BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company… “A Place at the Table”

KRISTI JACOBSON: When we were making this film we traveled all over the country and again and again met people who were working and trying to make ends meet but were not able to put food on the table.

MARIANA CHILTON: There's no opportunity for people who are low income to really engage in our democracy. And I think that they're actively shut out as well.

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BILL MOYERS: Welcome. The summer blitz of blockbuster movies has arrived. Super heroes or lesser mortals with excellent motor skills are here to save the Earth from: super villains, asteroids, aliens or other disasters, natural in nature but probably induced by global warming.

Yes, it’s another summer of excess and escapism with the thrills and chills of Hollywood scaring us down to our popcorn, yet always with a happy ending. Meanwhile, back here in the real world, where we actually live, the best film of the summer isn’t an epic tale of horror or adventure but an eye-opening, heart-moving and mind-expanding reminder that millions of people in this richest country in the world, working men and women and their children, don't have enough to eat. The film’s called “A Place at the Table” and it's one of the best documentaries I've seen in years.

Almost fifty million Americans -- one in six -- receive food stamps. And yet recently, the House of Representatives wrestled over a farm bill because members of congress continued to fight over how many billions to slash from the food stamp program. In the end, they got the farm bill through by stripping food stamps out of it completely, to be voted on some other day. But once again we heard all the clichés about freeloaders who are undeserving of government help, playing the system and living large at the expense of taxpayers. This movie, “A Place At The Table” breaks those stereotypes apart and shows us that hunger hits hard at people who work hard to make a living. Don’t miss this one, its real life.

With me is Kristi Jacobson, one of the film’s directors and producers. You’ve seen her work on public television, HBO, ABC, Lifetime, and other TV networks. Mariana Chilton is here too. She teaches public health at Drexel University and is director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities. She’s also founder of Witnesses to Hunger, a group featured prominently in “A Place at the Table.”

In this excerpt from the film, we meet a rancher and a police officer in Colorado, each struggling to make ends meet. Believe it or not, they have to rely on the charitable food programs sponsored by the church of a local minister, Pastor Bob Wilson.

ADAM APPELHANZ in A Place at the Table: About a month ago we had three officers, including myself, but however, due to budget constraints we’re now down to just me. It was always kind of a prideful thing that I never needed anybody’s help. Unfortunately, I haven’t received a pay raise in four years and what I used to spend on a month in groceries now gets me about two weeks.

I have utilized Pastor Bob’s food bank. The way it makes me feel, it’s, it’s very humiliating. Well I correct that; it’s not humiliating, it’s very grounding. The stereotype of food banks is always for the unemployed or the disabled, people that can’t go out and get a job. That’s not always the case. Sometimes in life you just get to points where you need a little extra help.

JOEL in A Place at the Table: Ranching is a good part of life. It’s a lot of work but it’s an honest, actually, it’s an honest trade. But the way the economy and everything has gone south, I have had to go find another job out of the house. So I work on the ranch from 7:00 in the morning till 3:00 in the afternoon and then at 3:00 in the afternoon till 11:00 at night I go down and clean the school.

It’s a good job. It’s close to home. There’s a lot that you worry about. Your kids is the main one and that’s part of the reason I did take a second job, is so I can help buy groceries and put food on the table for my kids.

Come on dogs…

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to you both.

MARIANA CHILTON: Thank you for having us.


BILL MOYERS: So, a cop who doesn't make enough money to meet all of his food needs and a cowboy who has to take two jobs to help feed his children, are they truly representative or was this just a filmmaker's good luck?

KRISTI JACOBSON: Sadly they're not the exception, in fact they're very representative. When we were making this film we traveled all over the country and again and again met people who were working and trying to make ends meet but were not able to put food on the table. So I think what the sort of filmmaker's luck or hard work paid off in that these are people who might not be willing to share their story.

But we filmed in Collbran because it was a town where the pastor, Bob, was working really hard to remove that stigma that people feel around, around admitting and then getting help. And so that helped us because we were welcomed into the community.

And you know, I remember the first time I met the police chief and I met him first on the phone and then in person and I thought he's probably not going to share this story on-camera, but it's still important to understand. And then he said, "Absolutely." And that was really, really I think a victory for the film in that we were able to show this very important group that are experiencing hunger and food insecurity but that are not, it's very hidden.

BILL MOYERS: What do you take from their stories? Because you worked with a totally different population.

MARIANA CHILTON: I'm not so sure they're that different, that's the thing. I think that when you were saying before about stereotypes I think that in the press and our legislators have a certain stereotype about who's poor and who's not and this concept of the deserving poor. But the women that I work with through Witnesses to Hunger are very hardworking.

They're excellent mothers, excellent parents. They want the best for their kids. They're often working two or three jobs. Sometimes they'll have to work under the table in order to make ends meet, trying to find side jobs. They're hustling really hard.

And I see the police chief, I see the cowboy who's also taking on that second job. What I see is common among then is a loss of dignity in the work. You can actually work full time and your family is still hungry? There's a very big problem in this country that we are not valuing hard work like we used to.

BILL MOYERS: There's a young woman in the film who says quote, "Hunger could be right next door and you would never know because people are too afraid to talk about it." Why are people afraid to talk about it, Dr. Chilton?

MARIANA CHILTON: Well, I think there's an enormous amount of shame that goes, especially when… I work with moms of little children, young children. And there's an enormous amount of shame that they experience that they, may run out of money before they can get more food. And it really tests their sense of motherhood, their sense of citizenship, of belonging. And it's very isolating. And I think that when the moms that I speak with, they talk about when they were children they, too, were hungry and they were always told, "Don't talk about it. Don't let anybody know how hard it is. Always put on a good face. Always look good," you know, it’s about being able to be in the world and be treated with a sense of dignity and respect. So they would often hide their own experiences of hunger or hide the experience that they can't feed their own children.

BILL MOYERS: Do we sometimes pass hunger down as a legacy to the next generation?

MARIANA CHILTON: Oh yes, we do. It gets transferred from generation to generation. Now, it also happens that during an economic downturn when there are not enough good paying jobs of course hunger will skyrocket. But I think that when people don't realize that hunger is very damaging to children, to, especially to young children. Food insecurity affects the cognitive, social and emotional growth of very young children.

That means that by the time they arrive to kindergarten they're not ready for school. That means that when they're in school if they're hungry they won't be able to concentrate on what they're learning and they won't do as well on their math and their reading tests. That means they won't be as successful, won't get a good paying job so that when they have children they, too, will be poor. So poverty is an experience that's really seared into the bodies and brains of children.

BILL MOYERS: What happens to someone who gets too little nutrition early in life?

MARIANA CHILTON: Oh, it's extremely important. If you think about what's happening in the first three years of life the brain is growing so fast. They're the most important years of human development. So every moment those are the building blocks of good cognitive, social and emotional development. Neurons are growing and pruning and very active. 700 neurons are growing a second for an infant. It’s an important window of human development.

So any type of nutritional depravation during this time has a severe impact on the brain even if it's just episodic, even if it happens once or twice a month those are moments of lost opportunity to be able to interact with their family and their environment, to pay attention and to learn something new which helps to grow more neurons.

So again it affects the cognitive, social and emotional development. It creates a certain kind of a stress on the child that's very toxic. And we know that children who experience that kind of toxic stress can't learn as well, can't learn as fast. And you can turn that around with food assistance programs, with a program called WIC, Women, Infants and Children or the food stamp program. The best investment of our dollars in this country is investing in very young children and their families because again those are the most important times when a child’s brain is growing. So for every one dollar that you spend on a child you make seven dollars back when they become an adolescent. It's a beautiful investment.

BILL MOYERS: Kristi has a remarkable profile, portrait in the film of a young girl named, I think her name's Rosie…

ROSIE in A Place at the Table: Okay, mine is about this um goddess or Queen. Her husband died and he gave half of his kingdom to the Romans and… LESLIE NICHOLS A Place at the Table: Hunger definitely impacts my classroom. I have had students come to me upset and it’s definitely a huge issue in our small community. […]One student in particular, Rosie, I just really felt she wasn’t really applying herself in the classroom and I couldn’t figure out where that attitude was coming from. […] And what I realized when I brought her in one day was the main issue was that she was hungry.

ROSIE in A Place at the Table: I struggle a lot and most of the time it’s because my stomach is really hurting. My teacher tells me to get focused and she told me to write focus on my little sticker and every time I look at it and I’m like oh I’m supposed to be focusing. I start yawning and then I zone out and I’m just looking at the teacher and I look at her and all I think about is food. So I have these little visions in my eyes. Sometimes when I look at her I vision her as a banana so she goes like a banana and everybody in the class is like apples or oranges and then I’m like, oh, great.

BILL MOYERS: Tell me about Rosie.

KRISTI JACOBSON: Rosie is an incredible young girl. And I think that what struck me so much about Rosie is that her story sort of embodied, everything about this issue which is that while she's experiencing this hunger and food insecurity it's affecting her self-esteem, it's affecting her ability to learn which is very upsetting. But at the same time she has this incredible spirit which gives you this, you know some feeling of hope and inspiration. So she's just an incredible young girl.

BILL MOYERS: And that story is replicated in your experience?

MARIANA CHILTON: Oh, very much so, very common. I think that-- you know, I think-- again I work with families that have very young children. And I've been watching the development of the children over time. And some are really doing just so beautifully, very dear, full of light and so much potential. And I think what people forget is that, you think you can somehow see hunger, you can't look at Rosie and see oh, she's hungry. So where do you see it? You see it in school performance, their ability to get along with others, their ability to pay attention for children of school age.


MARIANA CHILTON: And attendance. But also for really young children where do you see it? You see it in the increased hospitalizations, showing up more to the emergency room when they don't-- with preventable diseases, or preventable exacerbation of asthma.

