Desperate For A Meal


I was really moved by an article in The Washington Post (5 November 2011) called “A Hungry Challenge With Food Stamps.”

Last week was the launch of the 2nd nationwide Food Stamp Challenge–“part of an interfaith campaign to raise awareness about America’s poor.”
For one week, Rabbis, Pastors, Imams, and members of Congress (600 people) took part in the program to live on $31.50 a week (or $4.50 per day) for food–the average that an adult gets on the food stamp program.
Intuitively, knowing what food costs these days, it makes no sense!
Even a basic meal from a fast food restaurant costs more than what the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides for a whole day.
The money for food is so meager that participants in the challenge report being overwhelmed by thoughts of food–“When am I going to eat?  What am I going to eat?”
According to the USDA, food stamp usage has risen to the highest level ever, with almost 46,000,000 Americans on the program (that’s more than 1 of every 7 people in this country!)
This is up almost 65% from 28,000,000 people in 2008–just 3 years ago.
With the food stamp program, while better than getting no help at all, people are still surviving on limited types of food and meager portions of things such as lentils, cornflakes, eggs, and so on.
It is frightening and humbling to think that any one of us–or our families–could be in that situation–wondering where our next meal is coming from.
I remember as a kid, before the SNAP program issued the food assistance on debit-like cards, seeing people in the supermarket actually tearing off and handing stamps to the cashier–they never seemed to have enough and invariably had to put back groceries.  They were noticeably embarrassed, self-conscious, and fearful–often holding children in their arms or by the hand as they tried to work the math of feeding them all with what was obviously not enough.
While I have not participated in such a program as the Food Stamp Challenge, I am awed by those who take the time and effort to see what such hunger feels like and to learn the lessons of empathy, social justice, and charity.
As we enter the last few weeks of deliberation by the Deficit Panel Super Committee, I am afraid at what $4,000,000,000,000 (trillion) in cuts looks like to our nation and how the very real pain coming will be distributed.
With a nation already feeling squeezed by lost jobs, sunken housing values, near zero interest rates on fixed income investments, an rickety stock market, and global economic challenges from abroad, I wonder how our nation can take the deep cuts that we must without going into economic cardiac arrest.
Yet, Moodys and Fitch are waiting in the wings to downgrade our debt, if we do not embrace the tough love or if we fudge the numbers rather the do what our long-term economic health demands.
I pray that G-d helps us through this challenging period for our country and that the people who are hungry today and those that may suffer tomorrow are spared by the almighty in his everlasting mercy.
(Photo Source: here)

>A New Decade, A New Time For Technology


As we enter the new decade starting with 2010, we should reflect on the last decade, learn from it, and redirect for a better future.

While the last decade surely brought much good to many, for our nation as a whole, it was a decade punctuated again and again by terror—wrought externally, but also from within.

These events range from the horrific events of 9/11/2001 to the failed attack on Flight 253 by the Underwear Bomber on Christmas day and the Taliban attack that took 7 unsung heroes of our CIA on December 30, 2009.

The fear of terrorism has swept through our society this past decade, so much so that we insist people remove their shoes at the airport for screening and are quick to mistake a photo shoot of Air Force One over the Statue of Liberty (just this past April) as another 9/11. The possibility of a terror attack, and especially with weapons of mass destruction, looms always in the back of our minds.

We have also experienced homegrown terrorism, such as the assassination of an abortion doctor in Wichita, Kansas and an attack at the U.S. National Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. to name just a few.

As if all of this is not enough already, Americans have been deeply affected by other fearful events and issues:

· The Economy—From the 2001 bursting of the dot-com bubble and recession to the 2007 mortgage mess bringing us the worst financial recession since the Great Depression, we have seen foreclosure rates soar and unemployment rise to 10.2%. Too many of us now know the intense fear and also the reality of losing our homes and jobs.

· Health—Aside from traditional health concerns about cancer, heart disease, stroke and other diseases, this last decade we experienced concerns ranging from lingering concerns of Bird Flu to the newer variant of Swine Flu. We were constantly reminded of the potential of another deadly influenza pandemic such as the 1918 flu that killed 50 to 100 million people globally. People this last year lined up around the block for the H1NI vaccine, and delays in production and delivery of the vaccine caused even greater consternation among the populace.

· Energy—Oil prices peaked at $147.30 a barrel in 2008 before drastically receding. Overreliance of Mideast oil supplies, geopolitical disruptions, and natural disasters as well as peak oil fears all contribute to energy supply shortage fears and the move to alternate energy resources and energy independence.

· Global Competition—With the offshoring of U.S. manufacturing and the outsourcing of our job base, the recognition of the U.S. being surpassed as the economic superpower is on everyone’s mind, as the Wall Street Journal reported on January 2, 2010, “China is both making and eating our lunch.” We fear not only for our country’s future prosperity, but also for our ability and our children ability to earn a decent living anymore.

· The Deficit—With the trillion dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the cost of the Recovery Act and the new Health Care legislation, as well as ongoing critical entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and so on, the national deficit has soared to over $12 trillion dollars and is about to hit the ceiling again. The viability of this deficit spending is sending shock waves through the American public who realize that at some point the bill must be paid.

· Environmental Issues—From addressing global warming to a green economy and the need for conservation, recycling and sustainable environmental practices, we have awoken to the fear of creating an environment that is no longer hospitable to human life, if we do not act to be better stewards of the planet.

This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather is meant to demonstrate the breadth and depth of issues to which we been exposed to fear, dread, and terror about our personal and national futures.

Further, the fear for the future that we experience is not meant to shut us down or demoralize us, but rather to direct our attention and redirect our energies to solving these critical dilemmas facing us all.

One of the biggest areas of hope that I believe we have is through technology. In fact, technology has been a major offset to the decade of terror that we have experienced. Through technology and the requisite cultural change, we have moved towards a society that is more connected, enabled, and informed. We have achieved greater information sharing, collaboration, transparency, and overall productivity. Advanced telecommunications, e-Commerce, online information resources, and entertainment have transformed our lives primarily for the better. Technology has helped solve some of the greatest challenges of our time—whether through biotechnology, food genetics, alternative energy, military defensive technologies, and hosts of engineering advances particularly through miniaturization and mobility solutions.

While we cannot rely on technology to solve all of our problems, we can use it to augment our intellectual and communications capabilities to better attack and resolve the challenges confronting us.

We are a strong and resolute people and we can overcome terror with religious faith, strong family and community, individual and national determination, sacrifice and innovation, all variety of technology (infotech, nanotech, biotech…), and the paradigm of continuous learning and improvement.

We have a unique opportunity in time to move from a Decade of Terror to a Decade of Peace—a peace of mind, body, and soul brought by a conquering of the terrorists found within and without. I believe that technology can and will be there to support us in this if we can change along with it.