Judge orders L.A. City and County to offer Shelter to Everyone on Skid Row by Fall

Judge orders L.A. city and county to offer shelter to everyone on skid row by fall

Judge David O. Carter tours skid row with a police officer.
U.S. District Court judge David O. Carter tours skid row with LAPD Officer Deon Joseph on April 3, 2020. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
By BENJAMIN ORESKES, EMILY ALPERT REYES, DOUG SMITH
APRIL 20, 2021 UPDATED 4:15 PM PT
A federal judge overseeing a sprawling lawsuit about homelessness in Los Angeles ordered the city and county Tuesday to offer some form of shelter or housing to the entire homeless population of skid row by October.

Judge David O. Carter granted a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs in the case last week and now is telling the city and county that they must offer single women and unaccompanied children on skid row a place to stay within 90 days, help families within 120 days and finally, by Oct. 18, offer every homeless person on skid row housing or shelter.

It’s unclear whether the city and county will challenge the order, which also calls for the city to put $1 billion into an escrow account — an idea that has raised concerns among city officials.

The ruling argues that L.A. city and county wrongly focused on permanent housing at the expense of more temporary shelter, “knowing that massive development delays were likely while people died in the streets.” That element of the order underscores the judge’s skepticism of a core part of L.A.’s current strategy to tackle homelessness.

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“Los Angeles has lost its parks, beaches, schools, sidewalks, and highway systems due to the inaction of city and county officials who have left our homeless citizens with no other place to turn,” Carter wrote in a 110-page brief sprinkled with quotes from Abraham Lincoln and an extensive history of how skid row was first created.

Read the full injunction here

“All of the rhetoric, promises, plans, and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis — that year after year, there are more homeless Angelenos, and year after year, more homeless Angelenos die on the streets.” Last year more than 1,300 homeless people died in Los Angeles County.

In the last homeless count in January 2020, more than 4,600 unhoused people were found to be living on skid row — about 2,500 in large shelters and 2,093 on the streets. They account for only slightly more than 10% of the city’s overall homeless population, and it’s not clear what Carter’s order might mean for other parts of the city.

The judge wrote that “after adequate shelter is offered,” he would allow the city to enforce laws that keep streets and sidewalks clear of tents so long as they’re consistent with previous legal rulings that have limited the enforcement of such rules. That appears to only apply to skid row.

He also ordered the county to offer “support services to all homeless residents who accept the offer of housing” including placements in “appropriate emergency, interim, or permanent housing and treatment services.” The costs would be split by the city and county, he said.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office, said Tuesday that city lawyers are reviewing the order. He declined to comment further.

Skip Miller, partner at the Miller Barondess law firm, which is outside counsel for the county in the lawsuit, said the county is “now evaluating our options, including the possibility of an appeal.”

Previously, the county had asked to be removed from the case, arguing that it was about the city and that the county was aggressively responding to homelessness without any direction from the court. It cited efforts that included spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually through the Measure H sales tax and developing innovative strategies such as Project Roomkey in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Project Roomkey is a state program that provides temporary funding for cities and counties to rent hotel rooms for homeless people during the pandemic.

The push for an injunction “is an attempt by property owners and businesses to rid their neighborhood of homeless people,” Miller said.

David Barker, 56, is visiting with his friend living in a tent on skid row in Los Angeles, Calif. on Thursday, March 19, 2020. David is not homeless but he works in the area. Because of the coronavirus pandemic city and county workers are working to move people living on the street inside.
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“There is no legal basis for an injunction because the county is spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on proven strategies,” he added.

Matthew Umhofer, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, said he and his clients were ecstatic. Carter’s call for action was what they had been looking for when they filed the case, he said, and why they sought out Carter, who had overseen similar cases in Orange County in recent years, to preside over it.

“This is exactly the kind of aggressive emergency action that we think is necessary on the issue of homelessness in Los Angeles,” Umhofer said.

The Alliance is a coalition of downtown business owners and residents that filed the case in March 2020, accusing the city and county of breaching their duty to abate a nuisance, reducing property value without compensation, wasting public funds and violating the state environmental act and state and federal acts protecting people with disabilities.