This, you know, if we could think about poverty during childhood as a type of a disease, if we could pay as much attention to poverty for children as we pay attention to infectious disease we might be able to do something in this country.

BILL MOYERS: I was struck again about how important a teacher like Leslie Nichols is to a child, like Rosie just as you are to the people you work with. They can make a difference, can't they?

MARIANA CHILTON: Oh, they can. I think oftentimes they're first responders because they're the ones who are seeing how well the children are doing. They're with those kids moment to moment and seeing whether they're taking in the information or not.

KRISTI JACOBSON: And they're making such-- sorry, they're making such-- a difference. And in-- in the case of Leslie Nichols, you know, she had this added-- you know, her own personal experience with hunger enabled her to recognize that it was hunger that was causing the problems in Rosie.

While other teachers might think you've got a behavioral problem or you're just-- you know, you're a difficult one. So I think it's important to also empower teachers who are in a position to really help these young kids overcome some of these obstacles by recognizing that hunger is something we need to address.

BILL MOYERS: The film makes dramatically clear the relationship between malnutrition and obesity.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Step up on there. Step up on the table right there and I’ll be with you in just a second. What grade you in?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: Second.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Second? You’re in the second grade? How old are you?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: Fixing to be eight.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Fixing to be eight… Alright. And you’ve got asthma? Okay. Do you ever have problems with shortness of breath when you’re outside playing or anything?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: I have to stop playing to take a deep breath.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Okay. What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: I didn’t eat.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: You didn’t eat breakfast this morning? Okay. When you get home in the afternoon do you eat a snack? What do you eat?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: Chips.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Chips? What else, baby? What do you drink?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: Pop.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Pops. Okay. Do you have any other snacks besides chips you could eat?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: Cookies.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Kisses?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: Cookies.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Cookies. Cookies and chips, okay... Well maybe you could ask mom to start buying you some – some carrots and some celery and maybe some apples. You could slice some apples up; that’d be good, hm?

RAJ PATEL in A Place at the Table: A lot of people think there is a yarning gap between hunger on the one end and obesity on the other. In fact, they’re neighbors and the reason that they happen often at the same time and often in the same family, in the same person is because they are both signs of having insufficient funds to be able to command food that you need to, to stay healthy.


MARION NESTLE in A Place at the Table: If you look at what has happened to the relative price of fresh fruits and vegetables it’s gone up by 40 percent since 1980 when the obesity epidemic first began.

In contrast, the relative price of processed foods has gone down by about 40 percent. So if you only have a limited amount of money to spend you’re going to spend it on the cheapest calories you can get and that’s going to be processed foods. This has to do with our farm policy and what we subsidize and what we don’t.

BILL MOYERS: Help me understand the connection between hunger and obesity.

MARIANA CHILTON: Hunger and obesity are both forms of malnutrition.


MARIANA CHILTON: Meaning not, it means not getting the right kinds of nutrients for an active and healthy life. If you go back to the definition of food insecurity it means having enough food for an active and healthy life. So when people think about hunger they think, "Oh, it's just not enough food." But actually food insecurity which is a much broader term, much more precise, captures that type of experience where families don't have enough money for healthy and fresh food so they will, in order to stretch their dollar, they'll spend it on soda or on foods that have very high calories. Because they know that their kids are hungry, they have to be able to stretch their dollar in order to fill their own tummies and the tummies of their children.

They know it's not healthy, but they're just trying to figure out what the immediate, the immediacy of hunger. So they eat lots of high calories, salt, sodium. Those are the kinds of things that are not good for an active and healthy life. It's another form of hunger. So you can look at people who are overweight and obese and think maybe they don't have enough money for food, maybe they're anxious about where their next meal is coming from.

BILL MOYERS: You say in the film that there are 50 million people, one in six who are food insecure, who do not have enough good nutrition to thrive.

KRISTI JACOBSON: It's shocking that here in the wealthiest nation on earth we have this many people who do not have either access to healthy foods or nor can they afford it. And you know, I think that we need to look at-- and what we wanted to do with this film is not just say, "Look, here's a portrait of hungry people," but to look at why we have such a large problem, a big problem here in this country.

BILL MOYERS: What does it say that one out of every two kids in this country at some point in their childhood as I learned from your film will be on food assistance, one out of two?

KRISTI JACOBSON: I see a country in crisis. And it's a crisis that we need to address and we need political leadership and policies that tackle this problem dead on. And when we were making the film we looked to a film that aired on CBS in 1968 called “Hunger in America.”

CBS NARRATOR in Hunger in America: Food is the most basic of human needs.

KRISTI JACOBSON: That showed the nation shocking conditions and children that were starving right.

CBS NARRATOR in Hunger in America: But man can’t remain alive without food. We’re talking about ten million Americans. In this country, the most basic human need must become a human right.

KRISTI JACOBSON: And citizens reacted. And what they did though and part of this had to do with the reporting at the time, was they demanded legislative response. They demanded that their politicians take responsibility and address the problem. And I think that today we have, you know, every maybe once a year around the holidays there are portraits of the hungry in America.

But instead of pointing to political solutions they're often pointing to a charitable response as the solution. And I think that is a really also significant cause for how we have gotten to the point where one in six are food insecure.

BILL MOYERS: You have a sequence in the film that drives home the reliance on charity and the conclusion that it's not enough. Let's take a look at that.

JOEL BERG in A Place at the Table: The 80’s created the myth that A. hungry people deserved it and B. well we could really fill in the gaps with the charities.

JANET POPPENDIECK in A Place at the Table: And so we had a proliferation of emergency responses, soup kitchens, food pantries moving from literally a shelf in the cupboard of the pastor’s office to an operation with regular hours.

LARRY BROWN in A Place at the Table: Something changed during that period of time. There developed this ethos that government was doing too much and more importantly, the private sector is wonderful and let’s feed people through charity.

JANET POPPENDIECK in A Place at the Table: We have basically created a kind of secondary food system for the poor in this country. Millions and millions of Americans, as many as 50 million Americans, rely on charitable food programs for some part of meeting their basic food needs.


MARIANA CHILTON in A Place at the Table: That’s something that’s extremely important. The churches and the community groups that do hand out food are doing an incredible service to this country and to the children that are experiencing hunger, but that’s just a quick fix, that’s for today and tomorrow and maybe for next week. We call it emergency food? It’s no longer emergency food. This is called chronic use of a broken system for which people cannot be held accountable.


JEFF BRIDGES in A Place at the Table: Charity is a great thing, but it’s not the way to end hunger. We don’t fund our Department of Defense through charity, you know. We shouldn’t, you know, see that our kids are healthy through charity either.

BILL MOYERS: So Americans responded with "a thousand points of light" in the first Bush administration. But you say it's not enough?

KRISTI JACOBSON: Well, it's not enough because despite all of that, despite all the money that's being raised, despite the food drives, despite the proliferation of these food banks and soup kitchens we still have 50 million people who are food insecure.

And what we've found both during the making of the film and in fact since showing the film, you know, food bank directors repeatedly sharing with us, you know, "We can't do this alone. We need government to play its role." Because it should be an emergency food system, as Mariana says in the film. And it should be complementing government programs that really address the needs of the most vulnerable.

MARIANA CHILTON: I would like to really draw your attention to the impact that the emergency food system has compared to the government food assistance programs. What emergency food can do is about this much, about 5 percent of dealing with the problem, this much. What does the federal government do with the nutrition assistance? Food stamps or SNAP it's called, WIC, Women, Infants and Children, school breakfast and school lunch, after school feeding programs.

Those programs we know make a tangible difference in the health and wellbeing of children and adults. So we know that if families are receiving food stamps or SNAP Benefits their cognitive, social and emotional development is better. We know that they're less likely to be hospitalized.

The same thing goes for WIC. We also know that WIC can reduce the stress that moms often feel when they're a new mom and they're very poor. So these programs we know have a tangible public health impact. There's no research that shows what kind of impact the emergency food system is having. We know that when about 30 million children are being fed every day in this country through school breakfast and school lunch, that is magnificent. And those kinds of programs need to be protected and to be promoted.

BILL MOYERS: Our conversation will continue in a moment, but first, this is pledge time on Public Television and we’re taking a short break so you can show your support for the programming you see right here on this station.


BILL MOYERS: For those of you still with us … as we’ve seen, it’s not easy making sure our neediest get the food their minds and bodies need. Several years ago, we visited an urban garden and farmers market in the East New York neighborhood of New York City. It provides nutritious, healthy produce to community residents who otherwise must travel miles to the nearest supermarket. And even there the choices may be scarce. Watch and listen…

BILL MOYERS on Bill Moyers Journal: The East New York section of Brooklyn is a cornucopia of fast and cheap food. […]

WOMAN on Bill Moyers Journal: The market is open!

BILL MOYERS on Bill Moyers Journal: But each Saturday, the East New York farmers market offers some much needed relief.

VENDOR on Bill Moyers Journal: That’s very good. Right?

BILL MOYERS on Bill Moyers Journal: The market’s appetizing array of food comes from just outside the city and just around corner. From sweet to savory, land to sea--

DENNIS DAVE CARGILL on Bill Moyers Journal: This is a baby blue fish. This tastes excellent.

BILL MOYERS on Bill Moyers Journal: --People say it’s worth the wait.

CLAUDINA WILLIAMS on Bill Moyers Journal: It’s a different taste. When it’s fresh from the tree on the table, it’s delicious!

SARITA DAFTARY on Bill Moyers Journal: We have a great market, and you know, I think when people come and visit us, they're surprised that it's here. They're surprised that it's in East New York.

