Archive for the economy & politics Category

food savings just in time

Posted in economy & politics, food with tags , on December 10, 2009 by foodbankguy

Quickly, I also wanted to alert people about this opportunity to purchase discounted foods, including meat.  Perfect for the holidays!  This is a quality program that helps those struggling a little bit, stretching every dollar to make them count–find a location near you.

holiday rush

Posted in aafb, economy & politics, food banks with tags , , , , , on December 10, 2009 by foodbankguy

The holiday rush is upon us, and thus I take this opportunity to wish you and yours the best during this season, my favorite time of year.  I’m partial to Thanksgiving, but really all of October though December is alright by me.

Snoopy's always a good choice for this time of year.

Not alright is tremendous demand food banks are seeing this year, up much more than usual, even though the time around the holidays is when demand historically peaks.  We did a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation a week or so ago and discovered Arizona food banks had moved 72% more food this year than at this time last year, but despite that increased distribution, they were only meeting about half of the total demand.  Scary stuff really, when you consider so many affected are children.

My CEO passed this on to me earlier today, which also helps frame the issue succinctly:   

36.5 million Americans currently take part in the Food Stamp Program, now officially called the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  That’s up by more than 10 million in just two years.  This program gives those on low incomes a monthly average of US $101 per person, or $227 per household, to spend on food.  Meanwhile, the USDA has also revealed the highest level of American food need ever recorded, with 17 million households, or 14.6%, struggling to put food on the table at times last year.  Across the Atlantic, 43 million Europeans are currently at risk of food insecurity (8.6% of the total EU population).

Locally, Fresh & Easy grocery stores–another favorite of mine–reported that for the third quarter of 2009, sales for the 13-week period ended November 28, climbed 37.4%, following some SNAP benefits being extended.  Costco recently announced it would accept SNAP benefits too, which is just another indication of how lucrative this market segment is… amazing to think of it as a desirable population for a retailer to reach, but there you have it.

Not all is bad though, I don’t want to bring people down, because this time of year does bring out some spirit, maybe even you could say the best in people.  Now how to harness that and distribute it equitably year-round?  Couldn’t tell you, I’m not a scientist, I don’t even like driving by Holiday Inn Expresses, but here are some recent stories from around Arizona that should put a smile on your face:

Finally, I’ll mention that if you’re struggling to find a gift for someone, hate malls, or just don’t have the time to be shopping all the time, consider a gift to AAFB in someone’s name.  It’s a very honorable thing to do, and there’s a pretty sweet tax credit in it for you too!  So long as you qualify, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah… but you get the idea!  Your funds help feed your neighbor who might be down on their luck, and also helps fund advocacy that might help your neighbor not be so hungry in the first place, hopefully in the not so distant future.  Remember, hunger is a fixable problem in this country if we want to fix it.

things you should know about

Posted in aafb, economy & politics, food banks, food drives with tags , , , , , , , on October 16, 2009 by foodbankguy

One thing that doesn’t happen when you start a blog is people telling you how much time you really need to spend to make it something special.  On that note, coming off a crazy busy month or two, here’s a my first post in 45-some-odd-days with whole bunch of stuff you should know about:

sleek and stylish, in time for fashion weeks everywhere

sleek and stylish, in time for fashion weeks everywhere

 

  • I’ve mentioned Peter Norback and his One-Can-A-Week activities before, but I can’t remember if I shared his blog with you or not… if not, here it is!  Follow his weekly adventures, and start your own collection in your neighborhood!
  • That’s all for now.  The holidays are fast approaching and no doubt you will see lots of food drives and other festivities involving your local food bank.  I invite you to participate!

reactions to the grind

Posted in economy & politics, people with tags , , , on August 27, 2009 by foodbankguy

I was struck by an article in today’s Arizona Republic about homeowners in limbo and the questionable worthiness of the federal loan remodification program.  Rather than weigh in on the pros or cons of the program, or even the article itself, start reading the comments at the bottom.  While these comments don’t represent a pinnacle of quality debate, and in fact are oftentimes nothing more than virtual mob rule, for this particular article I found them to be an interesting commentary on reactions to the grind.

The current housing market is interesting because it is largely a by-product of unemployment, which also happens to directly affect the demand on food banks.  People lose their home, have their credit ruined, lose their job… chances are they aren’t enjoying fine dining either.  Many people caught in the housing bubble are younger too, meaning they’ve got kids depending on them to eat, and as we all know, poor child nutrition affects school performance, attitude, etc.  But I digress…

What’s interesting to me about these reader comments is the fragmentation of thought and a lack of compassion.  Sure, you’ve got opinions on party lines, people distrusting the government, recognition that some subjects in the article are victims of their own poor decision making, realization that the economy has put most of us in a bind–all to be expected.  I understand that it’s easy enough to get on your high horse posting anonymously on the internet, but there’s something very bitter and defensive about many of these comments.  I simply don’t see people pulling together, encouraging one another, or even just talking about lessons learned.  We’ve become very paranoid of our neighbors, proactively resentful that we might have to help another, and a lack of understanding that we as a society either get through these tough times together or we don’t.  We’ve got to get past the blame.