Carter’s order came the day that Mayor Eric Garcetti released his budget for the next fiscal year, which includes nearly $1 billion in spending on homelessness. The longtime federal judge also ordered “that $1 billion, as represented by Mayor Garcetti, will be placed in escrow forthwith.”

Of the $1 billion in homeless spending planned by Garcetti, more than a third would come from Proposition HHH, the 2016 bond measure to build permanent housing for homeless residents. Garcetti aides said they expect the city will be building or developing 89 HHH projects over the next fiscal year, for a total of 5,651 housing units.

Whether Carter’s order will disrupt those activities is unclear. In his order, the judge said he wants a report in 90 days of every developer receiving funds from HHH, as well as new regulations to “limit the possibility of funds being wasted.”

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Garcetti declined to say whether the city would file an appeal of the order, saying he first wants to read it. But he suggested that Carter’s order could slow down the construction of HHH projects.

“Roadblocks masquerading as progress are the last things we need,” he said.

David Barker, 56, is visiting with his friend living in a tent on skid row in Los Angeles, Calif. on Thursday, March 19, 2020. David is not homeless but he works in the area. Because of the coronavirus pandemic city and county workers are working to move people living on the street inside.
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April 20, 2021
Because the $1 billion for homelessness doesn’t yet exist — some of it hasn’t arrived from Washington and none of it has been approved by the City Council for the coming year — Garcetti said he also fears the city will be asked instead to put some other source of money in the escrow account.

Carter has also asked for a number of reports from city and county officials about how money for combating homelessness has been and is currently being spent. He has also ordered that the city and county cease any sales or transfers of city or county property before such reports are provided.

The lengthy ruling also skewered corruption scandals involving housing projects, “excessive delays and skyrocketing costs” under the HHH bond measure, and L.A.’s failure to seek federal reimbursement for Project Roomkey rooms.

Councilman Kevin de León, whose district includes skid row, welcomed the judge’s decision. Although L.A. needs more clarity about setting aside $1 billion, he said, the tight timeframe to offer shelter or housing to skid row residents “lights a fire under the city to act with a real sense of urgency and to match the rhetoric with real outcomes to save lives.”

“It’s a strong shot across the bow — and he is expecting action,” de León said. “Not continued negotiations or studying everything to death.”

Pete White, executive director of the skid row-based Los Angeles Community Action Network, which is an intervenor in the case, said his organization had “grown concerned that politicians are using this litigation to justify investment in emergency shelters instead of housing.”

“We all know that shelters won’t solve our housing crisis, and they definitely won’t address the structural racism that got us here in the first place.”

Skid row activist and resident Jeff Page echoed White , saying the tight window for moving people means they won’t be going to permanent housing but instead to “dorm style living that in and of itself is problematic.” What’s needed, he said, is more permanent housing in the neighborhood to be built as quickly as possible.

“We need more housing here. We need more services,” he said.

In his order, Carter outlined historic forms of discrimination that had cut Black people out of housing opportunities, including redlining, segregated systems of assistance during the Great Depression, highway construction that displaced Black families, and criminalization that has disproportionately affected Black communities.

Racial inequity has continued to color government handling of the crisis, Carter concluded, opining that current city and county policies “compound and perpetuate structural racism, threatening the integrity of Black families in Los Angeles and forcing a disproportionate number of Black families to go unhoused.”

The judge has previously compared the situation to the aftermath of the seminal civil rights case Brown vs. Board of Education, saying there are times when the federal judiciary may need to act “after a long period of inaction by local government officials.”

Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School, called the 110-page order a “deep dive into the problems of homelessness in Los Angeles and an expression of Carter’s frustration with how the city and county have responded to this crisis.” She noted that judges in the South during the 1950s and 1960s had used similarly expansive injunctions to make desegregation a reality and in other cases to implement prison reform.

She wasn’t sure how a higher court might rule if this case ends up getting appealed but said it was “certainly a landmark decision.”

“It is an open question whether the appellate court will step in,” she said. “As Judge Carter acknowledges, there is usually a hearing before such an order. However, he has loaded up his decision with facts that he says obviate the need for a hearing. The judge has made a bold move.”

