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July 23, 1983 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1983-07-23

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4

OPIcION
The 'Other America': Poor lost in 'recovery'

B Mary Jo
Conahay
The gap between those
who can put food on the table
every day - and those who
cannot - may have become
a permanent feature of
American life.
Once barely visible,
"pockets" of hunger now are
growing in virtually every
state and threaten to
produce deeply entrenched
effects. One U.S. nutrition
researcher has come to
speak of "structural infant
mortality," thanks to pover-
ty and poor nutrition, much
as economists speak of per-
manent structural unem-
ployment.
In the 1960s government
agencies were proud of the
fact that the average

American family spent less
than 15 percent of its
disposable income for food
- a paltry amount cam-
pared with other nations.
Today government and other
estimates put the average at
20 to 35 percent.
What's new, however, is
not simply that food~ costs
more and that there are
more unemployed. Rather,
to look at the numbers and to
hear the voices of com-
munity workers,
nutritionists and other con-
cerned food watchers is to
realize that the nation has
turned a kind of historical
corner: While one part of the
population breathes a sigh of
relief at the first signs of
economic recovery, another
increasingly relies on Third

The Michigan Daily
Vol. XCill, No. 26-S
93 Years of Editorial Freedom
Managed and Edited by students of
The University of Michigan
Editorials represent a majority opinion of the
Daily Editorial Board
Blrdeed
T APPEARS the French have come up with
a way to rid Washington of its undesirable
public leaders.
Canada is sending two falcons to France to
defend Mirage jet fighters from flocks of
herring gulls. The rare Gyr falcons are to be
trained to attack the gulls that flock around
strategic French air bases, frequently colliding
with Mirage jets and causing millions of dollars
in damages.
If the feisty birds can take care of huge flocks
of French gulls, imagine the good things they
could do in Washington - a city inhabited with
all sorts of strange, unwanted birds and
animals.
The falcons could begin by attacking the
dangerously high population of hawks - those
warmongering creatures that prey on innocent,
peace-loving doves and have an insatiable ap-
petite for taxpayers' money.
After dining on the bitter-tasting hawks, the
falcons could go after the cunning, hard-to-find
political moles. The birds would probably have
to disguise themselves as CIA Directors or
Washington journalists-turned-debate coaches
to find the sneaky moles, however.
Horny owls - those sex-starved
Congressmen - have also been causing a lot of
trouble lately and would be easy game for the
French-schooled birds.
Finally, the most important service the
falcons could perform would be to rid
Washington of its noisy, Yankee-Doodle dooing
rooster, James Watt. Admittedly, the cock
would give the falcons a rough battle. But
knowing that the entire- animal kingdom
was behind them, the falcons couldn't lose.
Vive la France!

World-style survival strategies.
In an era when sufficient food is
ever more linked to sufficient in-
come, some 44 million Americans
were classified "poor" or "near-
poor" by the federal government
in 1981, the last year for which
figures are available.
According to a nationwide sur-
vey recently presented before the
Department of Health and
Human Services, a black
American child born today has
about the same chance of sur-
viving as a child born in Tan-
zania. With an annual per capita
income of $253 last year, Tan-
zania is among the poorest
nations on the globe.
Low birth weight, often related
to a mother's failure to acquire
enough proper food, is a prime
factor in infant mortality, as is
the inability to feed a smal child
adequately.
"What we're dealing with here
are those who aren't affected no
matter which way the economy
goes," observes nutritionist Jud-
dy Levine, who works with 350
clients and their families at San
Francisco's Teen Age Pregnancy
Project.
On the other side of the country
in New York City's East Harlem,
Vivian Dixon agrees: "In this
community (the recovery)
means nothing at all in terms of
immediate needs." Dixon is
director of Resurrection House, a
community center which
distributed free, unprepared food
staples until three years ago
when "we found a lot of people
had no facilities to cook for them-
selves," she said.
In 1980, Resurrection House
added a soup kitchen which of-
fered free, hot meals, primarily
to homeless men. Today there are
more families in line, and there
are other free meal centers
"every two or three blocks" in
the area, according to Dixon.
Although she thinks that the
"trickle-down" from an

economic recovery "may make
the poverty more stable," Dixon
expresses fear that the overall
situation is "permanent."
Harlem residents may be
luckier than hungry citizens
elsewhere in the country. So
great is demand that charity
meal operations in a few cities
have stopped publicizing their
whereabouts. Emergency food
relief doubled in Denver from
1981 to 1982, and Detroit now puts
out five times as much emergen-
cy food aid as it did three years
ago.
In fact, the soup kitchen is not
where most of the American un-
derfed look for daily sustenance;
instead they develop their own
strategies to cope, often on a
meal-to-meal basis:
- Systematic scavenging as a
way of obtaining food has moved
out of skid row. In San Francisco,
the president of a waste disposal
company says that people
regularly run or drive in front of
his crews' garbage trucks, sear-
ching for edibles or recyclable
items for sale. California super-
market managers report that
some families study their stores'
daily schedules and are waiting
patiently at parking lot dum-
psters when personnel discard
unsold or rotting produce.
- Federal programs intended
to provide supplemental nutrition
for the elderly, such as the
Congregate Meals Program and
various "Meals on Wheels"
operations, have become a
primary source of food for many.
"More people are depending on
them for a greater proportion of
their nutrition than what they
were designed to serve," says
fieldl worker Enid Kassner of the
Food Research and Action Center
(FRAC), an activist group in
Washington, D.C. At centers such
as those run by the Salvation Ar-
my,- where a hot, nutritious lun-
ch is available to seniors for un-
der a dollar - the elderly take
home part of the food not for a

snack, but, as one worker put it,
"because it later becomes din-
ner."
- Millions of pregnant women
and infant children - perhaps
the most vulnerable of the under-
fed - receive help through the
federal Women, Infants and
Children (WIC) supplemental
food program. WIC is a success
story and an important nutrition
source for the 2.5 million women
who receive it, say food experts.
But waiting lists are long; the
Agriculture Department
estimates that 9 million women
qualify. And WIC is not likely to
be expanded; indeed, the
program only recently survived a
Reagan administration attempt
to cut it back.
- While surveys have shown
that most of the 22 million
Americans who receive food
stamps plan menus carefully and
are wise shoppers for their
dollar, there is evidence that
many recipient families still are
coming up short. According to the
Department of Agriculture, the
average food stamp benefit per
perosn was 48 cents per meal in
April 1983.
Early results from an in-
progress study by FRAC, based
on questionnaires distributed
through 21 urban and rural food
distribution centers in Pen-
nsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Texas
and other states, indicate that
growing numbers of food stamp
families must turn to emergency
community pantries by the end of
the month.
In addition, many in need of
nutrition aid don't qualify for
food stamps, says Enid Kassner.
Owning a car worth more than
$4,500, for instance, disqualified
an applicant, but a car is usually
necessary for job-searching, and
an unemployed person may be
unwilling or unable to sell it.
McConahay wrote this article
for the Pacific News Service.

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