BILL MOYERS on Bill Moyers Journal: Sarita Daftary heads up the market, started ten years ago by the non-profit United Community Centers. It’s been a welcome source of pride – and nutrients – in a tough neighborhood better known for its crime stats than its crop yields.

SARITA DAFTARY on Bill Moyers Journal: Food that comes from the ground that is in its most whole form is much better for you than food that's processed, or packaged. And food that's grown by small scale farmers, and especially organic farmers, tends to be more nutritious.

BILL MOYERS on Bill Moyers Journal: Some of the freshest vegetables here were picked just hours ago from land a few short blocks away. Jeanette Ware has been gardening here for the past two years.

JEANETTE WARE on Bill Moyers Journal: We’re going to be harvesting some herbs, some oregano, some collard greens. Some string beans and some beets.

BILL MOYERS on Bill Moyers Journal: Jeanette and her husband James start each day in the dirt.

JEANETTE WARE on Bill Moyers Journal: It’s fun. It’s hard, but it’s fun. It gets your back hurting, but it’s good for your heart and it’s a good feeling. You are digging in the natural earth and you are producing something for everybody to enjoy and be healthy.

These are hot, you want some? These are twelve for a dollar.

BILL MOYERS on Bill Moyers Journal: For the Wares, what started as hobby has quickly turned into a small business. From their stand, they help fuel their community with home-grown vitamins, minerals and good cheer.

JEANETTE WARE on Bill Moyers Journal: Hello, I like that hat.

BILL MOYERS on Bill Moyers Journal: Hazel Smalls is on the hunt for organic produce.

HAZEL SMALLS on Bill Moyers Journal: We are pretty healthy eaters, so we are into a lot of fruits and vegetables. I usually get the frozen because they last longer, but once I found out about the market here I said, let me check it out. I can always take the collared greens, clean them, cut them up and freeze them.

BILL MOYERS on Bill Moyers Journal: Hazel keeps an eye on what her daughter eats. Fortunately, Cheyenne prefers pears to junk food.

CHEYENNE SMALLS on Bill Moyers Journal: My mother lets me eat candy only like Saturday, or just Saturday, because she doesn’t want me to get diabetes, because it’s very painful so I know that I don’t want to eat too much candy.

BILL MOYERS on Bill Moyers Journal: Many of the chronic diseases that plague the country today – like diabetes – are linked to diet. Unfortunately, East New Yorkers know this all too well. […]One in six adults here suffers from diabetes – that’s nearly twice the New York City average. Nearly one out of three is obese. The primary cause of premature death here is heart disease. Over the past ten years, hospitalization for the condition has increased by 35 percent. So food here can be a simple matter of life and death, and people like Claudina Williams need the market for food that won’t make them sick.

CLAUDINA WILLIAMS on Bill Moyers Journal: You have to find it, it doesn’t matter how much it costs because that’s your health.

BILL MOYERS on Bill Moyers Journal: Claudina uses coupons to help ease the expense of eating right. A number of states, including New York, encourage low-income people to shop at farmers markets by accepting food stamps and distributing free food vouchers to senior citizens and moms.

SARITA DAFTARY on Bill Moyers Journal: People in low-income communities, people everywhere deserve the same quality of life, a great quality of life


ANNOUNCER: We now continue with Moyers & Company…

BILL MOYERS: There's a young woman in the film, Barbie Izquierdo. She was a year looking for a job. She had food stamps while she was doing so. Then she got work. And yet as a result of getting work she no longer qualified for food stamps or subsidized childcare and her children could therefore no longer receive breakfast or lunch at daycare.

BARBIE IZQUIERDO in A Place at the Table: Anyone can sit there and tell you I’ve been through this, I’ve been through that, I got through it. Yes, I’ve been through this, I’ve been through that, I got through it, but if you’re open my fridge I’m there again. Five days into the month. And I’m going to be there next month and the month after that. It gets tiring.

When I was on food stamps I didn’t have to worry about my kids not eating. It was just how can I make it stretch, you know… I might have to take a little bit from this day. It was more about balancing everything where now we have nothing.

I literally have nothing left. Like I’m going to give them a Hot Pocket for dinner tomorrow like what am I supposed to do? What do I give them?

BILL MOYERS: What's happening there?

MARIANA CHILTON: First of all stress. Stress is very damaging to moms and kids. Secondly, you also see Barbie having the sandwich away from her kids.

So you have moms that will often scrimp on their own diets in order to feed their children. But what you see overall, the big picture there is that Barbie was working full time in those moments and therefore became ineligible for food assistance.

So what they-- what you see is what we call in the research world the cliff effect. So if a family makes just enough money to get themselves over the lip of whatever the income limit is they'll lose benefits that are actually very helpful to them and to their own children and to their health. So you can have a family kind of going up and up and say, "Oh, I'm going to take that extra-- I'm going to get a raise," or, "I'll work overtime."

They work just enough to fall over the cliff, lose their benefits and then they're worse off than where they were before. So we have a really big problem in this country with the way that we are looking at our wages and our public assistance programs and how they're interacting with each other.

KRISTI JACOBSON: And that scene was one of the most difficult to film. And both because of just, you know, the pain that Barbie was feeling and allowing us to capture, but also as filmmakers Barbie had gotten the full time job and so we thought this is the end of the film and--

BILL MOYERS: The arc of the story.

KRISTI JACOBSON: Exactly. And when this happened we were devastated for Barbie and thought what is this going to do to the story? Well, of course as filmmakers we have to follow the story. And I remember the conversation that we had with Mariana where we were talking about this and we were worried that it wasn't representative and then learned this is in fact so representative and a really important problem to expose. Because we need for these programs, if we're going to have them and we're going to fund them which is a different issue, they should be meeting the needs of the people who are using and benefiting from the programs.

MARIANA CHILTON: And in our research we know that food stamps do help to prevent hospitalizations, they do promote health, it does help. But the type of allotment is called the Thrifty Food Plan. The way that the government calculates how much an adequate meal or an adequate sort of thrifty food basket costs is actually inadequate for a healthy diet. So even if you have families that are receiving the maximum allotment, as if they had no other income, they still can't make ends meet.

BILL MOYERS: There's a nice twist in the film. When you're reporting on what it's like to live on food stamps and you have an interview with Representative James McGovern of Massachusetts who did his own research, as you do, into the subject.

REP. JAMES MCGOVERN in A Place at the Table: I lived on a food stamp diet for a week along with Jo Ann Emerson from Missouri. We did so because we thought that the food stamp benefit was inadequate. Most of my colleagues had no idea that the average food stamp benefit was $3 a day.

I had my budget and I went to a supermarket and it took me an awful long time because you have to add up every penny and it has to last you for a week. And so I did it and I will tell you I, I was tired, I was cranky because I couldn’t drink coffee because coffee was too expensive. I mean there are people who are living on that food stamp allocation. And you really can’t. For us it was an exercise that ended in a week. For millions of other people in this country that’s their way of life; every day is a struggle just to eat.

KRISTI JACOBSON: Sadly Representative McGovern is one of few leaders and voices in Congress pushing to do the right thing here which is to protect and improve food stamps and other government programs.

He's an incredible leader, but he is even having trouble getting his members of his own party to support his efforts to protect these programs. And that's really troubling and upsetting.

BILL MOYERS: The road to reform always leads to Washington. And there almost every reform whether it's the environment or whether it's agriculture or food hits up against the power of big money to write the laws it wants and influence the politicians it needs. You found that to be the case, didn't you?

KRISTI JACOBSON: Yes, I think that, you know, I believe, and I don't think naively, that we Americans should be able to influence how our politicians vote on these issues. That's not happening right now. And the problem with this issue is that you don't always-- it's not so obvious necessarily how a politician is voting when it comes to programs that address food insecurity.

BILL MOYERS: There was a poll taken I think in connection with your film that found the majority of Americans actually were surprised to hear that 50 million people don't know where their next meal is coming from. And many of those polled just don't think of hunger as a pressing issue. Given your work on this how do you explain it?

MARIANA CHILTON: There's this concept that you can somehow see hunger, that we would know that there are hungry children if they were fishing around in the garbage can or if there were flies coming or they had swollen bellies and, you know, limp on the sidewalk. But that's not what hungry children look like. We don't see that in the United States. You might see that's severe starvation when you're dealing in times of war and massive drought.

BILL MOYERS: Somalia, the Congo, Sudan, all…

MARIANA CHILTON: So in the United States there-- it's children like Rosie who light up the room when they come in. It's moms like Barbie Izquierdo who's beautifully spoken, so brilliant. Her children are funny and enjoyable. And yet they're still experiencing food insecurity and hunger. So I think people are actually shocked "Well, I don't see it, so it can't be real." And they don't believe the numbers.

But what it is happening underneath is a massive crisis in human potential in the United States. Our kids are showing up to school not ready to learn. When they're in school they can't concentrate. You have kids who are food insecure when they're adolescents. They're suffering with stress and suicidal ideation. That's what we find in our research. How can we--

BILL MOYERS: Suicide ideation?

MARIANA CHILTON: Suicidal ideation, so it's thinking about, "Oh, what does it matter that I live?" It's thinking about killing yourself. These are very depressing and stressful experiences to experience hunger, to see your parents struggling with that and to struggle yourself.

So when you-- what's happening is that we are developing a whole half of the country overall is really left out of the public dialog. They are underpaid, undervalued, unhealthy. And we can prevent this kind of-- and we can prevent this.

That's why I think it's so important, what's so exciting about what Witnesses to Hunger is trying to accomplish is to make sure that people who know the experience of hunger and poverty firsthand are a part of the national dialog, that they're not silenced, they're not short of shamed over off in the corner, that they're actually front and center. They're the ones who can turn it around.

