VIDEO: Food Stamps Save Dallas Families

December 8, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Video by Aileen Garcia
aileeng@smu.edu

VIDEO: Food Stamps from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

The economy continues to affect people across the nation causing many to turn to food stamps to help feed their families.

“I just don’t want people to think that people that come to the food stamp office to apply for welfare they are lazy or don’t work,” said Patricia Wilson, a Dallas case worker. “I see a lot of working families that really work hard trying to provide for their families.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Texas has the highest number of food stamp recipients. Helping almost 4 million families per year.

“In September we only had to serve 600 people to get recertified in the month of October it doubled,” said Shriley Flinn, Supervisor at the Cadiz Health and Human Services Office.

Families must meet special need requirements to qualify for food stamps.

“You have to have low income, you have to be a citizen of the U.S., you have to have your ID, you have to have verification of where you live, and who all lives in the house,” said Flinn.

A small card can make a difference in a families life.

“As long as she is fed then that’s all that matters,” said Jessica Shotwell, a food stamp recipient. “You can tell, you know, that she’s well fed.”

“Coming first hand I just moved here with no job and without food stamps I honestly probably couldn’t feed my family,” said Wilson

Food stamps give families the opportunity to purchase healthy foods, which are more expensive than junk food.

“You would think that we would just go crazy and start throwing junk food,” said Shotwell. We don’t do that. I spend it like it’s your money that you work hard for.”

Food stamps have helped many people affected by the economy, while some people see it as an easy way out.

“They have this system, so they can I think they rely on it” said Flinn.

“I see people that have degrees that come here, but it’s just jobs are really not available to them right now and they need help, said Wilson”

Some people think those who use food stamps are taking advantage of the system, but others like Jessica Shotwell say they are just trying to find a way to feed their children.

“I’m very thankful because when she was first born you could get formula from food stamps, said Shotwell”

Families continue to struggle in the tough economy and food stamps helps them put food on the table.

Global News Blog: Cubans Brace for Changing Government

November 16, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Post by Amanda Lipscomb

Americans have ample reasons for thankfulness during this holiday season. Despite hunger rates being the highest in 15 years, we still have it better than most countries.

We are blessed with a vast number of opportunities for jobs and resources in times of need. Our government makes an effort to help us and constitutionally provides us with the right to have a voice to speak up.

After 50 years of Fidel Castro’s regime, the Cuban government is trying to give their citizens opportunities. Major policy changes come unexpectedly and with mounds of pressure. Censorship and the lack of freedom of speech are hurting citizens in efforts to help themselves.

Cuba is currently known as the only country in the world where a person does not have to work for a living. The government subsidizes salaries and requires very little of its people.

Cuba is known for suppressing their people in order for the government to remain in control. Currently, almost all jobs and companies are owned or regulated by the government. A few months ago, the government announced they would be laying off jobs and ending their handouts. The intent is to allow people to own their own businesses and create their own work force for better opportunities since they recognize their system is not working. President Raul Castro is also hoping that these changes will bring in more foreign business.

Cubans earn on average $20 a month, mainly from subsidized income. Before the new announcement, families were already going without basic necessities.

A strong black market provides what the government cannot or refuses to give them, including everything from socks to apple juice to car parts. With the announcement bringing doom and layoffs to exceed 500 million jobs, pockets will be empty and people will go unfed, unclothed and unsheltered. Cubans have few places to go for help and now that the government is unwilling to subsidize, they have no way to start their own businesses. Loans are not optional, media is censored and public relations is practically nonexistent.

The government feels that changing their system of labor will provide their people and nation with many opportunities. The people are very worried about their livelihood but have no choice in the matter and must make do with the hardships. The pressure is strengthening family and friendship bonds to help each other survive these major lifestyle changes. The people are prideful about their Cuban heritage, vowing not to relinquish their love for their nation.

1 in 12 North Texans Go Hungry

April 27, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Emily Kogan
ekogan@smu.edu

Seven-year-old Miracle sits patiently in a chair in the front room of the Cedar Hill Food Pantry, chewing on a candy and telling the men around her how much fun she had in the snow this weekend, but how scary it was when the electricity in her house went out.

Her mother, who does not want to give her name, is nervous and her eyes are downcast. She is about to apply for emergency food and electricity help at the pantry, located at 403 Houston St. Cedar Hill, TX.

Larry Miney, President of the board at Cedar Hill Food Pantry, said new families like Miracle’s come in all the time needing emergency food and sometimes help with electricity as well. They can get food for one time, even if they don’t have the proper documentation.

“If someone is hungry they can come here no questions asked and get food,” said Miney.

The Cedar Hill Food Pantry is just one of the 290 agencies The North Texas Food Bank distributes food to. The NTFB provides emergency assistance to approximately 64,000 people a week, an 80 percent increase from 2006.

Colleen Brinkman, Chief Philanthropy Officer of the NTFB said a major misconception is that the hungry and the homeless are the same. In reality, the homeless are only nine percent of the population the NTFB serves.

“The majority of the people in America and in North Texas are the working hungry,” said Brinkman.

She describes the face of the hungry as not much different from the rest of the community. They are people who work, or used to work until the economic downturn. They could be a neighbor, a relative, or someone who makes seven, eight, nine dollars an hour and has a family to support.

“These are people with college degrees, that have worked, that pay taxes, that follow all the rules of society but have been laid off and they have run out of resources,” said Brinkman.

In the 13 North Texas counties served by the NTFB, households with children who are going hungry have increased by four percent since 2006. Teachers in suburban elementary schools have told Brinkman that students will peel the paper off crayons so they can eat.

“There are kids that eat the food off the floor of the cafeteria because they are hungry,” said Brinkman.

Teachers have told Brinkman that some children come to school on Monday mornings having not eaten anything since Friday, at least not anything of substance. The NTFB distributes 9,000 backpacks filled with highly nutritious food to these chronically hungry kids every Friday afternoon in over 20 school districts.

“Volunteers come here and fill the backpacks,” said Brinkman “it’s a great sign of hope.”

Jean Sims, Executive Director at the Cedar Hill Food Pantry works with ministers from around the community to send families in need over to the pantry and make sure they receive the proper amount of food.

Junnie Suggs has been coming to the Cedar Hill Food Pantry since August of 2009. The Suggs family moved from Kansas City to Dallas in late July. Suggs said she had a steady job as a banker for eight years but has not been able to find work in Texas.

“I guess a bunch of people need a bunch of jobs so it’s been real difficult,” said Suggs.

Suggs’ daughter works in the thrift store, Second Chance, which helps fund the Cedar Hill Food Pantry. Suggs said she feels like she is able to give back to the place that has helped her family in their time of need.

“My kids haven’t known a hungry night because of the Cedar Hill Food Pantry. They are wonderful, truly,” said Suggs, who has two children.

Brinkman said 10 years ago people came into a food pantry looking for one time emergency aid and in most cases they were back on their feet within 30 days. But hunger has now turned into a chronic issue.

“Do we need to tell Austin? Do we need to tell Washington? What do we need to do to raise our voices and say hunger should not exist here,” said Brinkman.

Brinkman said that $1 provides four meals. She added that, for instance if the 10,000 students at SMU all gave $5 that would add up to $50,000. With $50,000 the NTFB could provide 200,000 meals.

Money isn’t the only option. There are soup kitchens and food pantries all over North Texas who welcome volunteers. SMU junior Ellen Stapleton has found her way helping the community while feeling good herself.

“I like to volunteer because it is important to give yourself, especially to those less fortunate. But I also like to volunteer because I enjoy witnessing acts of selflessness and kindness,” said Stapleton.