News of the injunction had not trickled down to the streets of skid row Tuesday, but people reacted favorably when informed of it. Hasan Saleem, 58, who was sitting outside his tent on 6th Street, said he would take housing “right away” if offered, even if it takes 180 days. Still, he remained skeptical.

“I wouldn’t mind waiting if it was true,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s true or not.”

“It’s better than how they used to do it when they just take your stuff and put you to jail,” said Peaceful Bolden, who was standing with a small group across the street from the Los Angeles Mission. “At least they’re trying.”

But Bolden said she did not think housing alone would be enough.

“Some of these people are just refugees from whatever life they used to have,” she said. “They need mental health. They need hospice, some of them. A lot of them don’t want to leave because they don’t want to be under anyone’s rules.”

Andy Bales, president and CEO of the Union Rescue Mission, had heard the news and hailed it as the “wall of reality” that the city and county are finally running into.

“It’s what I came to Union Rescue Mission to accomplish,” Bales said. “I’ve always wanted to decentralize skid row and regionalize Services throughout the County. My hope is this will do that.”

How the Clintons Robbed and Destroyed Haiti

By Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza, African Exponent, Feb. 18, 2020

The imprint of Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton is indelible. The couple’s presence and impact on the Caribbean island have brought nothing but prolonged despair for the Haitians. Their elusive and opaque deals in the country have not done anything to alleviate the country out of poverty depths. The purported interests of helping Haiti from its myriad of problems have only caused stagnation in Haiti.

The presence of Bill Clinton, who also served as the president of the United States together with his wife who served as the Secretary of State during Obama’s tenure can be traced back to the 90s. Their interests in Haiti are not a new phenomenon. If not, their interests in Haiti have almost become irrevocably entrenched and have had far-reaching consequences in the lives of ordinary Haitian citizens.

Their history with the country dates back to 1975 when they had their honeymoon there. If there is an unpopular couple in Haiti, it definitely has to be the Clintons; for they are held in contempt and in despicable terms. What the Clintons did is unforgivable to the Haitians.

The devastating 2010 earthquake left Haiti in tatters. The country’s economy reeled under the biting and excruciating effects of the earthquake. Because of their history with Haiti, the Clintons seized this chance in the interests of “assisting” Haiti in its times of unparalleled difficulty. But their involvement with the earthquake relief programs was the final proof Haitians needed to show that the Clintons’ true intentions with the country were to rob it for their own parochial interests.

Over 220,000 Killed in Quake
Bill Clinton’s influence in Haiti ranges from the 1990s agricultural policies in Haiti that destroyed the country’s rice industry to the meddling in internal affairs and finally to the earthquake. There is a sense of permanency attached to the Clintons’ name as regards their activities in Haiti, particularly the Clinton Foundation.

When the earthquake struck, the global response was to send in donations to Haiti. But of course, that needed a commission that would be designed to have an oversight role as regards the disbursement of the various relief packages pouring through. The Clintons stepped up to lead the global response. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) was brought into life and Bill Clinton was selected to be its co-chair. At that time, Hillary Clinton was still the Secretary of State and thus responsible for channeling USAID relief spending to Haiti.

One could not have found an escape from their influence. Bill Clinton co-chaired the commission alongside Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. Some $13.3 billion was pledged by international donors so that Haiti could be rebuilt and the lives of Haitians uplifted.

The IHRC was comprised of two parts: one that had the foreigners and one led by the Haitian Prime Minister. Bill Clinton chaired the foreign part and it had all the donors; they had to the IHRC $0.10 billion over two years or forgive $0.20 billion of Haitian debt. Each and every decision made by the Haiti section of the commission had to be endorsed by the foreign section. And Clinton was at the helm of the foreign part of that commission.

As the money found its way into the possession of the IHRC, it increasingly became arrogant and opaque. The only thing that came out of the post-earthquake relief plans was the construction of an industrial park called Caracol, which cost $300 million. The US was also amenable to financing a power plant. The belief held by the Clintons and their allies in terms of rebuilding Haiti was premised on employing short-term plans espoused in the foreign aid industry that the US had imposed on Haiti all these years.