So we have to take back our democracy, be more engaged. And I think that a lot of people sort of in the middle who haven't struggled with hunger or poverty think, "Oh, we'll just let the government handle it. They must be doing the right thing," and, "There's no hunger," that's just called disengagement. We've got a big problem in our country with being engaged about what our politicians are actually doing for us.

BILL MOYERS: So you've tried to engage them. Let's take a look in the film at a very interesting sequence.

BARBIE IZQUIERDO in A Place at the Table: Everybody say, “Washington.”

WITNESSES TO HUNGER in A Place at the Table: Washington.

MARIANA CHILTON in A Place at the Table: Here’s the plan; at 11:30 the reception at the Senate. Senator Casey will speak, I will speak, Tianna will speak, Barbie will speak and every time that you have an opportunity give your ideas for change, for what you need for the success and healthy life of your kids, okay? These guys are the ones who make it happen.

BARBIE IZQUIERDO in A Place at the Table: I was the first mother of Witnesses to Hunger and I didn’t think anyone would take us seriously. But I’m here to let everyone know that just because we live where we live and come from where we come from doesn’t mean that we’re not smart. Doesn’t mean that we don’t have potential. Doesn’t mean that we do not want education. Doesn’t mean that we want to depend on welfare for the rest of our lives. I want the same hopes and dreams as everyone in this room for their children. We just need the opportunity to make it come true.

BILL MOYERS: Did they listen?

MARIANA CHILTON: I think they listened a little bit. They felt it a little bit. But it's not long enough, you can't just go to Congress and talk to legislators one time and they'll get it.

I think it's really hard to break through the cloud over our legislators. I'm not really sure who they're listening to except for people who have a lot of money and a lot of influence. So I think they're very touched by the personal experiences of a person who's poor, especially from a mom.

So I've actually seen Senate staffers get very teary-eyed listening to these stories and they say, "Oh, keep telling your stories, keep telling you think stories." But then they'll turn around and vote to cut food stamps. And that doesn't make a lot of sense. So I'm wondering who is it that's influencing Congress? Who's got their thumb on what Congress can do? And I think that there's just not enough people who are poor who have an opportunity to speak out.

I don't think they get enough press, they don't have, they're sort of shut out, there's no opportunity for people who are low income to really engage in our democracy. And I think that they're actively shut out as well.

BILL MOYERS: So bear with me though as I put on my horns and play devil's advocate. There are a lot of Americans who think that we're spending too much on food stamps and that the cost is out of hand. Your poll associated with your film suggests that last year alone the government spent $81 billion on this nutritional safety net as you call it, now SNAP, what we used to know as food stamps. And some folks say that is simply way too much and that we're creating a culture of dependency.

Here's Representative, Republican Representative Steven King of Iowa.

REP. STEVE KING: Handing out benefits is not an economic stimulator. But we want to take care of the people that are needy, the people that are hungry, and we’ve watched this program grow from a number that I think I first memorized when I arrived here in Congress, about 19 million people, now about 49 million people. And it appears to me that the goal of this administration is to expand the rolls of people that are on SNAP benefits. And their purpose for doing so in part is because of what the gentleman has said from Massachusetts. Another purpose for that though is just to simply expand the dependency class.

MARIANA CHILTON: All right, well, first of all I'm a researcher, so I like to base things on empirical evidence. There is no evidence that the food stamp program creates dependency.

Let me show you what this congressperson is doing. Basically they're pinning the problems that we have in this country on people who are poor. If you think about people who are poor really-- you have 80 percent of people who are food insecure are actually working. That means their wages are so low that they're eligible for food stamps.

So you want to talk about dependency in this country? Let's talk about corporations and businesses that pay such low wages that they depend on the United States government to add money to those wages through the Income Assistance Programs, like SNAP. So because if you take a company like Walmart, pays their workers so low that their workers are actually eligible for food stamps. Who's dependent on the U.S. government? I'd have to say it's Walmart is the welfare queen here.

BILL MOYERS: But if I were Congressman King sitting here I might say to you make a very convincing case and I believe that both of you are genuinely committed to this issue, but you know, 48 million people are receiving food stamps. Can't you see why some of my constituents in Iowa would be shocked by that and at that cost?

KRISTI JACOBSON: Well, I think it's also important to look at how many corporations and agribusinesses are collecting subsidies out of the same government bill, the farm bill.

And I think that there is an ethos in Congress right now that assisting those individuals who need help via the food stamp program or WIC or school meals is big government and is going to put us into debt. But providing subsidies to large agribusinesses and big corporations is just business as usual.

And I think that we're looking at, you know, investing in our youth and investing in our future. And if it doesn't get to you, congressman, from the moral point of view that it's really frankly not okay to have kids like Rosie and Barbie's kids to the tune of 17 million of them in our nation-- well, what about the cost of not doing anything? Because the cost of food insecurity, the cost of obesity and malnutrition is way larger on the back end and the health care than it is to get these programs adequately funded and feed kids nutritious foods.

MARIANA CHILTON: If you think about what government is supposed to be doing, it's supposed to create the conditions in which people can make healthy choices and live an active and healthy life.

It's all about creating good conditions for us to prosper, right.

Somehow when we think about helping people who are poor, many of whom are working, it's there becomes this type of societal vitriol towards people who are poor as if they're not us. Well, actually people who are poor are all around us. Their children are going to the same schools oftentimes. We need to really rethink about who we are as a country, what does it mean to be an American. If you think about one in five of our children living in households that are food insecure, they're just as American as the rest of us, we need to really invest in our own country and who we are.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, I was actually present when President Johnson signed-- the Food Stamp Act into law in 1964 before your time obviously. It was only-- the whole bill was only eight pages long and the first year's budget was $75 million. And its purpose I'm going to quote it for you, was quote, "To raise levels of the nutrition among low income households and to permit those households with no incomes to receive a greater share of a nation's food abundance." But as you make clear in the film it's not doing that job all these years later although we're spending $81 million on it now. So what's essentially gone wrong?

KRISTI JACOBSON: We need to look-- as we did then look at the program as it was designed which was as you stated, as a nutrition program to address the nutritional needs of low income people who don't have access to healthy foods. That's what this program should be. And we should be doing everything in our power to make that program work effectively.

And to do that I think we need to listen to people like Barbie and the Witnesses to Hunger. We could listen to Mariana also, but we need to listen to the people who are experiencing this and we need to revamp and reform the program while also adequately funding it.

BILL MOYERS: You've been to Washington with some of your constituents. You've made your case. You're up against the interlocking power grid of big agriculture, big corporations and big government. What makes you think you have a chance of turning them around?

MARIANA CHILTON: The power of the human spirit. When you have a lot of moms who have had enough we can take over Congress and say we care about our children just like you care about your children. But we need more moms, we need more families to be able to speak up. I think that we need to take over, take back our democracy, take back our sense of involvement, of belonging, that this is our government.

This government is supposed to be working for everyone regardless of how you were born or where you were born or how much money you make. It's supposed to work for all of us.

We've got to figure out a way to just help the people who are in power to recognize their own sense of humanity and recognize that they are no different than Barbie Izquierdo, no different than Rosie, that their kids are no different than Rosie, that we're all a part of that same human family. Ultimately that's what we need to tap into.

BILL MOYERS: On that note thank you, Dr. Mariana Chilton, for your work and Kristi Jacobson, thank you for an extraordinary film. And thank you both for being here.

MARIANA CHILTON: Thank you so much.


BILL MOYERS: That’s it for this week. I’ll see you here next time.

Encore: The Faces of America’s Hungry

July 31, 2013

Here in the richest country on earth, 50 million of us — one in six Americans — go hungry. More than a third of them are children. Debates on how to address hunger – in both Congress and the media — are filled with tired clichés about freeloaders undeserving of government help, living large at the expense of honest, hardworking taxpayers. But the documentary A Place at the Table paints a truer picture of America’s poor.

On an encore broadcast, Kristi Jacobson, one of the film’s directors and producers, and Mariana Chilton, director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities, join Bill to break these stereotypes apart and share how hunger hits hard at people from every walk of life.

“The cost of food insecurity, obesity and malnutrition is way larger than it is to feed kids nutritious food,” Jacobson tells Bill.

“There’s no opportunity for people who are low-income to really engage in our democracy,” says Chilton. “I think they’re actively shut out.”

Also on the show, Bill shares a short film that first aired on Bill Moyers Journal in 2008, telling the story of an urban garden and farmers market in the East New York neighborhood of New York City called East New York Farms! To this day, the project provides healthy produce to community residents who must otherwise travel miles to the nearest supermarket, and addresses food justice by promoting local sustainable agriculture and community-led economic development.

Producer: Candace White. Editor: Rob Kuhns. Associate Producer: Julia Conley.

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  • Suzanne Kelly

    what an important piece of documentary; few people realise the scale of the problem in America; thanks to Moyers and all those involved. Perhaps this is oversimplification on my part, but of a portion of the US defence budget went on feeding those who are working, but are unable (for a host of reasons) to feed their families, things could be improved dramatically and quickly.

  • Anonymous

    And/or a small percentage of the monies used to fight the so-called “War On Drugs”….

  • C. Krob

    Having traveled in Mexico for much of thirty years, it became clear that when police are not paid a living wage, corruption inevitably follows. It becomes a part of a corrupt society. It is a survival behavior pursuant to what the governing elites knowingly perpetrate.

  • Anonymous

    These are dedicated , compassionate women, to attempt to expose the injustices in our society. There are very few forums in mainstream media to discuss the real issues of what is going on. I dont have much faith in things getting better, to me the greed is too great out there, but it reinvigorates ones faith in humanity when someone puts their neck out to improve the lot of the less fortunate. The first step is to bring the issue out in the open

  • Anonymous

    The essence of a democracy is based on economic justice requiring adequate earning for a decent lifestyle, time to ponder the issues affecting peoples lives and time to participate meaningfully in the political process. The majority have lost that ability, making the system lopsidedly favoring very few at the apex of the Society. Recent evidence indicates deepening divide between the haves and the have nots with dire consequences for which the system does not have a solution.

