Commentary: Food for the Hungry

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, November 23, 2007

One recent night a woman with two young children approached shoppers at the Arden Fair mall and begged for money. She said they needed it to buy food. Elsewhere an elderly homeless man stood on a traffic island in the middle of a clogged street begging for money, for something to eat, he said.

Fully half of the 15,000 people who line up for groceries at the Sacramento Food Bank every month have children at home to feed. I doubt any of these hungry people are following the progress of the 2007 farm bill lumbering through Congress, but there is something in it for them. A tiny portion, $4.3 billion of the $286 billion dollar farm bill, will boost food stamp grants.

Over the last decade, inflation has dropped the value of an average recipient’s food grant to a shamefully inadequate one dollar per meal. Try eating breakfast for a dollar.

The new farm bill as proposed will raise food stamp grants and index them to inflation. Unfortunately the bill is loaded with wasteful subsidies for rich growers, too. Congress should preserve funding for the hungry and trim subsidies for the rich, but politics being politics – fat chance of that.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.