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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Food

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Like the coronavirus pandemic, food insecurity continues even when it recedes from the headlines. A new poll finds 23 percent of people in the U.S. haven't been able to get enough to eat or haven't been able to get the kinds of foods they want. More than half of those food insecure people struggled to access all of the government or nonprofit assistance that should have been available to them, and 21 percent said they hadn't been able to get any aid.

That means both people going hungry—maybe eating just once a day—and people unable to get the fresh, healthy foods they would want for themselves and their children.

In the new poll from Impact Genome and The Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, respondents were very clear about what would help them have enough healthy food: more money. Half said extra money was necessary to pay for food or bills, and another 39 percent said it would be helpful but not necessary. Other response options offered in the poll—reliable or accessible transportation, enough free food to last a few days, a free prepared meal with no prior notice, and meals that are delivered by a community service—drew well under half of people saying they were necessary, though in all cases a large majority said they would be either necessary or helpful.

Things have recently gotten worse for many people with the cutoff of expanded federal unemployment benefits. An expanded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program allotment expires on September 30, though it will be partially offset by a permanent increase in nutrition assistance coming into effect on October 1 after the Biden administration changed how the government estimates the cost of a healthy diet.

But even with the expanded unemployment insurance and added SNAP benefits, food insecurity was high. In fact, it was high before the pandemic. While food insecurity didn't rise overall in the population during the pandemic, it did rise for some groups, including households with children and Black households. Food insecurity for families with children has risen, from 6.5 percent in 2019 to 7.6 percent in 2020. Among Black households, food insecurity went from 19.1 precent in 2019 to 21.7 percent in 2020.

The expanded child tax credit is now helping many of these families—and it needs to be extended in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. As Paul Krugman recently wrote in The New York Times, the lifelong damage of childhood poverty is such that any money spent to keep kids out of poverty is the fiscally responsible thing to do (to say nothing of the moral stakes).

"Lifting children out of poverty is every bit as real an investment as repairing roads and bridges. Indeed, the evidence for a big economic payoff to spending on children is a lot stronger than the evidence for high returns to spending on physical infrastructure (although we should be doing that too)," Krugman wrote. "In fact, the returns to aiding children are so high that the cost would probably be minimal even in narrowly fiscal terms—because helping children grow up into more productive, healthier adults would eventually mean higher tax receipts and lower medical outlays. Unlike tax cuts for the rich, aid to poor children would largely pay for itself."

Politicians who don't want to expand aid to children tell on themselves: It's not about the money. They just want to punish poor people.

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Chef José Andrés

Screenshot from José ndrés' Twitter (@chefjoseandres)

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

World-famous chef and humanitarian José Andrés says that his World Central Kitchen organization has three kitchens set up in Louisiana and is prepared to distribute 100,000 meals in Ida's aftermath. The hurricane—one of the strongest to ever hit the mainland U.S.—has left more than one million residents without power.

"Tomorrow morning as soon as it is safe our teams will go out, will start making meals, will start delivering to the different places that will be in need to do that," the chef told CNN on Sunday evening. "But more important: we need to be planning ahead, not only for days, but for weeks." The chef said a focus of World Central Kitchen would be to ensure both residents in New Orleans and across the state are fed.

A tweet from World Central Kitchen early Sunday morning showed relief workers and volunteers preparing hundreds of sandwiches at the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute. "Entering the storm with more supplies," replied Kyle Pounders, chef and owner of Excaliburger in Arkansas. That same morning, José Andrés said that "after the storm passes, we can do what we always do: go to other cities and very quickly fire up the kitchens that we have in position there."

The chef traveled to New Orleans following humanitarian efforts in Haiti, where an Aug. 14 earthquake killed 2,000 people and left thousands more homeless. "WCK's roots began in Haiti in 2010," the group's website said. "In January of that year, the country was hit with an absolutely devastating earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people—and a decade later communities in Haiti are still recovering."

Much of that sentence could have easily have been written today, as the nation struggles to recover from both political instability following President Jovenel Moïse's assassination in July, and the 7.2 earthquake last month. "With a team already in Haiti, additional WCK relief workers began arriving in the country the day after the quake," the Miami Herald reports. A kitchen set up in Les Cayes has been feeding more than 10,000 people daily. The report said the organization hopes to soon double that number.

"This is really tough; it's tough in a different way than from the 2010 earthquake, which caused such massive devastation in Port-au-Prince," World Central Kitchen CEO Nate Mook told the Miami Herald. "Here, the impact is spread so far out in these rural communities that are very hard to reach with small pockets of people in need … But we are going to be here as long as we're needed."

World Central Kitchen has also been providing meals to newly arrived Afghan refugees at Dulles Airport in Virginia. Mook told WJLA on Friday that some refugees evacuated from Afghanistan haven't eaten for as long as two days. "It's a very long journey as they've gone from a number of bases, getting processed and then finally arriving at Dulles Airport," he said in the report. In a tweet, José Andrés said that "[w]hat's happening in Afghanistan breaks my heart … but the outpouring of support from people across America helps glue it back."