Food is a subject near and dear to my heart even if it does harden my arteries at times.  In fact all of us have some interest in the subject.  Food has always been a primary focus of social gatherings, it is used to comfort and to celebrate.  Production of food is one of mans oldest industries and continues strong today.  We all place a great value on food and access to a great variety and abundance.  And when we’ve had our fill we end up wasting about 40% of it. When addressing the food pyramid, i wanted to discuss the waste that we see (and some we don’t see) at the grocery store.  When you go in to get your groceries, the display is always of perfect fruits and vegetables.  Because all of them have been sorted and trimmed in the back room.  The ugly produce and all of the trim waste are gathered here ready to go on to their next stop.  In many cases that stop is the dumpster.  Obviously some of these items have no further immediate use.  But some do.  In a country where one out of seven people do not have food security (that’s about 40 million people) this is a treasure trove. The most obvious solution to benefit both the store and the consumer is to take that produce and sell it for a reduced price.  This makes a viable fresh food available at a reduced cost and helps stretch a family’s food dollars.  Next in line would be to take those items and donate them to a food bank or food pantry, affording those who are most severely impacted by our economic situation the opportunity to have fresh food. Next in line is dealing with trimmings and spoilage, food not suitable for human consumption.  There is no need or benefit to send this to a landfill.  In fact, stores can improve their bottom line by working with a recycler to find a beneficial use of this material.  There are a variety of options available that do not involve filling a hole in the ground.  Food waste can be used to make compost, animal feeds, fuels and more being explored. The food pyramid on the backend should reflect the need to minimize the waste, recover the useable portion, recycle the rest.  All of which will improve the bottom line of the store, improve the quality of life in their community and reduce the environmental impact of our current food delivery system.

When your house falls and you meet the wicked witch of uncertainty you find it necessary to seek out the wizard.  You need help and you go looking wherever you can.   For most people that lose their jobs this is a most trying and frightening experience.   First you tap your friends and relatives then you go to the various social services programs that are intended to help you.  When you approach the various sources of help, the security blanket you thought was there really isn’t.  They all have limitations on what and how much they can do.  It comes down to the absolute basics to help you survive.  Only your bare necessities can be covered and even then it falls short.  It takes a combination of several programs such as unemployment, food stamps, churches and others to help you hold it all together.  As the number of people needing this assistance goes up the available resources go down.

Likely you will not starve but the rest of your life will feel like the flying monkeys have taken hold.  One of the casualties in this whole scenario will be your pets.  There is no provision to help them when you falter.  They are not considered as part of your household or as an essential component for your well being.  You can argue the point that your emotional well being is important, but no one will listen to that.  You now have a choice.  Share your food with them or utilize what little cash you get in to feed them.  The other choices are to let them go hungry and turn them out to fend for themselves, which of course creates a whole new set of problems both for your community or for you.  This course of action can result in you being charged with animal neglect or cruelty.  Your other choice is to turn them over to an already over burdened animal shelter and know that you just likely sentenced them to death.  Once you get a new job and get everything back under control that option can not be reversed.

Even if you have a head full of straw, it seems obvious that a mechanism in place to assist these animals would be beneficial.  Preventing additional animals going to the shelters that are already at capacity and preventing unintended abuse of animals makes more sense.  Minimizing emotional distress on a family is an important benefit to the stability of the family. Maybe we can’t help them all or sustain long periods but some can be helped.

What I am suggesting is that we consider adding a section to food banks or rescue organizations that handles such simple items as dog and cat food.  Let me hear your thoughts on that.

I’m 60 years of age.  I’ve been working since I was 17.  I pride myself in the fact that I have always been active in my community and have always tried to be a benefit to society.  I provided those benefits either directly as a part of my employment or indirectly in voluntary and philanthropic efforts.  I’ve had a pretty good run.

I do not like beating my own drum nor do I seek the spotlight but there are some things that I must say to clarify why i’m writing this.  Especially for those readers who don’t know me personally.

In the years since i came into being there are some concepts that I have always believed in.  We are all part of the community and should all support the well being of the community and our brothers and sisters that live within it.  We all have to be able to give as well as take.  We all need to pay our dues to be a part of our society.  Nobody in that society is worthless and nobody is worth more.  These same concepts are shared by my wife and my children as well as most of the people around me.

I have worked to protect our environment, I have created new businesses and created jobs, I have given both financially and with resources to various individuals and organizations, all geared to improving life quality.  I am not a financially rich man, nor likely will I ever be, and I have no complaints.  I give as I get and will always do that.

A recent series of events have left me without a job.  That has happened before but usually fixed quickly.  This time it is lasting much longer than ever.  I have actually had to file for unemployment for the first time in my life.  I have had to apply for assistance to help keep my family fed.  I have used up all of the reserves, gotten a lot of help from friends and family and even strangers.  I’m actively pursuing a new job.  In short I have done everything I could to avoid being a burden on the system.

Now that I need help from a system that I have funded for many years I have learned some truths.  Every step of the way, I am treated like i’m scum.  I went to the social services office and handed a stack of papers which I filled out and was told to sit and wait.  I sat for an hour and a half, 1 of 2 people waiting.  My turn came.  I was informed that I was in the wrong office and would have to go to another one.  I went to the other one got the forms, filled them out and returned them.  That was 3 weeks ago that I asked for food assistance (food stamps).  Today I found out that the system is being revamped and that I would have to be patient.  Of course everything else I need is dependent on being assigned a caseworker.

In digging through the information I could find to get help with rent and utilities all of the information points to the same phone number which may or may not be answered.  I called Duke energy for help with my electric bill.  The customer disservice representative did not even ask me what the issue was.  She read to me from her script gave me my 3 options, informed me that if I could not meet those my service would be disconnected.  The food bank said that I would have to attend a counseling session before they would help.  And today I got more forms to fill out.  All of the forms and programs are administered through the same office that has already told me to be patient.  It would seem to me that anyone applying for food stamps because they are unemployed probably needs other services.  Why not use one intake form for everything.

I realize these people are doing their job as prescribed under the program guidelines.  But i’m sure that there is nothing that says you can’t smile or show someone that you care.  I know that there are people that may require more assistance than I do.  Some that I have seen may not have the ability to fill out the forms or travel back and forth but that doesn’t seem to matter.

It seems to me that when a person is at the low point of their life they need to be handled with some compassion and as the name implies, given assistance.  Instead we are treated as statistics or cattle to be herded.  Just treated like the scum of the earth.