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thanksgiving

Friends,

A number of local organizations are hosting free Thanksgiving dinners this year.  Below is a link to a full listing of dinners in Erie County.  Please spread the word!

2009 Thanksgiving Dining Room Schedule

-HAWNY

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During the Poverty Challenge we received a ton of interesting thoughts and comments in the Poverty Challenge Blog as well as from people who have previously taken the Challenge.  In an interview for this years Poverty Challenge, Rev. Drew Ludwig talks about an experience he had last year while taking the Challenge:

For those of you who can’t watch the video, Rev. Ludwig talks about how he went to see a friend in the hospital.  His friend really wanted a coke, something that you couldn’t get in the hospital, and Rev. Ludwig was presented with a moral dilemma.  Buying a coke for his friend would probably put him over budget and mean that he couldn’t eat dinner but at the same time this was such a small request that it was hard to turn down.  Living on poverty level budget meant that Rev. Ludwig had to agonize over even very small acts of charity, something that you may never have to think about if you have a higher income.

Another story comes from Sr. Sharon Goodremote.  While thinking about how she will have to change things in order to stick to a poverty level budget she was confronted with a dilemma much like the one Rev. Ludwig had to face.  A Sister she lived with needed a ride somewhere but this would mean getting more gas for her car, which would put her way over her poverty level budget.  She thought:

Normally, there would be not thought – of course I can do that.  But because tomorrow I am living in poverty, my answer would need to be, I can’t help you, because I need to get to work and don’t have the extra money to take you to work.  Or my answer could be, yes, I’ll take you to work – knowing that I wouldn’t be able to have lunch tomorrow in order to have enough for gas after helping her.”

Like Rev. Ludwig she had to make the choice to either help a friend out and blow the poverty level budget or not help a friend, even if it was just giving someone a ride.  For those living at the poverty level this is a daily dilemma as many people living in poverty, especially those living in the ghettos, have friends or family living in poverty who could use some help.  Financially the person must decline requests for charity or risk getting farther behind but many times impoverished people go ahead and help people out even if it sets them farther back.  Sr. Goodremote noted this tendency of low-income people to give even when they have very little:

It is interesting to me that I immediately thought that I would just say no, yet knowing people who live in poverty are often more generous than people who “have”, I decided not to have lunch tomorrow so I could be of help to someone else.  I am grateful for the example of the people I know who live in poverty who are willing to go that extra mile for others.

Sr. Goodremote is not alone in noticing this trend.  Reading change.org’s Poverty in America blog I saw this post by Leigh Graham who found an article in the Miami Herald about how according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the poor donate more to charities percentage wise than the extremely wealthy.  Read the full article here.

The article titled “They are more generous — even in hard times” describes how the poorest fifth of Americans gave more than twice as much to charity (4.3% of income) as the wealthiest fifth gave (2.1% of income).  Statistics like these conflict with the dominant stereotypes about poor people being morally bankrupt and “leaching off the system”.  These statistics about charitable giving show that income has nothing to do with a person’s moral character.  It shows the poor actually being statistically more charitable than the wealthy.  This is not to say that the wealthy have less concern for the plight of others but it does help refute claims that the poor are as irresponsible and selfish as many people in society feel that they are.

Stories like the ones from Rev. Ludwig, Sr. Goodremote, and the article from the Miami Herald help challenge the myths and stereotypes surround those in poverty and those who are homeless.  They ask us to review and rethink the ideas we have about impoverished people and open our minds to the idea that income does not dictate moral character.

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“Anyone who has struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”

-James Baldwin

Living in poverty not only takes a toll on a person’s emotional and physical health but also on the meager financial resources they may have.  This article from the Washington Post takes a look at some of the ways that the poor end up paying more for basic goods/services than many middle or upper income folks, just because of their lack of money and the (most likely) poor neighborhood they live in.  Being forced to pay significant chunks of your small paychecks to check-cashing companies or having to buy food at the convenience store on the corner may not seem like big issues to those of us who have comfortable incomes but for someone who is living on a shoe-string budget these costs pile up week after week and month after month.  These costs make it even more difficult for someone to get out of poverty.