  • dposell

    We should not be advocating for more food stamps or other government programs. We should be advocating for higher wages. Higher taxes will only put the money in the hands of the government. Higher wages will put the money in the hands of the workers so that they don’t need government assistance. There must be a way to force employers to share their profits instead of paying the lowest possible wage to their hard working, full time employees. Why isn’t this being discussed?

  • davidp

    On food nutrition, saw a doc on corn-feed beef animals and the meat they produce. Hamburger made from these animals is not really meat but a 60% fat content disguised as meat. The way corn is digested in the animal makes it this way, non-movement in the huge feeding lots, and after 120 days or so, they are subject to then comes the shots to counter-act the sickness and diseases.

  • AlabamaLawyer

    If we spent the money used by the NSA to hire contractors to spy on us to instead fund the Headstart Program, Free Breakfasts and Lunches to Needy students, SNAP program, and required Corporate America to pay working people a living wage, we’d move substantially forward to solve the hunger problem in America. I applaud these two ladies for their presentation.

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  • Elizabeth

    Mr. Moyers: Having just watched your program “The
    Faces of America’s Hungry”, I applaud your giving TV time to this pressing problem. I have had the personal experience of needing to rely on a church
    parish’s charity food program in order to get enough to eat. Although hunger in America is a very complex issue, I do not think enough attention is devoted to the appalling circumstance of our present agricultural system. Not only does it support the suffering of billions of animals in factory farms, it severely affects our health by (the now documented) significant contribution to the “western diseases” such as heart disease, stroke, many cancers, diabetes, and obesity. A way out of the dilemma would be to have an agricultural system support the growing of crops fed directly to human beings. It takes fifteen times the amount of grain to feed a cow to the point of slaughter as it does to feed a human being. Growing crops to feed people alone would solve the hunger problem in the world. I would suggest to mothers who are struggling to put food on the table for their children, that they obtain (many libraries have this) a copy of Ellen Jaffe Jones’
    “Eat Vegan on $4 a day: a game plan for the budget-conscious cook.” A diet of legumes, grains, vegetables, fruits, and seeds and nuts is
    optimal, and not beyond the reach of our nation’s poor.

  • Danielle

    Your show and the documentary failed to discuss the poor in the military that are also on military food stamps. It’s disgraceful that our federal government does not pay our military sufficiently and they are forced to use food stamps in order to feed their families.

  • Anonymous

    Well determine what the officials that you helped elect are actually doing to support effective nutrition programs. Consider what you would want if you, your parents, children, grand children needed help.

    Let them know what you want done and commit to notvoting for them

  • Robin L. Schwartz

    Actually they did discuss that in this very program. But do we allow Government to cut programs and add insult to injury with low wages and no food stamps? I am with you on the increase of wages…the idea is to lift people out of poverty and off of government assistance, not off of government assistance and into poverty as in the case of Barbie.

  • Anonymous

    I understand the need to focus on children in terms of appealing to people’s sympathy about hunger. However, adults are people too. I sometimes get the feeling that life is “all about the children” with no care whatsoever if you happen to be an adult. This is a bad message to send to our children, who are only a few years away from adulthood themselves. We are ALL equal and whenever I see reporting favoring one segment of society, I can’t help feel bad for all those people not given the same attention.

    This is a new age of enlightenment but we have to subscribe to it. We must all be vigilant in being as honest with ourselves and each other as we can. The truth will set us free.

  • Frank Barker

    I have faced this nearly my whole adult life. Working any job I could get and having work skills that surpassed many who were struggling just as hard as I was. At one point I had 3 jobs that I worked and it still wasn’t enough. The chasm between the have’s and have not’s has been ever widening. I had my family broken up and my children taken from me by the DSHS because others said they were abused because I was working so hard to feed them. As a result my children we raped and beaten and abused by others because they had been taken from a good and loving home. I had nobody to speak on the behalf of my wife and myself. The DSHS speaks for the well being of the child but impoverished parents have no voice at all in American Courts. The DSHS coaches children on what to say and carefully worded cohersion in court without any consideration of the parents to defend their family’s plight. I now have my kids back in my life because they know where they were and are loved. I lost most of their growing lives because of the system.
    I worked hard to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table but every time I was nearly out of the trouble, I watched corporations shut down the factories and plants at which I worked and lay me off during Thanksgiving and Christmas EVERY year. The Government espoused that all the poor people were buying booze and drugs with the money from the food stamps. The middle class bought into this too and it simply was not true. I now have retired on terrible retirement money. I get $4224.00 a YEAR for retirement. I have rarely made more than $7000.00 a year even when I was working! This has been an American Nightmare from which I cannot wake up. There has never been an American Dream that was ever attainable for me. I have become a master survivor on a world class order because of it. I eat one meal a day most times. I have never had a vacation since I left home after graduating High School. I couldn’t qualify for any kind of higher education programs so I could get a skill set that was more in line with what Corporate America needed. When I was able to qualify for one, I got a loan and a pel grant for $3000.00 grant and $3200.00 student loan. I put myself through Truck Driving School on it and got my CDL and a job. Then when I went to work in the industry I worked a year and a half and was finally making more than I had ever seen in my life. The company I was working for valued me and I felt good about my life again. Then they sold out the business to another company that fired everyone and put their own drivers to work. Again I was out of work and I had a student loan to pay back and I was thrown into default by the student loan department. They wouldn’t tell me where to pay my loan back when I had the job and when I became unemployed then they called me up and told me what a criminal I was and how I was trying to get out of paying. Then they defaulted me so I couldn’t change my situation in the future. No government agency will advocate for a defaulted student and you can’t talk to anyone to make any serious arrangements to pay it back. They want it ALL, NOW!! So I eventually found other work and tried to pay the loan back and it took me 8 months to chase down where my loan was and when I found it they moved it to a collection company and said they couldn’t take my money and they tacked a service charge on the loan of nearly $100.00 and this went on right up to today from 2002 to 2013 and they have taken back over $6000.00 on a $3200.00 loan by siezing my income tax refund from the work I did from 2002 to 2010. I got a new trucking job and they garnished my wages and got me fired from that and as a result they now say I owe $65.00 still left from the original loan and I am afraid to call them now to do anything about paying it because if I do they will move the loan again and add more to it as they have in the past. So I have to wait 5 more months till I get some bills paid off and then take the money and buy a certified money order so they can’t say they didn’t get it and mail it off to them so they have to sign and can’t play the money shuffle on me anymore. The whole system is rigged against anyone that tries to get ahead and we have NO VOICE! We have NO SYMPATHY! We are spat on and called lazy and druggies and leeches on the butt of society! Even now I can’t get out of my situation. All I need is a small pickup so I can get out and around to work and I can live like a real person. I can’t even afford a vehicle because the cost of a vehicle that I used to buy for $75.00 now costs $3500.00 and they don’t want to sell one to you on payments that are affordable. So I will likely die in poverty many years ahead of what I should because of the system.

  • Linda A Walker

    My total appreciation and support for this initiative. Awareness is key….those who are comfortable really have no idea.

  • Anonymous

    This is not a complex issue. All one need do is CONNECT THE DOTS! #1, Big Pharma, wants and DEPENDS on Bad Diets within our Country, WHY? Because it keeps Americans DEPENDENT on MEDICATIONS! #2, Wealthy individuals like Mitt Romney & Walmarts, WANTS UNDER PAID Americans, so they can maintain CONTROL over their lives, and will do almost ANYTHING to get a job, to be eligible, for what SMALL assistance they may qualify from our States! Despite these facts, the wages aren’t nearly enough to maintain just a decent way of life!
    Please, don’t let me forget our Corporate Owned MEDIA, they PROMOTE the LIES and DECEITS, then don’t bother to cover what is really going down in America, like Hunger and Homelessness! Hunger and Homelessness is taking place because Americans can’t find jobs, and when they do, these jobs don’t pay enough to MEET, AMERICAS COST OF LIVING STANDARDS! Yet our COL continues to go up, while salaries remain flat, & jobs can’t be found that will pay the COL, controlled by our State and Local Governments!
    I also get upset with the young women whom have babies, or even married couples, who can’t begin to afford, let alone taking care of themselves. Perhaps, they get pregnant to QUALIFTY for Assistance, but to me, this is inexcusable! Where are the DAD’S, why is it, it’s only single mothers burden with the Responsibilities?
    Yet, we have many States, and now our Congress and Senate, eliminating Birth Control, Abortions, and Women’s Health! Something is very wrong with this behavior, but I believe you can find the answer in what I stated above…. and let’s not leave out the Military! Where do people go, when they can’t find a job outside the military … THEY VOLUNTEER to earn a salary and to get Healthcare coverage!
    If we can elect enough Progressives in our Government, to CURB Outsourcing, getting REGULATIONS back into our Financial Institutions, we can began to turn around this devastating road, America is traveling.
    Now, with out right & in your face Voter Suppression, we have a greater challenge facing many Americans come 2014 and thereafter.

