RESOLUTION ADOPTED BY 2013 DIOCESAN CONVENTION TO
AID HUNGRY PEOPLE IN VERMONT
RESOLVED, that the 181st Convention of the Diocese of Vermont call on the Diocesan Council to seek out $10,000 either by re-allocating existing funds or by adding funding to the 2014 budget to make a donation to the Vermont Food Bank to partially offset the loss of resources available to feed hungry people in Vermont, and be it further
RESOLVED, that the Diocesan Council appoint a committee to study how the Diocese of Vermont might more effectively contribute to the food security of the people of Vermont, said committee to make a report with recommendations for action to the 182d Convention of the Diocese of Vermont in November, 2014.
An article in the Valley News 10/30 (p.7) stated that with the expiration of the added “stimulus” benefit to Three Squares Vermont (i.e. “food stamps”) as of November 1, 2013, and a decline of 18% in donations being made to the Food Bank “Vermonters in need of nutrition assistance are facing a difficult time.” Also, Congress is considering further cuts in this program.
The number of persons and families, including elderly and children, throughout Vermont who are food insecure/going hungry is continuing to increase, despite the recovery in the national economy.
About poverty in America (and therefore also in Vermont) more generally, Dr. Mark Rank, professor of social Welfare at George Washington University, makes several key points in his column, ”Poverty in America is Mainstream,” which appeared in the New York Times, November 2. These have direct implications for the incidence and experience of hunger among ourselves.
First, America is a “middle class” society. While this does include a “core” of persons who experience long term poverty, up to 80% of Americans will have an experience of temporary – perhaps even intermittent – poverty. A common definition of “poverty” is an income below $23,492 for a family of four. Two-thirds of persons in poverty are white. People in poverty are not confined to inner city neighborhoods but can be found in suburbs and rural areas, all of which apply to Vermont. But events like losing a job, having hours of work reduced, experience of a family split, or developing a serious medical problem, each has the potential to throw a household at least temporarily into poverty. Such circumstances, as well as lack of access to a decent education and health insurance have far more to do with poverty and hunger than any lack of motivation or “poor decision making.” Clearly, if people are poor it is more likely that they will experience hunger.
By comparison to other industrialized societies, America’s social safety net is weak, has been growing weaker, and, if Congress continues on its present path, will grow weaker still. Also, by this comparison, America’s poverty rate is high, and has been growing higher.
On a note of personal witness: at the Springfield Family Center food shelf I encounter more than one elderly person whose sole source of income is their monthly Social Security check, often about $1000 – or even less. Rent typically takes upwards of $700 of that. They cannot provide for all of their needs, particularly food, without the support of food stamps, the food shelf and a lunch at the Family Center. Women heads of household also come on behalf of their families, including children. Others are on disability. Others may be seasonally unemployed, whose need for food and other necessities does not stop when their employment does. The cars these people may have are often one repair from the scrap heap, a far cry from the stereotypical Cadillac of “welfare queens.”
Finally, I believe that bread is as much a matter of spirit and theology as it is of brute matter and biological survival. There is a most intimate, sacramental connection between Jesus joining with us at the Eucharist and our being the hands of Christ to help to feed our hungry neighbors.
Boris G. von York,
Senior Warden, St. Mark’s Church,