Let All Who Are Hungry Come and Eat
As the deadline approaches for Congress to reauthorize billions of dollars to support vital child nutrition programs, the JCPA, along with interfaith partners, child and anti-hunger advocates, school children, and Members of Congress held a Child Nutrition Seder today in Washington, D.C. Based on the traditional Passover Seder to encourage, the JCPA created a special Haggadah to explain the plight of hungry children in American and to encourage Members of Congress to quickly reauthorize and strengthen the Child Nutrition Act.
Advocating for the Freedom of Others
This week's Confronting Poverty is written by the JCPA's Rabbinical Fellow Ilana Foss:
The Maggid (storytelling) section of the Passover seder begins with raising the matza and reciting: "This is the bread of poverty and persecution that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry, come and eat. Let all who are in need, come and share the Pesach meal. This year we are still here- next year, in the land of Israel. This year we are still slaves, next year free people." The celebration of Passover is filled with contrasts: freedom and enslavement, bitter herbs and sweet charoset, life in Egypt and life as desert wanderers. This passage from the haggadah emphasizes some of these opposing themes. We say we are slaves, but we live in America, a country of tremendous freedoms. What then does it mean to say those words and to celebrate Passover when at least in a physical sense, we are free people?
Living in a Food Desert
Americans are increasingly learning about the importance of eating healthy meals by incorporating more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains in to their diets. The message of locavores has become quite the food trend in the U.S. as more and more Americans spend their weekends shopping at farmers markets and working in community gardens. But in some neighborhoods these options are completely unavailable. Fast food restaurants outnumber organic grocers and farmers markets- meaning a certain number of Americans live in "food deserts".
A food desert is defined as a district with little or no access to foods needed to maintain a healthy diet but are often served by plenty of fast food restaurants. Food deserts exist primarily in densely populated minority neighborhoods. For example experts consider half of Detroit, one of the cities hardest hit by the recent recession, a food desert. 633,000 residents of Chicago, almost a fifth of the population, live in a food desert. People eat what is affordable and readily available to them. Millions of people throughout the U.S., often low-income minorities, have few accessible and affordable healthy food options leading to chronically unhealthy diets. The prevalence of obesity in young Americans increased to 16.3% in 2006, from 5% in 1980. These statistics are more troubling when cross-tabulated with race: 28% of African-American females ages 12-19 years-old are obese. This is compared to 20% of Mexican-Americans and 14.5% of non-Hispanic white girls of the same age. Undoubtedly, limited access to healthy foods must be a factor in these statistics.
New Approaches to Ending Homelessness in America
Trying to define homelessness in America is a difficult task. It could be the moderate-income family who faces tough times and had their house foreclosed. Homelessness could be the Iraq war veteran who returns from service only to find that he only has friends' couches to sleep on. It could be the mentally ill grandmother who has fallen through the system and now sleeps in shelters. Or the single mom who tucks her children in each night in the back seat of their mini-van.
According to the most recent data, in January 2005 an estimated 744,313 people experienced chronic homelessness in America. 41% were families. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, over 5 million low-income households have serious housing problems due to high housing costs, substandard housing conditions, or both. It is likely that the 2005 figure has increased significantly with the recent foreclosure crisis and the recession.
Securing Our Children's Future Through Healthy Eating
On February 9th First Lady Michelle Obama took her message of healthy eating out of the White House garden and into our schools. Surrounded by business, medical, and political leaders, celebrity athletes, Cabinet members, her husband, and of course, children, Michelle Obama launched the Let's Move initiative - a program that will receive $1 billion a year in funding over the next 10 years to help American children live healthier lives and combat childhood obesity.
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