Apr 01, 2021
"So many people over decades have told me that the causes of--and solutions to--hunger need to be studied endlessly before we can determine what needs to be done. So, I was gobsmacked to learn that ending hunger was really as simple as making sure hungry people could afford enough food. Who knew?"
"It also turns out that poverty is greatly exacerbated by systemic racism and misogyny, a broken public education system, and soaring prices for healthcare and childcare. Wow."
--Joel Berg, Hunger Free America
That's what Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg said Thursday in a satirical press release. The anti-hunger direct service and advocacy group used April Fools' Day to take aim at right-wing talking points against poverty relief efforts and share some serious facts about food insecurity across the United States.
But before pointing out that "recent cash-distribution experiments as well as the use of $600 stimulus checks from the 2020 recovery bill prove incontrovertibly that low-income Americans spend most extra cash on bare necessities," and U.S. meal programs "not only reduce hunger but also improve health and boost student test scores," the group had some fun with the findings of a faux study that mocks right-wingers who are skeptical of providing aid to the poor.
"A new study by Hunger Free America found that, when low-income Americans received extra cash through the recent federal recovery bill, they shockingly spent it on food and rent, instead of on yachts, vacations in Saint-Tropez, private helicopters, vintage champagne, private islands, and sterling silver balls of twine from Tiffany," the group said. Another "shocking" finding was that "when hungry people obtained more food, they were less hungry."
Berg sarcastically responded: "This finding utterly stunned me. Because so many anonymous right-wing people on social media claim that low-income people are stuck in poverty solely because they waste all their money, I believed all that. After all, how could anyone on social media ever be wrong?"
"But I am flabbergasted that they were wrong--it turns out that people are actually in poverty mostly because they are not paid enough for their work to be able to afford rent, food, and other necessities of living," he continued. "It also turns out that poverty is greatly exacerbated by systemic racism and misogyny, a broken public education system, and soaring prices for healthcare and childcare. Wow."
\u201cNote: This is obviously a fake, April Fool\u2019s, press release. Hunger Free America never actually conducted such a study. \n\n#AprilFools #AprilFoolsDay\u201d— Hunger Free America (@Hunger Free America) 1617284630
Beneath Berg's remarks, Hunger Free America let readers in on the joke, noting the holiday, that the group had never actually conducted such a study, and that the CEO has long known about the "key causes of poverty and inequality, and that enabling people to obtain more food reduces hunger."
The statement then highlighted real, fact-based findings about Covid-19 relief and benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), school meals, and summer meals for children.
The group also noted just how little anyone paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour makes annually--$15,080 if they work 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year.
Hunger Free America's clever effort to raise awareness about the need for food aid programs and increasing what is often called a "starvation" wage comes over a year into the coronavirus pandemic, which has led millions of Americans to lose their jobs. Struggling to pay for rent and utilities and keep food on the table, people across the United States have sought help.
\u201c"I've never seen this volume. For the first time since I've been working at the Food Bank, there are people in the food lines that never had an expectation of ever being in the food lines." \n\u2014 @GeorgeCYoung, Food Bank Eastern Regional Director \n\nhttps://t.co/Sbv3giitfK\u201d— Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina (@Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina) 1617104461
As data showed that one in six U.S. families didn't have enough food in November, Trisha Cunningham, president of the North Texas Food Bank--where locals lined up for miles to get Thanksgiving food boxes--said that "people are seeing hunger like they've never seen it before."
The following month, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called out congressional Republicans for "spending critical time" trying to undo President Donald Trump's decisive electoral loss "when people are starving and small businesses are shuttering."
Ultimately, after months of GOP-led delays, lawmakers agreed to a Covid-19 relief package in December. Faced with more Republican obstruction, congressional Democrats--who took control of the Senate thanks to a pair of runoff elections in January--passed President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan in March. Both measures included provisions to expand food aid, though eight Democratic senators joined with the GOP to exclude a $15 federal hourly minimum wage.
Berg still welcomed the most recent package's passage, saying that it "will slash U.S. hunger and make a truly historic investment in cutting domestic child poverty in half."
"For anyone who still claims, 'both sides are the same' or 'nothing ever changes,' this groundbreaking package again proves that's just not true," he said. "This life-saving package, which is the most serious attempt to reduce U.S. hunger and poverty in at least 50 years, proves that who is in charge of our government matters--big time!"
Biden also issued executive actions on food aid just days after taking office and last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the end of a Trump-era policy that could have stripped SNAP benefits from more than a million people during the pandemic by imposing work requirements.
Praising that move by the administration, Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), chair of the House Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations, said that "hunger is not an economic motivator--it is a policy failure."
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