No doubt this tough economy is a grind, it’s not fun, it’s downright hard labor for many.  But when the gut reaction of so many is contempt, it does make me question not only how long it’s going to take us to get out of this mess but whether we will at all.  Individuals cannot do it alone.  Neighborhoods cannot do it alone.  We’ve got to bite the bullet and pull each other up collectively as a society, as a country.  Who knows, this might be America’s last stand.  I wonder if some type of restorative justice would be appropriate, where those who have negatively impacted our society and the economy via greed or what-have-you–be it individuals, corporations, those who have been bailed out, etc.–can be honest, can be judged, and can ultimately be forgiven so that we can collectively move on.  Seems to me it would help everyone get things off their chest and maybe just maybe, get them to open up and extend a helping hand, and ultimately change cultural behaviors for the better.

catching up

Posted in aafb, economy & politics, food banks, fun with tags , , , , , , on July 21, 2009 by foodbankguy

Wow, it’s been a while, so I wanted to catch up on a few things…

Bashas’ recent bankruptcy filing was unexpected and sad, in that you hate to see a local institution suffer.  All indicators are that they will come back better than ever, so we do have that to look forward to.  Bashas’ has been a longtime supporter of Arizona’s food banks, and there are other interesting tidbits here that you might not have known about.

The Arizona Daily Star began a series this past Sunday that profiles various different families severely affected by the recession.  While I think it’s a valid complaint that the series thus far has not offered any solutions or counter-stories of those finding successful ways to ride out the recession, these stories nonetheless offer a glimse into how just a single misstep or living with no margin for error can really affect people when things get ugly.  And if nothing else, a long-form, investigative-esque newspaper series is really something like a dodo sighting anymore; enjoy it while you still can.

You can support AAFB by having Better Deal Printing handle your next print order.   Based out of Prescott, but specializing in online orders, Better Deal is donating 10% of their sales to AAFB from now to the end of July.  They are also affordable and eco-friendly, so what else could you want?

Finally, I’ll be out at the Goodyear Swap Meet this Saturday for their annual Back-to-School Clothing Swap, handing out information on school breakfast and lunch programs.  In a nutshell, you can trade-in gently used clothing your child has outgrown for some of the same that fits. 

don't be square, come on out!

don't be square, come on out!

Sure, it’ll be hot, but I can assure you that swap meets are very, very cool!  I once bought one of these for peanuts at a swap meet!

budget update & personal reflections

Posted in aafb, budget, economy & politics, food banks with tags , , , , , on July 2, 2009 by foodbankguy

Here’s the latest, copped straight from the AAFB Public Policy page:  Governor Brewer has signed the Budget “feed bill” SB1188 with line item vetoes in various sections, including line item vetoing the lump sum reductions to DES and DHS. This permits State Government to continuing to keep the doors open.

She vetoed the BRB’s for Capital Outlay (SB1027), Higher Education (SB1029), State Properties (SB1031), General Government (SB1035) Revenue (SB1036), Health and Welfare (SB1145) and K-12 education (SB1187).

Read Governor Brewer’s Statement (PDF).  She has called a special legislative session beginning 1 p.m. on Monday, July 6 in hopes of reconciling the budget the legislature passed and her vetoes.

Advocates are supportive of this action by the Governor and are working to meet with her in the next hours or days to talk about how to make sure in the next budget plan services are preserved at a level that will permit the needed support for low-income, vulnerable Arizonans who need the services – such as food banks, soup kitchens, shelters, domestic violence centers, senior services, child care for working families and more. They are also seeking to work with all parties to encourage all to come to the table in the next round of the Special Session to work for a long term solution to Arizona’s fiscal crisis.

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no comment

no comment

With the official statement out of the way, let me just say that while I’m glad we avoided a government shutdown, this whole process has left much to be desired.  Arizona’s food banks have been preparing for budget cuts for some time now, and in many cases, are seeing an increase in private donations and federal commodities (specifically TEFAP food via the stimulus package) to help offset the huge increases in demand–up some 50-70% statewide this year so far.  How long this will keep up with spiked demand is anyone’s guess, but so far we are weathering the storm.

But it never should have come to this point.  Arizona has a revenue problem, not a spending problem, brought on by the crippling local housing market and depressed consumer spending.  When times were good, the spending was accounted for without a problem–now, should we have put some away in a rainy day fund?  Sure, but the truth is the spending was in-line with Arizona’s population and wealth growth before the economy tanked.  So rather than looking at innovative ways of raising revenues (and much-needed long-term tax revenue stabilization strategies, something long overdue in Arizona), crazy Republican in-fighting has produced deep cuts and a stick-your-head-in-the-stand approach to revenues.  Way to put ideology over reality. 

So here we are.   This isn’t just party politics, we’ve got one party so fragmented that it cannot produce a budget in the best interest of the state or the people they serve.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  If nothing else, it’s been an interesting trial-by-fire for me as I dig deeper into local politics than ever before.  Somebody better drop a rope down if I get too deep!

breaking budget update

Posted in budget, economy & politics, food banks with tags , on June 26, 2009 by foodbankguy

It appears as though a “handshake” budget agreement has been worked out between Governor Brewer and the Arizona Legislature, but details remain fuzzy and it is uncertain as to whether the Legislature has the votes to get it passed by Tuesday’s deadline. Some information is being reported here and here, as well as by the Arizona Guardian (subscription required).  More tomorrow probably…