In tough times like these, chicken is better than pork
By Leo Canty
Published: Thursday, October 22, 2009 12:04 PM EDT
My dad’s birthday is today. If he were alive we’d be celebrating his 101st. His generation was indelibly marked by tumultuous times, most significantly the Great Depression. My father survived the struggle, but his stories of suffering and want resonated. He never wanted to see an economic disaster affect the lives of future generations the way the Depression affected his. But now we’re coming close.
Bread lines were commonplace in Depression times. Wall Street’s greed and corruption forced mass numbers of unfortunate victims — working families like yours and mine — into a struggle to survive. More than 13 million people lost their jobs. No paychecks; no government safety net. The lifeline to survival was a long line and wait for a loaf of bread from the local charity so the family didn’t starve that day. It was a shameful and scary experience for too many proud Americans.
This month unemployment put 15 million jobless workers in the struggle to get food on the table. Government assistance programs shrunk the woes of the Great Depression but, sadly, America is increasingly the land of the shredded safety net and the growing Wall Street bonus program. Charitable organizations are still left to pick up the slack.
In communities like Manchester, dedicated food resources are available for people in need. But this recession has sent more people hunting for help, straining food inventories.Dale Doll, the food services director for the Manchester Area Conferences of Churches, runs a successful food pantry as one of the services MACC provides. Midday hot meals, the food pantry, and counseling are all part of the program. Its food assistance volume has jumped as much as 49 percent at certain times during the last year as MACC’s 800 to 900 monthly clients increased to about 1,700.
As the lingering budget battle raged at the Capitol, MACC made the news as the legislature added a $150,000 appropriation for the food bank ($75,000 each year of the biennium).
A food-fight then broke out between Gov. Jodi Rell and the legislature, as they flung rhubarb pies at each other over the issue. The governor’s attempt to line-item veto what she labeled “pork” failed. MACC received $75,000 this year and more hungry people are being helped.
Doll appreciates the funding. So does the community that needs the help. But she maintains a light-hearted attitude about the drama. When asked her about it she said, “We don’t have much pork here; chicken is better.”
Doll gets it. The community gets it. Citizens understand that bad times need good deeds, so that attitude has helped stock MACC’s pantry shelves.
The governor and her pork-slicing pals should visit MACC to get a closer look at real need.
But food alone cannot manage the crisis of need for those sinking in the current economic crisis.
The MACC staff works with people who have never had to manage their food or make a plan on how to eat healthy with no resources. They are coached in new survival skills, and shown where to go for services they never thought they’d need. More staff, more counseling, and more survival knowledge imparted help more people for longer stretches of bad times. But that takes more resources.Hats off to the staff and volunteers. They are the ones witnessing the psychological, social, and economic damage being done to innocent people.
Losing a job and not being able to provide for one’s family is a debilitating experience. The first time people come to MACC they are often humbled but still hopeful that will be their last visit. But, when they come back the second or third or fourth time, drained spirits become obvious to the staff. Support and encouragement for the weary become more important than food.
Those scenes boiled out of the cauldron of the Great Depression. Stories I heard from my dad and Dale Doll. Thank goodness we have the strong shoulders of staff and volunteers at work at MACC and in numerous pantries around Connecticut. It’s good to know there’s someone who wants to help and really cares in times like these.
Maybe the governor could work on internalizing the issue a bit. She could always maintain her stance on no pork for food banks and still help out. Doll would rather have a chicken in every pot anyway.
Leo Canty is a labor and political activist. He lives in Windsor