In this politically charged time, the State of the Union address represents different things to different people. Depending on the analysis you hear, it either represents a statement of values or an overt political document.
From my point of view, I am pleased that the president acknowledged the issues low-income people face in our society. I agree with the president that it is not right that people who work should have to come to food banks to get enough food for their families. As good as the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is at providing food to low-income people, we should not be seen as our nation’s first response to hunger.
When I began with the Food Bank in 1976, we were supporting a group of charitable food pantries that provided emergency help to people having difficulty receiving government assistance. Through the years, food banks throughout the country have moved from this partnership distribution model to becoming direct service providers themselves.
Food Bank direct distribution such as the Community Produce Program, Senior Food Program, or Farm to Kids provides millions of pounds of food directly to those in need. Our service is no longer solely for emergencies; we are now providing supplemental food directly to those who need help because, otherwise, the cost of living may mean going without groceries.
I hope the State of the Union address is the start of a conversation about how we help poor people in our country on a larger scale.
Half the people we serve have a working individual in the family, so the discussion about raising the minimum wage needs to take place.
We are providing 9,000 low-income children with fresh produce every week, so I would like to push President Obama to carry out his pledge to eliminate childhood hunger by 2015. We can be better as a society. I think the time is now.