They hoped that Caracol would sizeably attract foreign businesses for the reconstruction of the country’s badly fractured economy. It was the same old policy that did not care about the pertinent issue of creating long-lasting projects that would eventually help the poverty-stricken Haitians. The foreign-aid industry plans are concerned with benefiting the international players, the private contractors.

The industrial park is considered a very big flop by the US. Worse still, several hundred farmers were evicted from there in order to make way for the 600-acre park. Too much emphasis was placed on “outside players” instead of the Haitian government to effect change.

Clinton at Grand Opening
As such, the jobs that Caracol was expected to make fall far below the reality on the ground. The post-earthquake efforts by the Clintons, particularly Caracol, was a damning failure that did nothing to lift the Haitians out of their misery but only lined the pockets of big firms. South Korean textile giant Sae-A Trading Co, which is the main employer at Caracol, gifted the Clinton Foundation with donations between $50,000 and $100,000.

The IHRC had little to show for all the money that came through except the Caracol industrial park. Not much reconstruction in Haiti was done. Where did all the money go? The Clinton Foundation has refuted claims that it had influence in the running of the IHRC, saying, “Since 2010, the Foundation has worked on the ground in Haiti with a range of partners – helping more than 7,500 farmers lift themselves out of poverty; improving the Haitian environment by planting more than 5 million trees and installing more than 400 KW of clean energy; and supporting women through literacy training and job skills for over 2,000 women,” when responding to the BBC.

It has been speculated some of the money that came through the commission found its way towards sponsoring Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign which she lost to the incumbent Donald Trump in 2016 but this is an area she has always been evasive about when probed. They become allegations without proof but to Haitians the more she dodges the question, the more she becomes suspicious and pernicious to the interests of Haitians.

It is estimated that the IHRC collected over $5.3 billion over two years and $9.9 billion in three years but Haitians still find themselves mired in abject poverty. A US Government Accountability Office report circumvented the issue by deciding not to find any iota of wrongdoing, but the gravity of the failure made them mention that the plans by the IHRC, co-chaired by Bill Clinton, “did not align with the Haitian priorities.”

The failure by the IHRC to rebuild Haiti is still haunting Haiti. The failed agricultural policies by the US made sure Haiti, a country that produced its own rice, would be reliant on US food to the extent that Haiti imports food from the US. Foreign aid is continuously pumped into Haiti, and no plan is made to bolster the country’s own capacity to rebuild and produce.

Haiti is still run on which business finds favor with the US, and while the Clintons were in charge of the US, they presided over all these failed policies. It is high time the onus to build Haiti shifts back to the government.

Haiti 10 years later: What happened to the billions pledged to help the people of Haiti?

ByValerie Helm Global NewsPosted January 20, 2020 1:42 pm Updated January 20, 2020 3:13 pm

Click to play video: ‘How were Canadian donations to Haiti 2010 earthquake relief spent?’
Haiti has received billions of dollars in relief over the years from around the world, after the devastating earthquake of 2010. So how were Canadian donations spent? – Jan 13, 2020
When Haiti was rocked by an earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, images of despair and damage struck a chord with people around the world.

American journalist Jonathan M. Katz has closely analyzed the money pledged and how much was actually disbursed. He reports the global response totalled US$16.3 billion in pledges for rebuilding and recovery efforts. Other estimates, including from the L.A. Times, pin it at US$13.5 billion. In the month following the earthquake, Canadians donated $220 million to eligible organizations, which was matched by the federal government. From 2010 to 2018, Canada contributed $1.458 billion, which does not include the $220 donated by Canadians.

A small boy sits outside the tent he lives in with his family in Canaan, Haiti, January 2020. (Valerie Laillet)
A small boy sits outside the tent he lives in with his family in Canaan, Haiti, January 2020. (Valerie Laillet).
Photojournalist Barry Donnelly in Canaan, Haiti, Jan. 11, 2020. (Valerie Laillet)
Photojournalist Barry Donnelly in Canaan, Haiti, Jan. 11, 2020. (Valerie Laillet).
“We’re still living in that same moment in that same time,” Guillano Louis, who lives in Port-au-Prince, tells Global News on the streets of the capital.