With our Poverty Challenge we hope that people will be able to see some of these hidden costs of being poor.  Choosing to drive a car will automatically put you over budget,  so if you need to get somewhere you will have to take the bus or start going into debt.  This means you will probably have to walk to your bus stop (which can be a long walk in some neighborhoods) and hope that the bus is on time.  If you miss the bus, that means waiting for at least another 20 minutes for another one.  Being late to work can mean instant firing for workers in many low-wage jobs, which would be a huge set-back because at a poverty level budget, odds are you haven’t been able to save much money in the last couple months.

The difficulty of finding steady transportation is just one hidden cost of being poor that people with higher incomes (who can usually afford a decent car) may not necessarily see.  Reading this article and taking part in the Poverty Challenge is one way that those of us who do not live at the poverty level can begin to get some understanding of the unique difficulties facing those of us living in poverty.

Poor? Pay Up.
Having Little Money Often Means No Car, No Washing Machine, No Checking Account And No Break From Fees and High Prices

By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 18, 2009

You have to be rich to be poor.

That’s what some people who have never lived below the poverty line don’t understand.

Put it another way: The poorer you are, the more things cost. More in money, time, hassle, exhaustion, menace. This is a fact of life that reality television and magazines don’t often explain.

So we’ll explain it here. Consider this a primer on the economics of poverty.

“The poor pay more for a gallon of milk; they pay more on a capital basis for inferior housing,” says Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). “The poor and 100 million who are struggling for the middle class actually end up paying more for transportation, for housing, for health care, for mortgages. They get steered to subprime lending. . . . The poor pay more for things middle-class America takes for granted.”

Poverty 101: We’ll start with the basics.

(more…)

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Charity Vogel of the Buffalo News wrote this excellent piece about the choices and sacrifices people living in poverty need to make.



Rose Cannon goes to the supermarket on her $14. But she doesn’t get far.

“I get a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread and some eggs,” she said. “That’s it. Nothing. You get nothing for $14.”

If you’ve looked at a grocery shelf lately, you know that’s true. Prices seem to increase weekly, even on basics like bread and milk. The cart full of stuff that used to cost $100 now costs – well, maybe it’s better not to dwell on that.

That’s the impact you’re feeling.

Now imagine for a minute what it’s like to deal with those prices when you’re poor.

Cannon knows all too well. She’s 54, hampered by poor health, and past her working days due to a stroke she suffered in 1991 and a back injury that led to painful arthritis.

Now, Cannon finds herself dwelling in a strange country called poverty.

In Buffalo, that makes her one of multitudes. Nearly one in three adults in the city is poor; almost 43 percent of children live in poor homes. It’s one of our most debilitating problems, and the most intractable.
Cannon knows all that, but it doesn’t make her daily life any easier.

Take her food stamps: $14 worth.

That’s her monthly allotment from the county. The reason she gets so little is because she owns a few things the government deems not mandatory for someone in her situation. Like a dog and cat, cable TV and the older Chevy Impala she drives.

Cannon, a longtime community volunteer who ran for Common Council in 1999, receives $660 a month in disability income. That, combined with the money her learning-disabled daughter, Rose, gets, goes to cover the mortgage on their Lovejoy home, utilities, debt payments, gas, the car and insurance, food and incidentals.

But Cannon pays a price for her choices.

When she petitioned for more food assistance, a state hearing determined that the amount she gets is fair. Her choices on voluntary spending, the state ruled, shouldn’t factor in.

So it came down to this: The cat or the frozen chicken dinners. The TV or the yogurt. The car or the coffee.
These are the kinds of tough choices people living in poverty in our city grapple with every day. It’s not something that would enter the minds of most of us who aren’t poor – that by holding onto your car keys, you can’t eat roast beef this month.

The poor of our city are real people. They’re not symbols, and they’re not statistics. They live and breathe and manage their own checkbooks and schedules. They lead complicated lives, just like the rest of us; and they have both fine points and flaws.

