Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH), and author of the book All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America, is a fierce food advocate for the poor in America. While serving 8 years in the United States Department of Agriculture under the Clinton Administration, he helped establish a National Government initiative to enable faith-based and other nonprofit groups fight hunger, and increase food security.
In this Food News series, Berg identifies the extent of the current hunger crisis, and traces the history of how we have systematically dismantled the federal nutrition safety net, while at the same time allowing income disparity in America to expand to historic proportions. Yes, Berg argues that those at the very top of the income ladder are too highly paid for the work that they do, and this does come at the expense of those at the other end of the income spectrum to earn a living wage. As Berg points out, over 30 million people living In America are not able to get enough food to eat on a daily basis, most of these people comprise the working poor, children, and the elderly. Though faith based groups, and nonprofit organizations have stepped up to help those in immediate need, over the span of several decades, the Federal Government has gradually reduced its support, and the gap between those needing immediate food assistance, and the available services, has been stretched beyond the breaking point*.
Excerpt from the book
Punish and scapegoat the poor
Focus on only the rare success stories of people who climb their way out of poverty with no government help.
Provide poor people with marginally less government funding, but never so little they starve in mass numbers.
Overemphasize personal responsibility
Believe that poor people are too lazy to work
According to Berg, both the Left and the Right have been wrong about Clinton’s welfare reform, and the much broader issue of poverty. Our underlying political assumptions blind us to the realities of people in poverty, and what to do about it.
Patronize and glamorize the poor
Focus only on the rare people with so many problems they can’t move to self-sufficiency, no matter how much government help they get.
Provide poor people with marginally more government funding, but never enough so they can stand on their own.
Discount personal responsibility
Believe that poor people are too oppressed to work.
Berg believes the Federal Government must take the lead role again if we are to solve the hunger crisis in America. He has been a long-time critic of the Government in allowing the problem to grow. Recently he has become more optimistic, the present Obama Administration and Congress have shown real signs the Federal Government is now ready to offer more help. In part 2, Berg talks about the new Stimulus Plan, and offers his solutions toward ending hunger in America.
*Watch putting a human face to poverty, Cooking Up a Story: Stories profiles a working mother of three, as she and her husband (who also works) struggle between pay checks to feed their family. The Growing Face of Modern Hunger In America.