Food Stamp Challenge Week 4 – Late Night Challenge

July 17, 2008 § 3 Comments

David Davenport, President & CEO – The digital clock flashed from 2:05 a.m. to 2:06 a.m. – well past this blogger’s bed time. Since the little hamster won’t stop turning the wheels in my head, I’ll recap my day and share some thoughts I’ve finally been able to express.

Earlier Wednesday evening, I drove up to Dallas with two missions in mind. First, a scheduled doctor’s visit, and second, to meet with the Texas Food Bank Network. As the TFBN Finance Committee Chair, I lead the regular summer meetings on Friday mornings. Ok, not quite as exciting as a trip to Six Flags, but my doctors are good people, and it’s always good to see my TFBN friends.

I enjoy picking new spots to take a short break each time I go to Dallas. At this particular rest stop, there were no strange or interesting characters to chat with, so I entertained myself with a sun-weathered Houston Chronicle I found in my back seat.

Dr. Norman Borlaug

Dr. Norman Borlaug

The Houston Chronicle, has a special interview section called “Sunday Conversation”. The featured guest was Norman Borlaug, one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.

From the introduction:

Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in developing more productive strains of wheat and working to ensure their adoption around the world. During a recent phone interview with science writer Eric Berger, the 94-year-old distinguished professor at Texas A&M University said there are no simple solutions to the current crunch in food prices.

What the author failed to mention is that, in addition to winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Borlaug was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. He’s known as the “Father of the Green Revolution” and, back in 1970, his work was credited with saving a billion lives from starvation.

Yes, that’s billion with a “b” – It is not a typo.

While I encourage you to read through the interview with Dr. Borlaug, I wanted to make sure you saw this important exchange:

Q: Are you surprised at the price increases in wheat, corn, rice and other basic foodstuffs, some of which have tripled in just a few years?
A: I’m not surprised. The energy problem and the food problem are tangled up together. Many of the things that go into our food production system, like fuel for tractors and machines, and for fertilizer, have energy costs. Then there’s the transport system for delivering goods. In addition, there may be speculation also. It’s hard to isolate all of these factors. One change in government policy won’t rectify all of these interacting complications.

In a recent interview with FOX 7, I highlighted the challenges Central Texans face, and how it affects our organization. It’s what I call the “New Normal.” – no more $1.50 a gallon for fuel, and the inevitability of increasing food prices.

Although many of us are hurting financially, we can not forget what these challenges are doing to the soul and foundation of Texas – the working poor. While as Texans, we enjoy boasting about our grandness, and unique way of life; often, it’s the working poor that quietly, and unseen, supports that possibility.

We are all in this together.

But what does that really mean in practice? Some of our Partner Agencies are struggling with 20-30% increases in people served each month. To support these agencies, CAFB is reorganizing and reprioritizing business practices to ensure the flow of food isn’t interrupted or slowed. We’re also impressing upon the community that in good times and bad, hunger is simply unacceptable.

Let me say it again. Hunger is unacceptable.

Why such a bold statement? Because this problem requires urgent action. Take a moment to think about societal norms that we deem as unacceptable – slavery, drunk driving, child abuse, to name a few. Hunger, the inability to access food in socially acceptable ways to survive and thrive, should absolutely be in that category.

My Food Stamp Challenge this past month taught me a great deal about hunger. I now challenge you to say out loud “Hunger is unacceptable” and act on it. For some ideas on what you can do, just give us a call, or visit the “how to help” section on our website.


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§ 3 Responses to Food Stamp Challenge Week 4 – Late Night Challenge

  • A Friend says:

    David, thanks for the post. I wanted to tell you what I found interesting about Dr. Borlaug’s interview (I did read the entire article in the Chronicle) was this comment that was part of your post:

    “One change in government policy won’t rectify all of these interacting complications”

    We have got to start thinking about new ways to get the resources to help feed people, whether they be homeless, working but food insecure, or elderly/disabled on a fixed income.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but I do believe that we need to start in our community by having a conversation about what our priorities are. My opinion is that we give too much to cultural venues, expensive architectural structures, and just plain waste of tax dollars for frivilous things when compared to the basic needs of our citizens.

    I would love to see a common-goal fundraising effort as a starting point. What I mean by this is that CAFB joins forces with other basic needs non-profits to have a mega-fundraiser whereby the proceeds benefit all the participating agencies. None of the non-profits would be pitted against each other as it seems to be in the normal everyday fundraising for dollars.

    And I would try to take the conversation directly to the public in a big way because the only thing that will create change in policy, governmental or otherwise, is pressure by the citizens. Each time a multi-million dollar donation is given to the arts, education, sports or other such entity, I would have the non-profit coalition submit a challenge to those donors and others that basic needs non-profits receive a substantial donation.

    I would also love to see a fundraising effort similar to what KLRU (PBS) does every year. They have a phone-in auction and raise large sums of money in a short period of time.

    There are many things that can be done to raise awareness of the hunger and other basic needs issues. It’s just a matter of imagination and how much we are willing to dare.

  • AF –

    I do believe you are on to something. Folks may argue with me but I truly believe that hunger is a solvable issue. There may be no feasible way to control the economic conditions that force families and seniors seek emergency assistance – but we can certainly make sure there is enough food available when folks in need reach out.

    I believe that two things need to happen. Step number one – our community MUST embrace the idea that HUNGER IS UNACCEPTABLE. The United States is the most effective producer of food in the history of mankind. It is UNACCEPTABLE for people living in our community and in this country to be hungry.

    The second challenge is that the social sector needs to work differently. Right now the sector is broken. We need to act with a unified voice and with a unified cause to make the quality of life we embrace in our community available to all. We need to set aside our “turf” and work together.

    Till we (community and social sector) meet those challenges head-on and with urgency and resolve we run the risk of having little progress towards big challenges.

    Thanks for all your comments and support.

  • A Friend says:

    David, I agree with your comments and feel we are thinking similarly when it comes to changing how the social sector works.

    I see a lot of duplication of efforts in different non-profits trying to give assistance to people. Trying to solve the duplication problem would be a start when it comes to the unifcation theory.

    Trying to get people to set aside their “turf mentality” is going to be a huge challenge, yet one that is necessary if we are going to change the way we try to meet the overall needs of the community.

    Today’s editorial in the Statesman said it very well:

    ” Money ineffectively or inefficiently spent does not help anybody, not the people who need help and certainly not those who pay for the assistance.”

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