Like it or not, they are individuals, making individual decisions.

Cannon’s made hers. As she enters the later phase of a life pocked by hardship, she doesn’t want to lose the few remaining things that make it livable. The pets she dotes on. The car she sees as a necessity, since she can’t walk far or fast.

“You have to survive,” said Cannon, her green eyes softening, “no matter what.”

I don’t know whether Cannon should get more than $14 in food stamps, although it seems a pitifully small sum.

But I do know that if we want to understand – and maybe solve – the problem of poverty in our city, we need to see clearly how the system works for those who live in it.

And so: Which would you choose? The cable or the cottage cheese?

Poverty strips a lot away from those who endure it. It’s hard to blame someone who wants to hang onto the final few shreds of what makes her a little bit like the rest of us, still.

cvogel@buffnews.com

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Thanksgiving Dining Room Schedule 2008

Compiled by Food For All

Saturday, November 22nd

UPC Soup Kitchen                                                                           Saturday, November 22nd

67 Lake Avenue                                                                               12PM

Blasdell, NY 14219

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Tuesday, November 25th

Loaves and Fishes Dining Room                                                                           Tuesday, November 25th

875 Elmwood Ave                                                                                                11:30AM-12:30PM

Buffalo, NY 14222

Thanksgiving Day

Response to Love Dining Room                                                       Thursday, November 27th

130 Kosciuszko Street                                                                        10 AM- 12 Noon

Buffalo, NY 14212

City Mission                                                                                         Thursday, November 27th

100 East Tupper                                                                                  11:30AM-12:30PM

Buffalo, NY 14203

Durham Memorial Church, Central City Café                               Thursday, November 27th

147 E. Eagle Street                                                                             11AM- 12Noon

Buffalo, NY 14204

Friends of Night People                                                                    Thursday, November 27th

394 Hudson Street                                                                           11:30-1PM

Buffalo, NY 14201

The Hellenic Orthodox Church of Annunciation                        Thursday, November 27th

Delaware and West Utica Street                                                  11 AM- 1PM

Buffalo, NY 14209

Friday, November 23rd

St Vincent DePaul’s Dining Room                                                   Friday, November 28th

1298 Main Street                                                                               11AM-12:30PM

Buffalo, NY 14209

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The Florida Times-Union recently did a piece on families on Food Stamps who are having difficulty stretching their food budget out over the course of the month as food prices increase. One father of three (pictured above) has this story:

Hagins had been a maintenance man all his life.

He fell off a ladder, ripping ligaments in both knees. He lost his trailer, hasn’t been able to work for 10 months now and lives in a small Westside apartment with the help of Community Connections.

Hagins, his wife and three children have been on food stamps for five months now. That $600 used to make it almost the whole month.

“Might be out of bread, but only a few days,” he says. “You can do without bread.”

Now?

It lasts three weeks tops and the family has to go to its church for help.

Hagins, 42, has diabetes and heart trouble. He knows he needs to eat better, but he can’t pay for it.

“If I took $300 a month to buy diabetic food, you think they’d have enough to eat?” he asks, gesturing toward his three kids. “I don’t think so.”

Here’s a link to the article.

Here’s a pdf of the article.

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…so says the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The journal reported in an article in July 2005 that strategies for nutrition outreach can’t be limited to recommending high-cost, nutrient-dense foods to low income households, but that

The broader problem may lie with growing disparities in incomes and wealth, declining value of the minimum wage, food imports, tariffs, and trade.

The Philadelphia Inquirer this month reported on the increase in food costs and how it is making it more difficult for low income families to buy nutritious foods. It’s not that they don’t want to buy these foods, it’s that they can’t buy higher-quality foods because they simply can’t afford it.

Note: the epidemiologist interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote the article for the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2005.

It is not uncommon to hear misconceptions that poor folks who are obese would be able to save more money if they ate less – assuming first that obesity is caused by overeating, and second that obesity is the cause of their poverty. There is a relationship between obesity and poverty indeed, sound research demonstrates that it is poverty that often causes obesity.

Here’s a pdf of the article.

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