READ MORE: Haiti 10 years later — Temporary tent city turns into makeshift community for 300,000

In the area of Canaan, a two-hour drive northeast of congested Port-au-Prince, some families still live in tents set up as a temporary measure for displaced residents after the earthquake. A family of seven sleeps in a threadbare tent, without access to running water, electricity or public services such as education. Some of the children were born in these conditions.

A family of seven lives inside this tent in Canaan, Haiti. (Valerie Laillet)
A family of seven lives inside this tent in Canaan, Haiti. (Valerie Laillet).
Canaan, Haiti. Jan. 11, 2020. (Valerie Laillet)
Canaan, Haiti. Jan. 11, 2020. (Valerie Laillet).
With 10 years gone by, there are questions from the international community about the lack of progress.

“The headline should be, ‘We screwed up,’” says Katz, reflecting on the global response.

He explains that the international community didn’t keep its promises.

Katz was inside his home in Haiti when it “buckled along with hundreds of thousands of others.” In his book, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, he claims Canada disbursed $657 million in the 20 months since the quake, but only about two per cent was channelled to the Haitian government.

Global News reached out to Global Affairs Canada for confirmation of the figures provided by Katz. In a statement, the department says it is “unable to confirm this figure, as we are not aware of the methodology that was used to arrive at this amount.”

“Canada’s international assistance to Haiti is channelled through international or Canadian partners whose financial capacity and integrity have been verified,” the statement says.

Haiti 10 years later: What happened to the billions pledged to help the people of Haiti? – image
Haiti 10 years later: What happened to the billions pledged to help the people of Haiti? – image
Katz says there’s the notion that governments should not foolishly give money to countries filled with corruption. The Haitian government is widely accused of corruption, mismanagement and misinformation, right down to the number of people it says died in the earthquake. The government estimates 316,000 people died and 200,000 people were injured, figures many believe to be inflated. The BBC cites a draft report commissioned by the U.S. government that puts the death toll between 46,000 and 85,000. Many news outlets report 220,000 lives were lost.

In Port-au-Prince, many Haitians lament their current situation. A vendor selling patties, who did not want to be identified, told Global News she is fed up with the government’s inaction. She says she never saw any of the food and supplies distributed, and believes the government kept things for itself.

Louis, who works in security and was in Port-au-Prince at the time of the earthquake, echoes that sentiment. He says the earthquake is still fresh in the minds of Haitians.

“There’s been no real progress,” he said.

He believes the Haitian government is to blame and voiced that “someone needs to say something.”

Vendors in Port-au-Prince days before Haiti marks the 10th anniversary of the earthquake. (Courtesy: Barry Donnelly)
Vendors in Port-au-Prince days before Haiti marks the 10th anniversary of the earthquake. (Courtesy: Barry Donnelly).Courtesy: Barry Donnelly.
Guillano Louis walks by a vendor in Port-au-Prince. (Courtesy: Barry Donnelly)
Guillano Louis walks by a vendor in Port-au-Prince. (Courtesy: Barry Donnelly). Courtesy: Barry Donnely
In a statement released on the 10th anniversary of the earthquake, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse said the government still lacks “the basic infrastructure and services to support the people of our country.”

“The initial flurry of attention received from the international community quickly quieted down, with many of the financial pledges not delivered — causing devastating consequences for our recovery,” he said. “Little of the aid that was received ended up in Haitian hands and much of the money that was so generously given was not spent on the right projects and places.”

Katz says there’s a lot of noise about corruption in places like Haiti, but little of the aid is actually going to Haiti. Often, foreign donors choose to give to NGOs due to fears of corruption by the Haitian government.​ But some NGOs are also accused of mismanagement.

In 2015, NPR and ProPublica released their findings into the US$500 million raised by the American Red Cross for relief efforts in Haiti. ProPublica’s headline read: “How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti ­and Built Six Homes.” According to NPR, their investigation found a number of “poorly managed projects, questionable spending and dubious claims of success.”

Aid for Haiti
FILE – A Brazilian soldier of the MINUSTAH force gives food to Haitian children orphaned by the 2010 earthquake, at an orphanage in Port-au-Prince on March 3, 2013. VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images
Katz explains that foreign aid is “a misnomer.”

“It’s usually not aid and it’s not given to foreign countries,” he said.

