The year 2016 is coming to and end and what a year it has been. Before I take a few days off to enjoy Christmas and the New Year festivities with my family and friends, I wanted to reflect a bit on my journey assisting the food insecure this year. This past year contained some positive highlights. Nationally, the US Census Bureau reported in September that the poverty rate in the US declined in 2015 for the first time since 1999. In my community, the local school district started offering free lunch during the summer to all school age children in our community through the Summer Food Service Program. Online I found the Click and Carry handle, and with a generous discount from the manufacturer, was able to purchase several dozen to provide to our homeless clients, allowing them to carry away more food when they visit the food pantry. And finally this past month, due to the generous response of my blog readers, the food pantry was able to provide every household receiving food with a sweet treat baking mix–cookies, quick breads or brownies–to brighten their holiday. We were even able to offer aluminum baking pans to those who didn’t have a pan in which to cook the mix of their choosing. It was very rewarding to me and the other volunteers and staff who pack food for clients to see the happiness and excitement elicited by these unexpected treats. I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all my friends, neighbors, family and readers who helped make this possible.
2016 also had it’s low spots. In Pennsylvania, the year started out without a budget negatively impacting a wide range of social services, from school districts to food pantries. When 2016 began, the state had been without a budget for over 180 days. Just before 2015 ended, Governor Wolfe announced he would line item veto the budget proposal sent to him by the General Assembly. Taking this action allowed $23.4 billion to be released, of which $18.4 million went to the State Food Purchase Program, which helps provide food to food pantries. In early Spring, the House GOP released a budget plan for fiscal year 2017 in which 62% of its proposed budget cuts came from low income, social safety net programs. Luckily this budget was not approved, but that is perhaps only a temporary reprieve from the ax for these programs, for 2016 came to a close with the election of Donald Trump for President after one of the nastiest Presidential campaigns I have ever witnessed.
I have heard many people say they are glad to see 2016 come to an end and it can’t end soon enough. I understand what they mean; unfortunately, I do not share their belief that next year will be better, especially with regard to those in poverty and experiencing food insecurity. There have been calls for the nation to come together, to work together, to address our nation’s challenges. I don’t have a problem with that sentiment, as long as that is what happens–both sides talking to each other and listening to each others’ concerns and proposals, then working together through compromise to reach a jointly crafted approach. I fear, however, that is not what is meant with the call for national unity. My concern is that what is being requested is for the nation to come together in support of the plans and proposals of the GOP, who will soon control the Legislative and Executive branches of the Federal Government and 33 Governorship (in 25 of those states they also control the State Legislature as well), with little to no dialogue or compromise taking place. If bipartisan compromise is not what is meant by the call to come together, I think the result will be unfortunate for all Americans. I guess we will just have to wait and see.
So as 2016 comes to an end I am trying to remain that same optimist who has always tried to find the silver lining. Up until now, however, I never realized how close the colors sliver and gray were to each other. My husband keeps reminding me to focus on my sphere of influence–poverty, and in particular food insecurity–so as to not get overwhelmed by the magnitude of change that may be headed our way. It is good advice and I intend to try to follow it as best as I can. I will continue to advocate and do whatever else I can for those who are struggling to make ends meet and are experiencing food insecurity. I will also continue to encourage meaningful dialogue from all points of view with this blog. Thank you to my readers and to those who comment, either here on the blog or on Facebook or even in person. I have received inspiration, insight and encouragement from your words. And again, thank you so much to those who helped us brighten a few families’ holiday by donating baking mixes!
I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy New Year!