Category Archives: Food insecurity

Preserving the Fecundity of the Earth

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

This small farmer in Burkin Faso had to plant five times since the drought dried his seeds.

Among the many things that the Buddhist principle of conditionality teaches us, three are particularly pertinent to any endeavor to diagnose and alleviate suffering on a global scale. The first is that events and processes that appear remote and disconnected from one another may be intimately connected through subtle chains of influence operating subliminally across the systems that generate them. The second is that conditions that appear slight and insignificant on their own can converge to produce effects massive in their impact. The third is that human volition is an important factor in the web of conditions and can thus transform even processes driven by the weight of physical laws.

These three principles are evident with startling clarity in the acceleration of climate change. As to the first, science teaches us the basic chain of conditions involved in anthropogenic global warming. We use coal to generate electricity, burn petroleum derivatives to power our vehicles, ship goods across continents, raise cattle for food, and we thereby release gases that trap heat and warm up the planet. Continue reading

The Face of Hunger in America

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

Several months ago New York University School of Law’s International Center for Human Rights issued a report entitled “Nourishing Change: Fulfilling the Right to Food in the United States.” The main purpose of the report is to propose a new approach to the problem of hunger in America, one that shifts the focus from food assistance as charity to adequate food as a human right. Along with its overview of nutritional assistance programs and its case for treating food as a human right, the report also includes boxed articles, obtained from the Jewish hunger relief organization MAZON, that reveal “the new face of hunger.” The following cameo portraits provide summaries of several of these entries. The photos below are by renowned photojournalist Barbara Grover, who was commissioned by MAZON for this project. More photos of the subjects can be found in the report (see the link above). Continue reading

Light from the Times

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

On Wednesday of last week, the same day that I was writing my recent blogpost highlighting the need not to make cuts to food stamps–“Nourishing Change,” published August 1st–the New York Times published an article about the likely impact that cuts in funding for food stamps would have on the poor.  I only got to see the Times article Friday afternoon (August 2nd) through a link sent to me in an email. While my post was written independently, the Times article confirms my case.

The article, “House Plan on Food Stamps Would Cut 5 Million From Program,” by Ron Nixon, features a study released on Tuesday by the Health Impact Project in Washington, which points out that if the House proposal to cut food stamps by $20.5 billion were enacted, 5 million people would lose eligibility for the program. Of these, a half million do not even get enough to eat now, with the aid of food stamps. An additional 160,000 to 305,000 recipients who do get enough to eat would also lose their eligibility and the ability to adequately feed themselves. Continue reading

Nourishing Change

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

For months members of the House of Representatives wrangled over how much in cuts they would make to the nation’s food stamps program in the new Farm Bill they were in process of drafting. On July 11th, by a vote of 216 to 208, the House finally passed a bill, and guess what? The bill does not include any funding for food stamps.  Opposition to the bill was strong—all Democrats joined by twelve Republicans voted against it—but the majority prevailed, reflecting the agenda of Tea Party ideologues and conservative deficit hawks who dominate in the House.

The vote does not mean that food stamps are about to be consigned to the dust bin of history. The House version of the bill still has to be reconciled with the Senate version, which includes allocations for food stamps, and the White House has said President Obama would veto any bill that drops food aid. Republicans have tried to mollify opposition with a promise to draft a separate food-stamp bill in the near future, and even some advocates for hunger relief applaud the separation of food aid from subsidies for Big Agribusiness. Continue reading

The Values That Guide Us

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, also known as “food stamps,” comes up for renewal every five years as part of the federal farm bill. Normally, its passage is a routine matter that engenders little debate. This year, however, things worked out differently. Different versions of the bill were recently brought up for a vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, both versions tagged with signs of the Right’s fierce austerity campaign. The bill approved by the Senate would cut food stamps by $4 billion over the next ten years. The bill considered by the House proposed slashing funding for SNAP by $20.5 billion over a ten-year period. The House bill was defeated this past Thursday (June 19th), but the reason it went down was because a cluster of Republicans, convinced the cuts did not go far enough, voted against it. The ultimate fate of the farm bill is not yet knowable, but one thing is clear: families that depend on SNAP would suffer greatly from such severe cuts.
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Standing Together Against SNAP Cuts

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

The Farm Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation that guides and authorizes funding for federal farm and food policies, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), popularly known as food stamps. Every five years, Congress renews the Farm Bill.  The last time the bill was renewed was in 2008, and this year it is up for reauthorization.

Last month versions of the bill emerged from the Agricultural Committees of the two houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Both versions make devastating cuts to SNAP, demonstrating a degree of cruelty that is both shocking and shameful on the part of those who are supposed to represent us in crafting public policy. On May 14th, by a vote of 15 to 5, the Senate’s Agricultural Committee passed its version of the bill (S 954) with cuts to SNAP of $4 billion over the next ten years. Two days later, on May 16th, the House of Representatives proved even more callous with a version of the bill (HR 1947) that would cut SNAP by $20.5 billion over ten years. If a bill were to be passed in line with either version, it would in effect be pulling plates of food off the tables of hungry kids. And this from the same Congress that obstinately insists on preserving tax cuts for multi-millionaires and grants subsidies to giant agricultural corporations.
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Playing with Smoke and Fire

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

Yesterday evening, when I sat down to check out the news, I immediately came across two articles that almost blew the nonexistent hair off my head. The first, on Common Dreams, announced: “Canada Vows Plunder in the Arctic.According to the report, Canada has just assumed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, a consortium of states bordering the Arctic which met in Sweden this past week to discuss the region’s future. One would think the leaders of these nations, alarmed by the melting of the Arctic ice that takes place for ever longer periods each summer, have been anxiously discussing how we can preserve this natural wonderland and prevent its pristine beauty from being further defiled by the greedy hands of man. But let’s not fool ourselves. With global demand for oil and natural gas on the rise, they have other visions swimming around in their heads: of ships plowing the Arctic seas and previously inaccessible reserves of minerals, gas, and oil suddenly coming straight into their pockets.
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