Katz says that with Canadian aid agencies, as with other aid agencies, a lot of the funds go to Canadian staff, salaries and travel and that the material is purchased in the donor country. He also says people believe that so much money should have fixed everything, but a lot of the money that was pledged wasn’t delivered.

FILE – This Monday, July 11, 2011, file photo shows silhouettes of UN peacekeepers from Brazil at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
FILE – This Monday, July 11, 2011, file photo shows silhouettes of UN peacekeepers from Brazil at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo).
NGOs poured into Haiti to assist, but it’s unclear how many have been on the ground. There are varying reports placing the number of NGOs in the country to as low as 3,000 and as high as 20,000. While NGOs play critical roles in providing basic necessities and health services to people facing difficult times, there are questions as to who oversees them.

The Centre for Global Development has been calling for the implementation of national guilds that would set a national mandatory requirement for NGOs to be registered, and possibly include a code of conduct that would keep their missions in line with one another. It also calls for practices such as annual reports and audited financial statements.​

Vocational school in Carrefour, Haiti, built in honour of RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher. (Courtesy: Antony Robart)
Vocational school in Carrefour, Haiti, built in honour of RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher. (Courtesy: Antony Robart).
Canadians responded in the days, months and years after the earthquake. A vocational school was built in memory of RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher, who died in the quake.

Gilles Rivard was the Canadian ambassador to Haiti from June 2008 to October 2010 and January 2014 to September 2014. He was in the country when the earthquake struck and says Canada had a fantastic team for the mission. He says Canadian teams brought in food, flew out some 6,000 Haitians and built a new road and a new hospital.

“Now people are complaining that this hospital is not functioning well,” Rivard said. He says if the “Haitian government doesn’t send doctors or nurses to take care of the poor people that suffered, there is nothing Canada can do. But we’re criticized for that.”

READ MORE: 10 years after, Michaelle Jean laments flawed response to devastating Haiti quake

FILE – Haitians struggled to rebuild after the earthquake rocked their fragile island in 2010.
FILE – Haitians struggled to rebuild after the earthquake rocked their fragile island in 2010.
Rivard points to issues with UN institutions. He says they “don’t always co-ordinate among themselves.”

“So you can imagine the situation,” he said. “And I think it’s a big problem; the co-ordination and also what we request from the country, the numerous reports, evaluation, audit and so on. They don’t have the capacity to respond.”

READ MORE: Child victims of Haiti earthquake find hope at orphanage with Canadian ties

Rivard says Haiti needs support from Canada and the U.S., who are main donors.

“Canada does a lot,” he said. “The problem is that if you don’t do enough, you’re going to be criticized. And then if you do too much, they’re going to be accused of telling Haitians what to do. That’s the dilemma.”

Rivard says there is a lot of fatigue from countries that are trying to help Haiti.

“You feel that there is no real progress in terms of governance, of economic situation and so on. So that’s that. See, that’s a vicious circle.”

Dorcius Fritzner speaks to Global News journalist Antony Robart (Courtesy: Valerie Laillet).
Dorcius Fritzner speaks to Global News journalist Antony Robart (Courtesy: Valerie Laillet). Courtesy: Barry Donnely
Father of two Dorcius Fritzner makes his living in Haiti’s capital by shuttling people on his motorbike. He told Global News he’s frustrated with the government. Fritzner says resources in Haiti are barren, likening it to a desert. Issues he points to include children not able to attend school, trouble accessing clean water, unemployment and gas shortages.

READ MORE: ‘We’re living that day’ — A decade later, Haitians remember devastating 2010 earthquake

FILE – A demonstrator walks past a burning barricade during anti-government protests in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 15, 2019.
FILE – A demonstrator walks past a burning barricade during anti-government protests in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 15, 2019.REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
Port-au-Prince architect Philippe Léon says the political turmoil and instability has hindered rebuilding efforts. He points to the number of times the government has changed hands; three different presidents and an interim government in the last decade.

“One hundred to 150 years of construction was destroyed, including the presidential palace that was nearly 100 years old,” he said. “It wouldn’t take five to 10 years to rebuild.”

