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Policy Alternatives for Hunger in the Us


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A Quiet and Dangerous Threat:
Addressing Hunger in the United States Through Policy Alternatives

When someone asks you the question “What public problems persist in the United States today?” you probably would think of crime rates, homelessness, or illegal immigration. But there is one that many people fail to remember because for a majority, it does not affect them. However, for others, it's the very struggle they face everyday. This public problem is hunger, a situation that has continually been very apparent around the world and more specifically in the United States. According to research from the national food bank organization “Feeding America,” one in six Americans face hunger each day. With this statistic there is also data collected in 2014 in which states that forty-eight million Americans are facing hunger and “food insecurity,” or the lack of access at times to provide food to all members of the family. While we recognize that the United States holds a vast majority of millions of people, the problem is not so much in the lack of food, but rather due to the presence of poverty. After the 2008 recession, more than fifteen percent of the United States population lives in poverty and as a result, struggle to provide the necessary supplements, costs and expenses. These are serious numbers and hunger has put many lives at stake. We as humanity understand the importance and simply the need for food, as it is what allows us to survive, grow, and work efficiently in our societies so that it too may prosper. The questions surrounding what we can do to help combat growing hunger issues ranges from the awareness of hunger to major changes in the administration of both federal food programs and policies alike. As we further discuss the detrimental impact of hunger on the lives of Americans, we will also observe policy alternatives that could be the very key to turning the tide against hunger.

2.Policy Alternatives 1.As we took a look into the elements behind hunger, the next step becomes what options we can create and carry out in order to help fight against such a growing issue. For an initial policy alternative, this deals with an area that does not directly associate with the hunger programs, but has a great deal of impact on the food produced that these very programs need. To explain, we must first take a look at the farmers and agricultural workers who provide the services and products of food that are distributed all across the country as well as to the food banks and programs. Overall, farmers are some of the most poorly paid workers in the United States with a median income of approximately $33,000 a year. For the most part, people do not see farming as a profession that is both extremely lucrative or should even be paid any extent more but here in lies the problem of our perception. We sometimes do not realize that farming not matter where you come from is the very foundation of how we receive food and are able to purchase it off the shelves of stores each day. Because of this, it should be one of our main focus to push for better wage and salary payments to farmers to not only continue to encourage the profession, but also give these people the opportunity for a better life. In addition to this, current US policies favor the larger and corporate agribusinesses over the family owned farms creating a constant struggle for these independent farmers to sell their product and make ends meet. In 2012, Congress passed a bill known as the “Food and Farm Bill” that provided subsidies to these corporate agribusinesses and gave them the opportunity to expand and overtake many smaller farming institutions. Nevertheless, it should be our job to pressure Congress to repeal such an act and provide subsidies to farmers who sell directly to their consumers so that they may earn the money they deserve. Such an increase in the appreciation of smaller farming groups and families will give them the opportunity and financial support they need to continue their operations. With better equipment, production, and output, these farmers can provide to their local communities as well as to local food banks and programs. As a result, this chain of event can result in more effective and productive assistance to families in need around across states and in their local communities making an influence in the fight against hunger.

2.One such policy alternative sheds a light into the realm of the bureaucracies and administration of the fifteen federal food programs set across the country. Overall, the USDA controls these food programs with the three most well known being S.N.A.P. (formerly Food Stamp), W.I.C. (Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children), and the National School Lunch Program. For several years, these programs have operated for an outstanding cause providing to millions of families across the country. However, with this are several inefficiencies that are not only hurting the output of these food programs but also the funding they have to be able to operate. Based on a 2007 Harvard research study provided by American Progress, it estimated that around the 2016 fiscal year we would be facing costs of over $120 billion dollars because of hunger and food insecurity. It is vital that these programs run in an appropriate and productive manner. Yet, because there are so many, with a variety of guidelines, administration, and systems, they can be ineffective due to miscommunications with other organizations as well their own. Not only this, but nearly every organization requires a mountain of paperwork to be filled out and frequent visits to a local official in order to even qualify for federal assistance. This is in turn causing many families to be discouraged from even applying and even more so hinders the ability of the federal programs to run at full capability. With this being said, the policy alternative surrounding the federal food programs should be one that calls for Congress to pass legislation that would ultimately streamline the federal food programs into one overall administration. Through this, the USDA will be able to cut a variety of bureaucratic as well as overhead costs (i.e. buildings, staff, utilities) and can in turn use these savings to build on their one single organization. Moreover, it is important that they edit and reduce the amount of paperwork and credentials required for assistance so that such a process does not intimate families from applying. With such a policy alternative, this could bring very positive results to the USDA’s ability to run its federal food programs as well as to the families who are in need of such assistance all across the nation.

