Another Hole in the Safety Net

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance ProgramBy Jean Blish Siers *

I guess I should be happy. It seems like job security of a sort for any of us in the business of feeding our hungry, most vulnerable neighbors. And we all like to feel secure, right? Well, I’ll let you judge for yourself.

Here’s an excerpt from a Charlotte Observer front page story this morning: “Up to 10,000 people in Mecklenburg County could lose their food stamp benefits by the spring if they’re unable to prove they work, volunteer, or take classes for at least 20 hours a week … The federal requirement for work and volunteer hours applies to adults under 50 without children or a disability. In North Carolina, an exemption was created in 2008 during the recession. The exemption ended Jan. 1 for 23 counties across the state, including several in the Charlotte region … Statewide, 115,000 people will have to document work, volunteer, or education activities by April 1 if they want to keep their benefits.”

So why am I not happy? After all, I know more food banks and church pantries than ever will be calling me, looking for fresh produce to supplement the non-perishables on their shelves. I like to be needed and wanted.

But here’s the thing: I know there won’t be enough. I know that hunger agencies will call me and I won’t have anything for them. I know, because it happens time and again, that if I send 1,000 pounds of watermelons to a ministry, they could easily have distributed a ton. In the Charlotte area in 2015, we gleaned and distributed about 350,000 pounds of fresh produce. There were very few times I had to make more than a phone call or two to find a ministry desperate for something fresh for their clients.

While I like to feel secure and needed and wanted, I know that all my neighbors here in North Carolina like that, too. The economy’s rising tide has not lifted all boats equally. For those without adequate resources, finding transportation to take classes (let alone paying for those classes) or to do volunteer work is nearly impossible, particularly in the more rural counties around Charlotte. And as the requirements become more confusing and more restrictive, people who do qualify can still feel unsure of themselves and unwilling to apply.

I’m not more secure if my neighbors aren’t more secure. None of us is. We are only as strong as our weakest citizens. The North Carolina legislature has passed a lot of legislation in the last few years that hits the state’s most vulnerable: the repeal of the gleaning tax credit, the decision not to expand Medicaid, and the reduction or loss of unemployment benefits for long-term unemployed. This is just the latest in a series of attacks on the poor. Feel better yet?

* Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s Charlotte Area Gleaning Coordinator, and a regular contributor to this News & Events blog.

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VOLUNTEER WAIVER

In the event I, or a registered family member, suffers any illness or accident requiring emergency hospitalization, medication, or other medical assistance while participating in a gleaning event, permission is given for any medical treatment which is deemed necessary and reasonable under the circumstances. I fully understand and comprehend that reasonable care will be exercised by the adult staff for this gleaning event to protect the safety of those involved. I understand that the field supervisor’s instructions must be followed at all times, and that I am responsible for any damages caused to fields, farms, or equipment by me/my family members not following these instructions.

Photos, videos, and other images in which I, or a registered family member, appear that are taken during gleanings may be used by the Society of St. Andrew for news coverage, newsletters, reports, displays, and for other print, broadcast, web, or electronic news or promotional purposes.

I do not hold the board, members, or employees of the Society of St. Andrew (SoSA,) or any volunteers liable for injury, bodily harm, accidents, or death of myself/my child during events sponsored by the Society of St. Andrew. Neither will I hold the person(s) who owns and/or operates the property from which we glean, salvage, or to which we deliver food, liable for accidents, injury, or death during the gleanings or other SoSA events.

For a PDF print version of this waiver, click here.

How the Story of the 12 Baskets is Connected to SoSA’s Name

Matthew 14:16-21

But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

2 Kings 4:42-44

[…]the man of God […] said, “Give them to the people that they may eat.” His attendant said, “What, will I set this before a hundred men?” But he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’” So he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.