Rising Tides–Food Security and the National Welfare

Advocates for tax cuts often invoke the saying “A rising tide lifts all boats” as support for tax cut policies that favor the rich on the theory that such cuts will support the larger economy.  Tax cuts like the proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as “food stamps,” from which the proposed House Budget plans to cut by $127 billion over ten years.  But apart from the question of whether the underlying premise–that tax cuts favoring high earners helps the economy–this use of the phrase to justify tax cuts ignores the actual reason that a rising tide lifts boats.

Boats, floating on water, rise when the water rises underneath the boat.  The water acts like a floor–below which no boat sails.

Rather than tax cuts, the proverb seems more applicable to those programs that help ensure that people’s most basic needs are met–the floor below which no one should be allowed to sink.  We should apply the proverb to programs that ensure that people have food and shelter, that jobs pay at least a minimum wage, that all children have access to quality educational opportunities.  It is through these programs that the national economy expands and thrives, causing all boats to rise–dinghies as well as yachts.

SNAP, and the other food assistance programs, the National School Lunch Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) help an extraordinary number of people struggling to provide food for their family for comparatively little money.  According to the USDA‘s report on Household Food Security in 2010, SNAP provided an average benefit of $134 to an average of 40.3 million people each month. The School Lunch Program provided lunches to an average of 31.6 million school children each day, 56% of which were provided free to children in low income families.  And WIC served an average of 9.2 million participants each month, providing benefits of about $42 per person.

Although these are not large amounts per person, they are effective.  Census data show while that hunger and food insecurity surged in 2008, it did not increase further in 2009 and 2010 even though unemployment and poverty continued to increase. This is because programs such as SNAP and WIC were expanded to meet the increased need.  We also know that SNAP is effective in reducing the nation’s poverty rate.  In 2010, it succeeded in lifting 3.9 million U.S. residents, many of whom are children, above the poverty line.

But it is not only the recipients who benefit from SNAP dollars, local communities benefit as well.   According to the USDA, for every $5 of SNAP funding, $9 of community spending is generated.  Also, because SNAP and other food assistance programs help people get back on their feet, they contribute to ensuring a productive work force for the community and the nation.  Thirty percent of people who receive SNAP work for wages.  Ensuring that workers are sufficiently fed may help ensure that they and their families are healthier, thereby reducing the number of lost work days due to illness.  Additionally, SNAP benefits, which can be used at local farmer’s markets, help the nation’s family farm economy–in 2010, 1611 farmer’s markets and direct marketing farmers participated in SNAP. Each $1 billion of retail generated by SNAP creates $340 million in farm production, $110 million in farm value added, and 3,300 farm jobs and 8,900-17,900 full-time jobs.

Indeed, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, SNAP is considered the one of the most effective government response to the recession, not just for people in need, but for our entire economy.  So the next time someone says that a rising tide floats all boats, agree, but point out that the most effective way to raise the tide is to support SNAP, not by cutting it.  Help ensure that we don’t leave our neighbors under water, and thus further impoverish our nation–support SNAP and the other food security programs.  Don’t leave people stranded at low tide.

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Today’s Dads Can Help Close the “Diaper Gap”

Today we have a guest blogger–Vincent DiCaro of the National Fatherhood Initiative

If you have any doubts as to how “involved” dads are in the world of diapers, just ask Huggies what they think.

Huggies, the founding sponsor of the National Diaper Bank Network, unleashed a torrent of complaints from dads in response to its current advertising campaign. Without rehashing the entire incident here, the ads seemed to imply that fathers are incompetent diaper changers; the online community of dads responded; and to its great credit, Huggies listened and made changes to the campaign, which now suggests that dads, just like moms, care about the quality of the diapers they put on their children.

Why is this story relevant to the movement to get diapers into the hands of needy families?  Because it is critical that half the population of parents – dads – are called upon to help fight this fight.

There is a temptation when addressing an issue of concern to infants and toddlers to think of it as a “moms issue.” Assuredly — and we at National Fatherhood Initiative know this from 18 years of experience — it is often easier to get mothers engaged in these sorts of movements. But put another way, it is hard but very rewarding work to get dads engaged, too.

The involvement of dads communicates something very powerful about the importance of an issue. The forces that suggest that dads are “less involved” are the same forces that suggest that when they are involved, you should really pay attention.

