplement or stretch their cash by taking what is freely given. Food banks are a great thing. But do not assume that everyone who goes there is "hungry". You know, they pass out free turkeys and toys here in town too and have you ever taken a look at the clothes, hairdos, extensions, and fake nails on the folks who line up for that stuff? They ain't lining up for those turkeys because they are hungry. They are not even poor. They are lining up because the stuff is free. To some extent that same thing happens at the food banks. Yes, there are some low income and fixed income seniors who use the food banks to stretch their money, but for the most part they are not "hungry". And yes, I know some elderly need the food banks because they have taken in their grandchildren and need to supplement their fixed income. That is why food banks are a good thing.

The bottom line is that the number of actual "hungry" people in this country, with the implied meany of hungry as being malnourished, is a lot closer to ZERO than it is to 49 million. And it would probably stay that way even without food banks. Now, there might be a lot of low income people who might have to park their Escalade, or might not be able to make that next payment on the rental flat screen TV, but I doubt they would be hungry.

So, if it makes you feel good to donate to a food bank then do it. It's a good thing. I am sure it helps lower income people stretch their cash so that they can enjoy a few things other than the basics. But just don't kid yourself that there are 49 million starving people out there waiting for that can of beans.

specsta
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specsta 06/10/12 - 02:24 pm
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Stereotypes

@ dichotomy - You have listed every stereotype that conservatives love to proclaim regarding the poor and hungry. I am detecting some serious hatred for those who don't own homes, drive nice cars and have a degree behind their name.

There is hunger in America. It is a fact that no stereotype will change. Do you think that every person suffering from hunger must endure famine conditions in order to qualify for help?

There are also those conservatives who think that everyone has money to see a doctor, buy medicine, buy clothes, etc. A lot of folks don't. They suffer and many suffer in silence. You will not hear about their stories because the people that care about this don't have power or money to blitz the media with the plight of the suffering in this country.

Does it really affect your life if someone goes to a food bank wearing clean clothes with their hair washed and styled? Is the food bank only for those folks with distended bellies wearing tattered rags for clothes? Is there some image a person must fit in order to receive help? There are struggling college students, displaced workers, veterans, etc. who have lost their jobs and their source of income in this economy and there is no other means for them to eat. You would be shocked at who needs help these days. Sometimes people make rash judgements about other people and they have no facts about their circumstances whatsoever.

I jut hope that none of these conservative voices who think that helping the poor and hungry takes something from them personally, will never find themselves in such a dire situation. I would not wish that on any human being.

Conservative Man
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Conservative Man 06/10/12 - 02:37 pm
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Irony in action

Does anyone here find it ironic that the subject of this editorial; hunger, was written in the country, and region I might add, that has the highest obesity rate in the civilized world?

Just wondering....

dichotomy
37619
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dichotomy 06/10/12 - 04:29 pm
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@ specsta - I do believe I

@ specsta - I do believe I detect some serious hatred of conservatives.

I made no mention of liberals or conservatives in my post. The topic concerned hunger and food banks. I did not speak for conservatives. I spoke for myself and my opinion of hunger. I've seen hunger and we ain't got it.

I said food banks were a good thing. Not everyone who uses them is "hungry".

I stand on my statement that is very little hunger in America if the implied meaning of the word hunger is empty bellied, malnourished, or starving.

Not everyone who points out a negative is applying a stereotype. Sometimes it is just the truth. If you interpret that as me applying stereotypes then that is unfortunate but unavoidable.

KSL
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KSL 06/10/12 - 05:38 pm
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As always, dichotomy, well

As always, dichotomy, well stated. You speak for yourself, but for many of us as well.

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