  • geri

    GMO Corn Fed to Pigs actually dissolves their stomach’s, Animals refuse to Eat GMO. GMO has Roundup (Agent Orange) in the plant, fed to the Factory Farms animals, then Humans eat this, his is done all on purpose, to kill off the Human population and the Goal of the NWO eugenicists is to reduce the population of the world to 500 Million, see the Georga Guidestons. The NWO Elite WILL NOT EAT GMO ask Evil Bill Gates, he has his seed vault in Norway. Eugenicists, Bill Gaes, Jacque Cousteau, Eric Pianka, Prnice Philip, John P Holdren Science CZAR, Eric Pianka, Margaret Sanger, Ted Turner etc

  • Michael

    Corporate entities can’t make money if they
    don’t have people on the ground. We can fix the corporate tax problem
    AND poverty, benefit-free part-timer manipulation to escape health benefits, starvation, crime and a host of other problems by raising the minimum wage BASE, then
    index a surcharge to corporate wealth, with
    the highest rates associated with global corporations, regardless of
    where their headquarters are or the chain of ownership via shell

    This would take care of the deficit, because wages
    are taxed, health insurance because people could pay, remove the
    so-called “incentive not to work” attributed to social programs by right
    wingnuts, and open the door to lowering corporate tax rates. Route the
    money through workers.

    They can be from the Caymans, but
    workers are on the ground. Be sure to account for circumvention
    attempts; I could see corporations making individual departments
    corporations at every location if number of employees or gross profit
    are the only benchmarks used for taxation. Don’t let off-shore mail
    order grow untaxed either.

  • redLisa

    You are so spot on. Dying FROM Food, is as serious as Dying from Lack of. But Sheeple dont want to hear this… they cant They are too absorbed with the electronic device in their palm, watching Big Brother and following the Suggestions implanted by the scripted “news” that informs them of the world around them. By never being used, the brain only reacts to simuli; it is chemically altered from FORMULAS since birth. Overpopulation & Ignorance lead the sheeple to graze , never raising their head to the Light. Peace

  • Anonymous

    redLisa, being a Black American Woman, you can’t imagine what I suffered to get to where I am today; fact is, I am still suffering observing what is going on in our country! As soon as I worked my way out of the SEWER, some WERE TRYING to put me in, all I want to do, and STILL DO, it SHOWS the under priviledge, they don’t have to take it! It does require WORK, working yourself out of bad situations! Needless to say, I’ve been in challenging situations whereby I needed help, working in the occupation I was in, yet, my State REFUSED to help me, because I did NOT have dependent children! We wonder why women become prostitutes ….. because its the only way we can survive! Sleeping with FROGS, we would NOT be bothered with! I am a true testimony to this, and I know I’ve regrown my virginity, because, I do not want to be bothered with a man today, not unless GOD place him on my door step! For we women suffer too much trying to PROTECT our CHILDREN and our MEN!

  • Anonymous

    It is so sad the racist Stupid right is trying to make Americas trama, a Black issue, when there are just as many Middle Class and Poor White Americans whom are suffering just as much as People of Color!
    I can only PRAY and HOPE that the White Racist’s will WAKE UP and realize, what they are doing to People of Color, they will be FIRST on the Block to have ALL THEIR BENEFITS ROBBED FROM THEM! I PRAY, they do not remain THIS STUCK ON STUPID!

  • Jim Osborne

    What gets me is life is so hard for so many yet we do do not call it ‘hard times’ or a ‘depression’. How disconnected and ignorant we must be for not seeing the truth in America.

  • Anonymous for solutions for technological unemployment. IT is the end of the money system we are at.

    Also the Venus Project. There are solutions we have to choose to go that way.

  • bZ

    Dear Bill,

    sometimes I watch you show, and now you are at screen. I watched this show a day or so ago to the very end.

    So many people see so many problems! Like those two selfish women, that think, that they found something large and important, but actually they just discovered America though the wicket. I am living on food stamps (thanks, only partly) and their song sounds to me like a hymn to the food stamps, and you are joining them.

    No one your you smart guys is able to bring up any serious or radical solution to the problem; e.g., food stamps should not exist even in the impoverished, the most kind country in the world, America.

    You really think, that fat pockets are watching your shows? I don’t think so.

    Yours, bz.

  • daskinator

    Dear Bill,

    I was so appalled by what I saw this broadcast that I immediately emailed my US senators and Congressman. How dare they withhold food from hungry people?

  • Anonymous

    Bill; my dear departed aunt used to say, “I calls ’em as I sees ’em.” Amen to you brother ! I’ve been on both sides of this conundrum and neither one has a decisive outcome. My perspective on this is that the micro aspect is overanalyzed and the macro influences are under considered. This is why: Ok. giving credit to Bush Sr. and then Regan for a.) the thousand points of light and then Regan’s b.) pro food stamp expansion in the 80’s. Bush really pissed me off though when he said that if Americans couldn’t make it on one job go get 2 or 3 jobs , what nerve and what gall !! … meanwhile jobs are leaving and ceasing to exist. Heating fuel was/is obscene! Yea, I am over 50, you can tell ? Anyway I received food stamp “assistance” with 2 kids (on and off) and was only able to ‘eat 2 square meals a day for 3 weeks of the month. When I worked and made minimum wage/slightly above, after most of the bills were paid there was never enough $ left for much more than hot cereal, rice, pb&j and soup, meaning 1 meal per day with snacks as meal items. Macro factors meaning always renting moldy slums with broken sometimes working refrigerators. Either walking to work or riding the bus in the freezing ice snow rain when sick getting sicker. Having a broke down vehicle, or paying all the money and then some due to rip off car repair mechanics. Also getting sold a few lemons, eating up even more limited resources. Dropping $100.00 at Walmart for household & personal care items each month, often twice a month, is not an option. People really need to grow their own vedgies, I did when I could in pots and drawers, and something needs to be implemented like community coop type jobs to make soap and biodegradable dish soap cleaning and for for shampoo, also provide affordable teepee all the necessities that we all buy at Walmart because you can’t get it cheaper anywhere else. Anyway the 2 ladies on the show are “right on” and they really “GET IT.” Either people are part of the solution or part of the problem. In all fairness Republicans and Democrats are both. However the latter have a history of fighting for not only poor children, but for the poor in general. YES; I am ready for Hillary, thinking of the Bill days makes it make sense all the more.

  • Benjamin Kane

    I was working a good job and qualified for food stamps. Now that I am unemployed after my company closed, I needed this help more than ever. I will be honest to tell you something though. My family of four lived on my $1000 a month unemployment (maximum in Florida) and $300 in SNAP. A minimum wage job, if I could actually get one, pays $7.67 an hour meaning pretaxed 40 hours a week for the entire month comes to $1227. And that doesn’t include the cost of transportation to work, a typical worker’s diet that includes more restaurants, and other costs like uniforms. Not only did I have more money with UC and SNAP, but I qualify for a crappy version of Medicaid. If I was working a minimum wage job, I would not even have insurance. Bad policies from both parties have made me first lose employment and have trouble getting it back plus give an incentive to not try as hard as possible to find work. Working is more expensive than dependence. I’m a Republican and hate dependence, but my family needs to eat. I’m going back to college for the fourth time just to get out of this mess, but internships through college doesn’t pay. And costs (like books and fees) above what Pell grants help with, I have to find a way to pay.

  • Benjamin Kane

    Didn’t you hear? Most companies don’t need to make money on stuff anymore. They make money on stocks (which is just promises) and loopholes they paid for from government. If GE actually pays an effective negative tax rate (meaning our gov’t gives them more than they owe) then other companies are likely playing the game too.

  • Benjamin Kane

    I’ve been rambling this for a few years. You are spot on. It is too bad there is no outlet to ask for help that isn’t already bought. Just look at the Supreme Court and decisions like Citizen’s United. They are supposed to be the ultimate stop to injustice. Who do we have left? Honest media personalities end up disappearing and stories that reinforce a people’s movement get shot down within weeks. Did you know that some cities still have Occupiers? Bet you didn’t.

  • Benjamin Kane

    Your point does get lost all the time. The parents are not helped, even if their child does. It costs on average $19,469 per year to incarcerate an inmate in Florida. Annual costs to attend Edison State College is $9856 including tuition, room and board, books, and fees. This will vary for some programs and reported years, but you get the point. One year of county jail or two years of education (for an AA or AS) costs the same, but if you factor in the person’s usefulness to society the whole picture changes. No one cares to do the cost analysis on whether helping the poor is actually cheaper. Sometimes it is not, but if someone has a good paying job because of a degree then they are unlikely to commit a crime again and need jailed unless they are just naturally bad.

  • David

    Robert Kennedy needed to be exposed to the US hunger problem in 1967, it moved him deeply and he changed forever. Obama knows hunger exists and so does Michelle. A war on hunger could be declared tomorrow and maybe Congress and government will change it’s policies that will feed the people of this country.

  • Benjamin Kane

    In my community, there were 7 church sponsored pantries and most got supplies through Harry Chapin. Each had differing amounts of clients but many had up to 600 a week. Now 6 are closed mostly due to some new regulations that make pantries now have to keep shelving, lighting, and food quality the same as stores. I know cause I helped in two of them. Foods that are donated were already near expiration date, then in storage at Chapin for at least a week if not four, and delivered to each location, kept outside the entire day because all refrigerators were donated as well if existing at all. I heard the last standing pantry gets somewhere around 2000 clients a week in a facility that could not handle the 600 before. Plus, even if these poor could drive to reach the place, the parking is at a church down the street. This means that everyone has to either carry their bags there or even home. This is horrible when a large percent of clients are elderly and disabled. A young buck would have trouble carrying the 15 pounds of food that you could get near the holidays a couple miles home.

  • Benjamin Kane

    You really don’t need to name names. If you are still alive tomorrow, these guys are not the guys to look at. I am to the point that I would absolutely believe that food is either being used to immobilize or kill us as a type of control. 7 billion people and the resources to make 1.35 billion live as good as Western Europeans. It is even worse of a ratio if you say they have to live like the average American.

