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  • Writer's pictureStuart Sheldon

A Hungry Man is an Angry Man

Confused by Poverty

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Day 1

My 7-yo buried his face in a couch cushion, frustrated he could not have dessert … because there was no dessert. “I didn’t choose to do this challenge Daddy. I don’t want to do it anymore.” “People don’t choose to be hungry. This is what it feels like,” I said.

We’re eating at the federal poverty level of $4.50/day per person for one week. That’s a total of $18/day, $128/week for the 4 of us. Welcome to our SNAP Challenge (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps). 

Day 3

We’d been up all of 20 minutes. The kids ran around shooting each other with NERF guns, while my wife barked through bloodshot eyes,”Clear your computer and all your stuff off the dining room table. That’s not your office.”  “So you’re going there right now … just because you can’t drink the coffee, don’t take it out on me,” I said, clearing the boys breakfast plates. 

Don't ever buy this kind of coffee … EVER!

Don’t ever buy this kind of coffee … EVER!

Day 4

My wife’s Facebook post: “Halfway through the SNAP challenge and I have to admit, I can’t wait for it to end. I feel badly for saying that, as I know how many people don’t have that option, and I recognize that for us this is totally self- imposed and limited in time. I’ve have a headache for three days and feeling foggy from no coffee (the $2 bag of coffee we purchased was gag-worthy and tasted toxic – had to throw it out).”

Clearly, we’re privileged if the hardest parts of hunger is bad coffee. But I also feel a very real sense of sluggishness and confusion, which I assume stems from lack of nutrients. I’ve lost 3 pounds. I can’t imagine how tough it must be for a child to concentrate at school, and then after that long day, to focus on homework.  

We Can't Be Too Bold, acrylic, Chinese funeral paper, on panel, 12'x12", 200

We Can’t Be Too Bold, acrylic, Chinese funeral paper, on panel, 12’x12″, 2002, Stuart Sheldon

I’m trying to understand the DNA of America’s hunger epidemic. How does the richest nation in history get to a place where 46.5 million people are food insecure, unsure where the next meal comes from, and rely on food banks to survive, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors?

One reason is fools in Congress, like recently defeated Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, who sat on the House Agricultural Committee, which oversees the federal school lunch program for the underprivileged. This allegedly devout man proposed that children who participate in the program be required “…to sweep the floor in the cafeteria” to promote a work ethic and “instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch.” Mr. Kingston also stated that he does not believe in the process of evolution.


What would Jesus do, Mr. Kingston? Would he increase military spending and cut subsistence food subsidies for kids like you did in 2013, slicing 8.7 billion dollars over the next 10 years from the federal budget for nutrition assistance programs like SNAP.

Shopping for the SNAP Challenge. $53 worth of food for half the week.

Shopping for the SNAP Challenge. $53 worth of food for half the week.

How can we fix this?

For starters, a critical piece of legislation called the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Program expires this coming September. This vital act authorizes funding for school lunches for families who are at 130% of the poverty line or below, school breakfasts and summer food service programs. Please take 2 minutes and Share the Child Nutrition Reauthorization budget letter with your Members of Congress. Find your Congressmen and women here.

For the essence of the solution, I keep coming back to the root of most of America’s issues – basic education. We’re failing, at the most fundamental level, to give our kids the tools to lift themselves and society up.

Without this, their potential is wasted, and eventually, the social safety net is needed. A mind, let alone tens of million of minds, is indeed, a terrible thing to waste.

Collecting food in our neighborhood last Sunday. The food bank we delivered to serves 5000 people/month.

Collecting food in our neighborhood last Sunday. It was kinda fun.

So, let’s vote out those whose ignorance makes them de-emphasize education and whose self-righteousness makes them espouse falsehoods like, to be a true patriot, you must be totally self-sufficient right now. That’s like deciding your infant should swim by throwing him in the pool and folding your arms until he does.

We need to elect people who are equal parts intelligent AND compassionate, who understand the idea of teaching a man to fish and feeding him for a lifetime. I love America, yet I find myself continually disappointed in our elemental failings. 12 million hungry kids and the Dow at an all-time high? This is not Darfur. 

Please, take 2 minutes and add your name to this petition which will let Congress know that you support SNAP, not misguided budget proposals that increase hunger in America. 

The food bank we delivered to serves 5000 hungry people each month.

The food bank we delivered to serves 5000 hungry people each month.

Be part of the solution!

Easy ways to help:

Most importantly, work to elect leaders hellbent on educating our children. In a few generations, those smart and well-prepared kids will solve these intractable problems themselves. 

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