And frankly, we are relying on outdated information in assessing the kind of parenting practices that are taking place in homes today. For example, marketers rely on the statistic that 85% of family purchasing decisions are made my moms. The problem is that no one knows where that statistic came from. More recent research — which is just starting to be used — suggests that dads, at a minimum, share in most family purchases and are in the lead on many. This indicates that dads are much more involved in what happens in the home than they were even 10 years ago.

To this point, most of the dads I know in the 25-35 age range (myself included) change just as many diapers and spend just as much time with their children as their wives do.

So, how do we get dads engaged in the mission of closing the diaper gap? First, we have to tell them that they are welcome. Dads often feel that certain territories are “mom only” places and they best keep out. Let’s avoid that. Second, you have to call dads out as dads. If you say, “calling all parents” dads will just assume it is meant for moms. Let’s avoid that, too. Finally, bring partners on board that are not the “usual suspects.” If all of the sponsors and organizational partners are ones that only moms identify with, dads will not feel as though “this is for them.” Get distinctly male entities involved, and that will communicate something powerful to the dads out there.

It won’t be easy, but it will certainly be worth it. When dads are involved, everyone wins – dads, moms, and especially kids.

Vincent DiCaro
Vice President, Development and Communication
National Fatherhood Initiative
20410 Observation Drive
Suite 107
Germantown, MD 20876
Phone: 240-912-1270
Fax: 301-948-4325
Email: vdicaro@fatherhood.orgWebsite: http://www.fatherhood.org
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nationalfatherhoodinitiative
Blog: http://thefatherfactor.blogspot.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/thefatherfactor

Food for Thought on Tax Day

As you scurry to finish your taxes in advance of today’s deadline (or gloat that you have already spent your refund), consider for a moment that there will be many people who receive a tax credit because, even though they are working, that job does not pay enough to raise them over the poverty line.  As noted in this blog post from Bread for the World, “In 2010, 10.7 million people with jobs lived below the poverty line. A full-time minimum-wage earner makes only about $14,500 a year.”  The Earned Income Tax Credit helped lift 5.4 million of these people above the poverty level, but often, depending on where they live, this is not enough to allow them to meet the Self-sufficiency Standard, which defines the amount of income necessary  to meet basic needs (including taxes) without public subsidies (e.g., public housing, food stamps, Medicaid or child care) and without private/informal assistance (e.g., free babysitting by a relative or friend, food provided by churches or local food banks, diapers from a diaper bank, or shared housing).

The family types for which a Standard is calculated range from one adult with no children, to one adult with one infant, one adult with one preschooler, and so forth, up to two-adult families with three teenagers. The Self-Sufficiency Calculator for various states are available on the internet–for example, you can find the calculator for Washington State here, for Colorado here, and for DC here.  You can also look up the most recent tables for your state here.  In each case, the Self-sufficiency Standard is much higher than the poverty level, and demonstrates how much many people with paying jobs must rely on “safety net” programs such as food stamps, housing assistance, and various other forms of assistance to make ends meet.

In the call for lower taxes, many of these same government programs that millions of people rely on are the first programs to be cut.  If your only concern is the bottom-line tax number, one way to lower your taxes yourself is to donate to private charities, which can be deducted from your taxes.  As public services are cut, the need is for private assistance increases dramatically.  Consider lowering your taxes for next year by donating to a charity today.  Some things to think about as you file your taxes.

Raising Awareness

One of our stated goals at the National Diaper Bank Network is to raise awareness of diaper need.  By “raising awareness,” we mean spreading the word that there are people in the United States who struggle to provide clean, dry diapers for their children, and that there are organizations like diaper banks that can help these people obtain the diapers they need.  This process of telling people that other people need and cannot afford diapers is so much a part of organizing and running a diaper drive or a diaper bank that even directors of diaper banks sometimes are unconscious of how often they “raise awareness” as they work to raise diapers and funds and connect people with diapers. And because the need is so apparent to those of us who deal with the issue everyday, we almost forget that not everyone thinks about how necessary diapers are to a family with very young children.   But diaper need is often not immediately self-evident to those who no longer rely on diapers (for themselves or their family members). They need to be reminded that children without clean diapers suffer from diaper rash and other health problems, and that a baby crying because of a wet diaper that cannot be changed because there are no more diapers adds to the stressors on parents struggling to make ends meet.  We think that the more directions from which the message is sent, the more likely it is to take root.