  • Benjamin Kane

    Higher wages would seem to fix this, but that is an illusion too. If your wage went from $10 an hour to $20, you would think that was great. If at the same time the Fed printed so much money that every dollar was worth 50 cents, then your $20 dollars would buy the exact same amount of stuff as before. But here is the kicker: the Fed has printed so much since 1917 that our dollar now is worth about 5 cents. Most of the printing was based on population growth, which made sense, but stuff like the Fed printing money to pay for T-bonds to fund wars and Quantitative Easing to give money to banks has just killed this country in recent years.

  • Benjamin Kane

    Greed does not mean money. Greed is power. Greed is control. Money might only get someone to that point, but it is not required to stay there.

  • Benjamin Kane

    And that is just one obvious sign with the police, but our whole society is tipping towards this apathy.

  • Benjamin Kane

    This is one huge waste of money. The only reason why it still exists is that the CIA sells the drugs in other countries (and possibly here) as a form of control in order to fund about 10% of their budget in off-the-books operations.

  • Benjamin Kane

    Johnson was President in ’67. Moyers worked for him at the time. Johnson signed the Food Stamp Act of 1964 which was not the first or only assistance program, but would be the first permanent national program. Good comment though.

  • David

    My point: Robert Kennedy was running for President and he didn’t have a clue of the magnitude of the hunger problem. When Marian Wright Edelman took him to the poorest places in this country and he saw bloated stomachs and malnutrition, not only did he change but he preached change in his campaign.

    What our leaders are not exposed to is hunger and poverty right in their face. They don’t want to see it or talk about it and they ignore it really exist. The middle class is certainly worth saving and pandering to during election season but if you do not feed the poor and underemployed, this country could go the way of Egypt – revolution.

  • Anonymous

    You’re RIGHT Benjamin, I did NOT know the Protests are still going on! Same with Fracking, they keep these Protester’s out the Media too! At first, I admired Susan Rice, but when I learned she is heavily invested in Fracking, I lost respect for her! How dare she invest in a Project DESTROYING our waters and our Environment! It just proves, as long as some can make a buck out of these Toxic Industries, destroying our Environment, they could give a dang, for its ALL ABOUT THE MONEY! One thing for certain, when our Planet implodes, they will suffer like the rest of us, and their wealth won’t/can’t buy them out of the Global Warming, they created and invested in!

  • arleneg

    It is not just the politicians; it is the middle class as well. I hear so many of us making excuses for ignoring this problem – especially the “free-loader” excuse. “As long as I am okay I don’t want the government to spend one cent on any other group”, is the cry of so many. At the same time, they want God back in America. Well, that will happen when we follow the love for others that was commanded for God’s people.

  • JBPierce

    Our system doesn’t work for equality,it is time to change our mindsets,look the system as is the fed reserve give our taxes to countries and to big business to start in other countries it makes no sense to give welfare to corps or elite,if their product is legitimate it will be purchased by people,this is why we need change to (people/human standard) where the fed reserve gives our taxes to us at the same pay as Congress, because the Congress is the law makers and protectors of the people they tend to forget that system began congress/people people /congress and businesses worked only if the people liked their product ,but as time went on into 1900 business started making their point that it is their way not the people’s way.

  • Dianemm

    This show about hunger is total BS. When you insinuate that the ONLY choice if you can’t afford fresh produce is to buy fattening junk food, that is FALSE. There are plenty of affordable canned and frozen fruits and vegetables – most cheaper than junk food. Healthy people drink 8 glasses of WATER every day – not 8 cans of sugar-laden colas. The only thing that giving poor people more money for food will do is make then fatter. They need to buy smarter, not more!

  • Jim Osborne

    The problem with humanity, or in this case, inhumanity, can be resolved in understanding human consciousness, where concepts like ‘self’ and ‘society’ determine quality of life.

    It is not consistent to say, “I am a generous, loving soul,” having just invested a few more million in General Motors. What is consistent is to say, “My wealth and success, at least in part, are a product of my fellow countrymen, and it is to them I owe, perhaps not a significant amount, but enough to prevent widespread hunger.”

    I do believe if more wealthy Americans would look deeper into their soul (consciousness) they could lend a bit more to the human effort. Surely they could help feed hungry, frightened children living in a hellish world, full of greed and fear.

  • Anonymous

    Who do you think backs corporate greed – Republican arrogance, right now I’m feeling that people like yourself are what the Bible refers to as “don’t cast your pearls before swine.” I grew up white and poor. my dad was a damn hard worker although too proud to get help when we needed it. I saw ALOT of people with ALOT of kids that told ALOT of lies and took advantage/ “manipulating” the welfare state. It was mainly Democrats that voted for ALL of the things that are sustaining you when you are too lazy as a man to work’ whatever job’ that you are able to do for your family. Man Up dude, seriously !

  • Anonymous

    I do agree the poor need to buy smarter,that is stop paying to support the big processed food companies. Cook a package of pasta and saute some vegies / burger and add part of a can of tomato juice,not tomato soup too pricie, and full of salt and junk.This could last for a few meals more than caned ravioli. Cook rice from scratch, cook a chicken in the oven use leftovers with a cream sauce (not canned soup )over the rice for another meal.. cream sauce is not a gormet thing to make,it was once taught in home ec. Low income people unite stop supporting processed food companies. Bake cookies. Learn to make your own bread it is not that hard, you will fell happier and you will show big business who really is supporting them.

  • Darrolyn St Hilaire

    it’s not that simple. until you try to feed just one person on $183 a month you have no idea what you can and can’t buy. I am very educated about food and diet and I can’t do it. I eat healthy for two weeks ..sometimes three if I eat once a day…..and basically fast for one week til the ebt card is filled again. I drink water…but the water where I am is so bad I have to buy filtered water. in many states if you make more than $150 a month, you don’t qualify for food stamps …I don’t think, from your statement, that you watched the entire film.

  • Darrolyn St Hilaire


  • Darrolyn St Hilaire

    just a guess, but I bet prisoners are probably fed better than school children

  • Larry Mestas

    We send billions to other country’s why when we have such a problem with food? Congress lives in their own bubble.

  • D’Costa

    I’m a tourist (really, NOT a potential immigrant) from a third-world country to the US of A. I was appalled at the callous wastage of food at diners, cafeterias, fast-food joints, dinner engagements at friends’, and plain snacking. The younger generation over here seem rather casual over wastage of cooked food and it makes me blink, almost choke. its sickening to see the waste. American eateries serve colossal portions and the wastage seems to be in proportion, too.
    And then I read this report and the sickening irony is too strong to be ignored.

  • dsgstd

    there are two individuals in the u.s. that could make the conscientious decision to not make profits for one year and instead use the revenue to end world hunger. unfortunately those types of people are what they are because of a callousness that is inconceiveable to most

  • Jim Osborne

    You have that right. With profits in the billions per year there are those who can put a real dent in human hunger. The fact that they don’t will leave a terrible legacy which history will acknowledge.

  • Jim Osborne

    Given the subject here, it is worth noting a short and true story.

    Not long ago a Black, Georgia, high school football coach noticed his players were not performing as expected. To fix the problem of performance the coach prodded the local business community to support a food program where his players could be well fed.

    Once the food program was in place, and the players were well fed, this Black football coach and his football team won the Georgia State High School Football Championship.

    Sounds like fiction, I know, but it did happened, and proves the point-of-points. Children perform best when they are not hungry.

  • Bbqsauce

    The impression I got from this interview was that we need to rethink the wage system in this country so that people can survive on a full-time job without the need of assistance. However, that doesn’t make food assistance any less important as a safetynet to catch those who are unemployed and looking for work, or don’t make enough to feed their families.

  • bz

    What you said, is the only way to provide people with opportunity for decent live, and my ideas totally match yours.
    But there is at least one problem – to do so, the fat pie of the 1% (or 2%, or 5%) should be cut at least by 2 or more, and they will not give it up without bloody fighting. This way we inevitably run into Marx and his theory, “Das Kapital”.

  • MotherHen

    An amazing program, very moving and sad. Feeding the hungry in the U.S. shouldn’t be a matter of politics. That being said I don’t believe the solutions posed as raising the minimum wage will suffice when you see government raising the costs for using public transportation to crippling levels, and our public school system is failing an industrial nation where most mother’s must work to help support their families. Restructuring educational programming to suit our current workforce would be the greatest help for most working families including those who are the working poor that are being cited as getting caught in the catch 22 of making too much to now have access to food programs intended to help them.
    Citing Walmart as an enemy in this battle to rethink the wage system is a bit strange. As much as I am not a fan of Wal Mart and how they treat or pay their employees, I have a choice not to shop with them or own their stock. However, I do pay taxes to local and state governments who employ millions of people who have better job security, benefits and pension prospects than I do staying in the private sector. Attacking capitalism always seems like a bad answer to a complex question. It’s as nimble as asking the wealthy of our country to pay more (not that I’m in that bracket), but its a poor argument when the government and our systems aren’t running at their maximum efficiency. Asking mothers to engage in democracy to solve feeding our children was not the think tank answer I was expecting from a panel that was very intelligent. Mothers in the US are engaged, they elected our current president, according to voter data. I am not a person who believes businesses should pay for our poor when our government is resembling a large poorly run corporation that looks like the stock is tanking and could use a massive restructuring.
    It would be wonderful if our best minds in our government could work together to fix our food programs and figure ways for businesses to intelligently partner with strategy and execution. Most companies with a ticker have a CSR program, if not several. End the abuses within these programs intended to help the poor; opponents to green stamps seem to always be clamoring about.(ie food stamps accepted for liquor, cigarettes, fast food stories that pop up, which seems pretty reasonable). Create the development of rooftop farming and farming on school grounds to teach nutrition in at risk neighborhoods, make it part of the curriculum or after school activity (just like the White House). There are so many wonderful non profits in this country working so hard to help reach and give aid to those in need, asking our telecommunications and tech companies to develop systems to connect those who wish to give and those who need a hand seems like a potentially more executable request? My town has a local food pantry that is actively being accessed by exactly the population discussed in the program, working poor who you would never know are suffering from a lack of food. I have witnessed a mother hiding leftover food from a school function, for her children, so she could feed them for the weekend (she too has a job and is very proud and wont admit she’s not making it, having her accept anything is tough, she wants anonymity in the face of her problems). I still believe asking large companies to solve social problems is exactly why we have the problems that exist in Detroit.
    It’s a moral obligation to make sure children are cared for and nurtured and fed. I would hope as a society we can each figure a way we can aid in this crisis. Thank you for bringing this issue up to so many and putting faces forward regarding this issue. We are born into a world where every day on this planet children are hungry, it is strange and unsettling, in a nation as rich as ours that anyone suffers from hunger. It reminds me of what my Grandmother who emigrated to this country as a young girl said, “America is the greatest country in the world, communism was terrible to live under, but everyone was fed.” We have to believe in ourselves as Americans, we can fix this.