3.In addition to the restructuring of the federal food programs, another area in which a policy alternative is needed is the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families government program. In general, this program was established in 1996 provides block grants to states so that they can provide assistance to the families in need while being under the discretion of government guidelines. This discretionary spending allows state governments to provide both funding and food assistance to those who are struggling to feed families and finding work (i.e., a single mother with kids). In its first several years, the TANF program was able to provide benefits to approximately 100 families as well as provide a cash safety net so that family members could find work (about 60 percent of family members found employment coming out of the TANF program). However as the government has cut spending on the program, we can see what the results have become in this graph presented by the Center of Budget and Policies Priorities:

As one can observe, major budget cuts that have happened over the years for TANF’s program and its sister organization the AFDC has caused a substantial decline in the amount of families that this spending reaches out to. Because of this, the value of the program has declined, its efforts less successful, and the ability to help families has become increasingly obsolete. This area must be brought readdressed so that policy change may happen within it. The government should find ways in which they can increase the budget of the TANF program and bring it back to its formal success rate. One such way in which I believe that this can be achieved is through the streamlining of the USDA’s federal food programs. To explain, as the USDA takes in savings from turning its fifteen programs into one, this money can be distributed throughout the states’ TANF programs based on their level of unemployment and food insecurity. This extra money can be placed into the state programs to provide assistance to more families as well as update their technologies used to reach families in need. The TANF program is one that must be recognized as a very impacting and necessary block grant program for states across the country. Even so much as helping 100 families could make a massive difference in both their lives and those around them.

3.Determining the Right Policy Alternative

3.1/3.4As we look at these policy alternatives through the eyes of the think tank, the next important step is to decide which of these three ideas holds the best chance of passing through legislation. With this mine my decision will not only be based on the how relative the policy alternative is to the problem of hunger, but I will also implore several evaluative criteria’s and methods to validate its significance. Firstly, my initial opinion of which policy would most likely influence the cause against hunger would be the reconstructing and streamlining of the USDA’s fifteen different food bank programs. For myself, these programs are going to be the key factors in directly assisting families struggling with food insecurity as compared to the TANF block grants as well as the wage rates of farmers. While the other two are in fact very important considerations as well, the unification of the USDA programs is one that can take place within federal and state government and its officials rather than having to go through various groups of people to reach down to the bottom of participants like the farmers. With that in mind, the next questions that initially come to mind are “Whom would I speak to on the subject and what data would I ultimately need to support it?” Nevertheless, there would ultimately be a variety of people I would need to talk to with the first of those being the administration members of each of the food bank programs. It is necessary that through these officials I can gather and understand the various processes with which they perform their tasks and accept families into their programs. Needless to say because each one requires such a diverse and complex screening process, it is easy to recognize that their systems are too difficult to follow through and create efficiency. Not only this, but once the data on their systems are collected and their underlining costs to run their programs, the next group I must face is the policymaker himself or herself. Members of Congress are the very heart and soul of policy making and it will be through them that I can both persuade and push to work to promote a bill to their chambers. Through these two groups and the data collected, these will be some of the key determinants in my ability to promote and pass the streamlining of the USDA’s food bank programs. 3.2From people and data comes the question of what evaluative criteria and methods that I will use to have determined this policy alternative as the right one as well as the most cost-efficient one. With that being said, I believe that the two foremost credentials needed to judge this policy would be efficiency and administrative feasibility. For the fifteen food bank programs, the underling reason for their unification would be so that the federal government could reduced the costs of utilities and administration overhead being allocated to each of these programs and bring them under one roof. As a result, it is apparent that efficiency in the sense of cost be recognized as an evaluative criterion. We must analyze and determine whether or not the unification will bring about greater success in the fight against hunger while working at the lowest of costs. In addition to this, administration feasibility must also be important as the changing of the fifteen systems will directly affect people’s positions as well as the was in which they ran their programs. Nonetheless, we must work to ensure that these transitions run smoothly with the promise overseers and that we can minimize job loss as much as possible. 3.3After looking at the evaluative criteria we must also consider what methods will be the very foundation to determining the ability and validity of this proposal being passed. Seeing as though this policy alternative is widely based on cost saving changes to inhibit greater efficiency, we must use the method of the cost-effectiveness to determine its outcome. As a result, when looking at the streamlining of the food bank programs, one important factor to observe is whether or not reducing different program systems will in fact cut costs for the overall single program. Therefore, it becomes the question “Can the reduction of buildings, staff, and equipment help bring back some savings to the USDA to be used elsewhere?” or “Is it more of a financial burden to try and unite the programs into one system?” These are very powerful question we must ask in order to determine if our policy alternative is an effective one. Moreover, the process of impact assessment also becomes apparent due to the fact that this merge could in fact have a large impact on the employees and their processing ability. To explain, as the programs are untied into one, there could in fact be a chance that people may lose their jobs in order to cut back unnecessary administration as well as the fact whether different programs can sustain a new single system to screen families under. As a result, we must assess the impact that this unification would have on areas as so and whether or not the benefits are more important than the effects produced. Lastly, our final method of analyzation would be extremely significant as it is political feasibility. None of our research, observations, and conclusions will have any lasting influence if we do not find the right policymakers who can work to turn our policy alternative into law. Because of this, we must also present this new policy in such a light that it is both appealing and negotiable with members of the legislative branch so that they are persuaded in such a manner to fight for this idea and help make it a bill. This policy alternative, these methods, and criteria are the supplemental elements necessary to helping in the fight against hunger in the United States for both ourselves and the people around we encounter each day.

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