For that reason, we are thrilled whenever we see someone commenting on the need for diapers and letting others know there is such a need.  In his blog documenting an experiment to conduct 366 Random Acts of Kindness this year, Ryan describes giving diapers to the Bundle of Joy Diaper Bank in Chicago after researching what to do with his baby’s unused diapers.  We also recently learned of Pastor Eric’s planned Ride across America for Diapers, in which he will ride from Washington State to Washington, DC, spreading word about the desperate need for diapers in many communities in this country.  The more messengers carrying the message, the farther it will travel.

As we raise awareness of the need, it is also important to remind people that there are many dedicated individuals and organizations working to address the need in their communities and across the country, otherwise the problem can seem  insurmountable.  Many diaper banks were formed in isolation, and we have only just begun to build this network of diaper banks, so many people who may be aware of diaper need may not be aware of the actions that they can take in their communities to help.  But we anticipate that as word spreads about NDBN and the network of diaper banks located in communities throughout the country that people will be encouraged to seek out their local diaper bank to make a contribution to help or, for those located in areas where there is no diaper bank, start a diaper bank of their own.

Tell everyone that there is a need for diapers and why, and how they can help.  Embrace your local media, and seek opportunities to talk about the need in your communities.  And when you meet someone spreading the word–whether on a bicycle or on a blog–embrace them as a fellow convert, and let them know what you are doing to help.  Also, let people know we’re here to help, whether to frame the issue of diaper need, draft press releases,  share collective knowledge, or help fledgling diaper banks get off the ground and existing diaper banks expand to address their community’s need.

glad to have found this blog – hope you all find it interesting as well.

WORKING POOR AMERICA

By: Maura Sirianni

The growing shortage of affordable rental housing, along with a simultaneous increase in poverty has left many working Americans homeless; hit hardest is the pink collar working mother.  The typical homeless family today is comprised of a mother in her late twenties with two children.  Too often are single mothers found in situations they cannot control; this is where Bridge of Hope comes in.

Bridge of Hope is a National organization that provides homeless and at-risk mothers with permanent housing and financial stability, through employment. Throughout the mother’s journey with Bridge of Hope, local affiliates are able to bring together a professional staff, as well as trained church mentoring groups.  The goal is to empower the mom, introduce her to mentors and life-long friends who will serve as a support system, and ultimately help her achieve the level of self-esteem she needs to get back on her feet.

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As Welfare Limits are Reached, Holes in the Safety Net Open

As Welfare Limits are Reached, Holes in the Safety Net Open

Interesting article in the New York Times on the effect of Welfare Reform which imposed limits to aid, resulting in reduced caseloads not because people are no longer poor but because they’ve been poor too long.

Guardian Angels

Our Administrative Associate, Jane, has fielded many of the calls we get from individuals looking for diapers.  As a resource for diaper banks and those wanting to start diaper banks, our primary communications is generally with diaper banks rather than individuals, but since we first activated our website, we have received calls and emails from individuals from all over the country desperate for diapers.  The calls are often heartbreaking: from mothers who recently lost their jobs and are trying to figure out how they will care for a sick baby; grandmothers wanting to find a way to help fill a need for an unemployed son and his growing family; homeless shelters for women transitioning from substance abuse programs or incarceration–because the need is great everywhere, the list goes on and on.

But, more often than not, Jane has been able to connect these callers with a diaper bank or an agency that can provide at least some temporary help to these folks.  Jane credits “Guardian Angels” she has discovered in the process of working here.  And these guardian angels exist all over the country, willing to take action to make a difference in the lives of other people.  They may take different forms–a sympathetic administrator at a food bank, a director of a women’s shelter, or a generous mom with the time and willingness to create a mobile diaper bank–but they are all the people that make our goal of ensuring that all children have the clean diapers they need a realistic possibility instead of an impossible dream.

We want to thank the Guardian Angels we have met thus far, and those we have yet to meet (but we know are out there) for helping us create a network of committed individuals and organizations dedicated to closing the diaper gap.

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