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Luskin: Feeding The Hungry

08/01/12 5:55PM By Deborah Luskin
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(Host) Debate in congress continues over the Farm Bill. And writer and commentator Deborah Luskin would like to see adjustments made to the military budget, in order to accommodate an increase in funding for nutritional support programs at home.

(Luskin) I recently read about the final audit report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Funds. According to an Associated Press account, the auditors had huge problems tracking 51 billion dollars. Some of the money has apparently just vanished, but eighty dollars was traced to a contractor for a pipe fitting that normally should cost less than a buck and a half. The Office of the Special Inspector spent more than 200 million dollars conducting its audit.

Such government fraud is not new. I remember similar discoveries during the Vietnam era, and I can't help but wonder how much of our national security budget is misspent and unaccounted for. And yet, I know I risk being labeled unpatriotic for suggesting that the military and homeland security budgets be given the same close scrutiny as Title Four of the Farm Bill currently up for renewal in Congress.

Title Four covers the federal domestic food, nutrition and commodity distribution programs that serve the 46 million Americans who depend on food assistance. In a show of fiscal responsibility, legislators are proposing cutting these nutritional programs by increasing administrative oversight and restricting eligibility. In other words, they're making less food available to those who are hungry while making themselves appear more fiscally responsible. I'm dismayed that the lack of congressional oversight allows military contractors to pad their accounts while the same, well-fed, politicians scrutinize every calorie doled out to the young, the elderly, the unemployed and the poor.

In my life, I've worked up a good appetite on occasion; more often, I'm overfed. I've never suffered food insecurity, when I didn't know when or what I'd eat next. In the summer, especially, food seems to be abundant, and I could throw a pretty good party for eighty bucks. We could play Frisbee, eat well, and then collapse on blankets in the dusky twilight and wait for the stars to appear.

But for the 96,080 Vermonters who receive federal food assistance, summertime is just as lean and hungry as the rest of the year. 37,000 of those Vermonters are school children who depend on free or subsidized meals at school. For the majority of them, summertime - when school is not in session - can be hunger-time.

The Vermont Food Bank, Vermont's largest hunger-relief organization, does what it can during these lean summer months. Through a network of 280 food shelves, meal sites, senior centers, shelters, and after-school programs, the Foodbank helps feed those who need food assistance.

For eighty dollars, the Pentagon can buy a pipe fitting. I routinely spend eighty bucks to feed my family, who only know hunger as a signal for the next meal. But every dollar donated to the Vermont Food Bank supplies enough food for six meals.

So for eighty dollars, The Vermont Food Bank can feed 480 hungry Vermonters.
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