  • Anonymous
  • Jim Osborne


  • Anonymous

    terribly hard to live let alone enjoy life when you a poor person, in US or anywhere. harder here in the senses that so much wealth visible all around but can’t reach it. that seems to me what has so changed. used to be this was the place where you sposed to be able to work your way out of being poor, at least with hard work and some luck. now the old American route seems not to exists no more except reality TV winners, powerball winners. smh but where are those damn jobs. and if they hungry they can’t learn either in the first place.

  • Louise III

    I seriously doubt that most people who are viable whether they are Democrats or Republicans or ‘whatever’ want to be dependent on Government charity. Anyone who makes a bold statement such as, “I’m a Republican and I don’t like to be dependent on the Government !” while at the same time is a trash talking nincompoop in sheep’s clothing !
    My advice to Mr. ‘wa wa’ below is, .. “don’t slice off the hand (Dems) that feeds and has fed you and your family, while you’re badmouthing them at the same time; and – “DON’T TAKE A DUMP WHERE YOU EAT” … or at least close to it anyway !!!

  • Anonymous

    That’s where the discussion takes a detour from reality. Government-managed poverty relief programs were never charity, just as tax cuts, grants to corporations, schools and highways, Social Security, or any other uses of tax dollars is charity. Ah! I hear some shout, “We paid for Social Security!” Correct. Just like former welfare recipients paid for welfare, itself. (To grasp this: over 80% of recipients used aid for under 5 years. Before and after a time on aid, they worked, earning wages, paying taxes, contributing to the economy.)

  • Anonymous

    The only option middle classers will consider is yet another 30 years of calling for job creation. You can’t buy a loaf of bread with promises of eventual jobs. Millions today are a single job loss from losing everything; how do you then get a job without a home address, phone, bus fare? It’s that basic.

  • Anonymous

    Yep, but it takes more than a meal. Without a measure of housing security, instability derails the poor, and there is usually no way back up. Remember, we cut the rungs off of the proverbial ladder out of poverty. A single illness can be the end of the road for the poor; job lost, unable to pay rent, end up homeless, etc. I really don’t think middle classers quite “get” what US poverty is today.

  • Anonymous

    That’s an interesting point. I was shocked the first time (early ’80s) I heard someone explain that he would destroy any food he didn’t eat rather than risk having some impoverished person get it out of the garbage and eat it. He was that conditioned to hate the poor, regarding them as the equivalent of rats. By now, of course, that attitude is the norm in America.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, it’s the middle class that made these choices.

  • Anonymous

    That’s certainly point worth exploring — Americans are willing to help the foreign poor while spitting on the poor here. US poverty has taken an extraordinary toll.

  • Anonymous

    Oh brother… You learned your lines, now try to learn some facts, Nanny. It’s hard to know where to begin, but let’s get over the obsession with “sugar-laden colas.” Workers, the elderly and disabled get X amount of food stamps based on their total income. It’s up to them, not you, to determine how to budget out their cash/food stamp purchases. If a non-essential food item can be worked into that budget, good. On obesity and the very poor, nope, not from treats. Use your brain. When you’re very poor, the only way to stretch out a food budget is to rely primarily on fats (lard) and carbohydrates. This is what puts on the fat. Unhealthy, but it’s survival.

  • Anonymous

    You do know, don’t you, that the target group of this discussion are the working poor who usually don’t have the means or the luxury of spare time to bake a nice loaf of bread, perhaps a roast a chicken on their hotplate. I know from your post that your intentions are good, but I also know that middle class America is stunningly uninformed about the reality of US poverty today — how people survive, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Middle classers (including liberals) have been so busy with the war on the poor that there’s no time for a war on poverty.

  • Anonymous

    Except that it’s not possible to “save the middle class” (much class, to grow it) without shoring up the poor. I don’t know if it matters at this point. We’ve been repeating history, and right now, we seem to be in a re-enactment of 1925-1930.

  • Anonymous

    Uh huh. You should have learned how the program works before you bothered writing this. First, you don’t qualify for food stamps; your total family income is too high. Secondly, work isn’t optional. Until you get regular work, you and your wife are provided with workfare jobs at min. wage or less. If you don’t accept those jobs — no food stamps. It doesn’t matter how crappy the job is. There is only one version of Medicaid, not a “good kind” and a “crappy kind.” In short, you are lying. Go to to learn about the rules, requirements and restrictions concerning food stamps.

  • Anonymous

    From experience: Unless you have a window with enough direct sunlight, growing food indoors isn’t going to get you anywhere. You need bees to pollinate the blossoms to get any veggies. The poor sure can’t afford the equipment needed for hydroponics, artificial pollination, etc.!

  • Anonymous

    Um… we’ve been doing this for years.Welfare reform, etc. We got tough on the poor.

  • Anonymous

    What should we do about those who can’t work, due to health or circumstances, and those for whom there are no jobs? Right now, we’re dumping them in the gutter and spitting on them. The last I heard, there is something like one job opening for every 6 people in desperate need of a job.

  • Anonymous

    Many low-wage workers are a singe job loss from losing absolutely everything, with no way back up. How do you get a job without a home address, phone, bus fare?

  • Anonymous

    Yes, we really are re-enacting our history, and are now we’re at (roughly) 1925-1930.

  • Anonymous

    This is precisely the point that middle classers can’t grasp: There is NO incentive not to work. There is no choice. Work isn’t optional. If you apply for aid, you are required to work. If you don’t have a job, you will be put in a temp workfare job. While doing this, you are required to continue applying for permanent work — and providing proof of your job search efforts.

  • Anonymous

    Hefty pile of right wing BS, establishing that you are utterly ignorant about the rules and requirements that applied to welfare. In reality (and you can find this information via gov’s website, etc.), the great majority of AFDC families consisted of 1-2 children. Many recipients were married. Before “reform,” over 80% of recipients voluntarily quit welfare for jobs by the time their children started school. Dems are no friends of the poor. Had you actually known a recipient who lied to get benefits, you had a legal duty to report it. Shame on you! In reality, cheating was extremely difficult and far too risky. Welfare offices did ad do carefully verify all information provided on aid application forms, checking with the SSA, former employers, etc., etc. One was required to provide full access to all his/her records, from birth through school, employment, medical, legal, and so on.Providing false information was punishable via heavy fines AND prison time.

  • Anonymous

    That is just dumb. Also, you “caps lock” key appears to b stuck.

  • Anonymous

    I hear a lot about fracking, but only online. Did you know that the life expectancy of America’s poor has actually fallen below that of some Third World nations, just since 1996 (welfare reform)? And nope, that’s not the result of sugary soft drinks.

  • Anonymous

    Read the labels on the food you have in your kitchen. No processed food? How about the mass of chemicals that need to be used to produce meat, milk, fruit and vegetables? The catch is that without these chemicals, the mass production of food isn’t possible today. The less food, the higher the costs, the more hunger/malnutrition, etc.

  • Anonymous

    While black people are disproportionately poor, the majority of US poor are white. The majority of poor are women and children. Those with the fewest opportunities out of poverty are rural Americans. Most of the homeless I’ve encountered were white.

  • Anonymous

    The part about being required to work, and then having your children taken because child care wasn’t available but you were required to report for work — tragically, it’s not a rare situation. Clinton’s welfare “reform” ended the right of parents to legally contest a decision to take their children into “indefinite/protective custody.”

  • Anonymous

    This agenda has been ongoing since the 1980s, with conditions worsening step by step. Meanwhile, middle class contempt for the poor has been nurtured by pols and media.

  • Anonymous

    Mass production to meet market demands. I don’t know what the option is. Less food means higher prices/more hunger.

  • Anonymous

    All of these programs have gaping holes. Many people are a single job loss from losing everything, with no way back up. You need a home address to qualify for food stamps, etc.How do you get a job without a home address, phone, bus fare?

  • Anonymous

    What about those who can’t work, due to health or circumstances, and those for whom there are no jobs? We’ve been calling for job creation as the answer to most poverty for over 30 yrs. now. Meanwhile, govt. continues to essentially pay corps to ship our jobs to foreign countries. Workfare replacement labor, supported by the middle class, works well to help phase out the middle class. This is what free market capitalism is.

  • Jim Osborne

    I am convinced the ‘wealth gap’ says it all. Fix that and you fix America.

  • Jim Osborne

    It is worth noting, in some societies, having more wealth and property than you need is considered a mental illness.

    Considering this, I am inclined to believe Capitalism has outrun its plausible course. That is, I believe there are necessary limits to all human endeavor, and that if you pass these limits by acquiring so much, as to create human suffering, then you are, indeed, mentally ill.