Haiti’s Notre-Dame cathedral is still in ruins 10 years later. (Valerie Laillet)
Haiti’s Notre-Dame cathedral is still in ruins 10 years later. (Valerie Laillet).
Janurary 12, 2020. (Valerie Laillet)
Janurary 12, 2020. (Valerie Laillet).
Still, he says, not much has been done. Léon says a lot of the new construction has been in the private sector and a lot of it is half-built. He points to projects like the Village Lumane Casimir, with 1,500 units. Only about half of the units are built, due to a lack of funds.

How were Canadian donations to Haiti 2010 earthquake relief spent?
Child victims of Haiti earthquake find hope at orphanage with Canadian ties
Léon says Haitians have been building out of necessity. Instead of waiting for the government, people have been building their homes over time.

READ MORE: Haiti earthquake survivor goes from orphanage to Oklahoma business analyst

More than one million people were displaced by the earthquake. In Canaan, about two hours from the capital, tents were set up to temporarily house displaced residents. But today, some people still live in the very tents that were put up 10 years ago. Others have built homes out of whatever they could find; wood and tin homes cover the mountains. A number of residents have built their homes out of cement blocks. People in Canaan have built a makeshift community with homes out of various materials, schools for those who can afford it, churches and grocery stores.

Léon says the mountains surrounding Port-au-Prince are covered with dwellings, with no roads or order. He says when you fly into or out of Haiti at night, you can see all of the lights emanating from homes, snake roads and lack of organization.

Katz says when it comes to Haiti, people often try to find a single villain. Bill and Hillary Clinton are often singled out. But Katz says “what failed was the system.”

“This should be a wakeup call.”

He says inequality, much more than the earthquake, is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

National police shoot at protesters demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise near the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Dieu Nalio Chery
National police shoot at protesters demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise near the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Dieu Nalio Chery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Dieu Nalio Chery
Over the last year, Léon hasn’t worked on any housing projects due to the political instability and violence in his country. He said there’s no work to be had in new builds. Instead, he’s been working on building fences, steel doors and other measures to make homes impenetrable by rioters. At his office, his windows are covered in wood to fend off rocks and Molotov cocktails.

Léon says the problem with Haiti is that the country is “managing misery.” Poverty, a lack of education and fighting for political power are some of the main issues. He says a lot of things other countries take for granted, Haiti cannot. Everything from water to electricity to roads are systems people have to build themselves, and in challenging circumstances.

Léon believes the development of a country “can only happen through its own people, through people who believe in it and support it.” He says the 10th anniversary of the earthquake is time for a ‘bilan,’ an assessment on the progress so far: “counting the blessings and counting your mistakes.” Léon, who is now in his 60s, says he hopes to see a better Haiti himself.

How Haiti is coping 10 years after a devastating earthquake
Haiti earthquake survivor goes from orphanage to Oklahoma business analyst
Haiti Earthquake 10 years later: Reminders of deadly quake still present in Port-au-Prince
Haiti 10 years later: Temporary tent city turns into makeshift community for 300,000
10 years after, Michaelle Jean laments flawed response to devastating Haiti quake
Hotel in Haiti a story of resilience a decade after devastating earthquake

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A major provision in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill aims to address decades of discrimination against Black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian American farmers who have historically been excluded from government agricultural programs. The American Rescue Plan sets aside $10.4 billion for agriculture support, with about half of that amount set aside for farmers of color, and allocates extra federal funds to farmers who were “subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture has faced accusations of racism for decades, but little has been done to address the problem of discrimination in farm loans. John Boyd, a fourth-generation Black farmer and president of the National Black Farmers Association, says the new funds begin to address issues he has been fighting for 30 years. “This is a huge victory for Black farmers and farmers of color,” says Boyd. Transcript

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Judge Blocks Rule That Would Have Kicked 700,000 People Off SNAP

Judge Blocks Rule That Would Have Kicked 700,000 People Off SNAP

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March 14, 202012:06 AM ET
Maria Godoy at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., May 22, 2018. (photo by Allison Shelley) (Square)
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Critics had called on the Department of Agriculture to suspend implementation of the new food stamp restrictions, especially in light of the economic crisis spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.
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A federal judge has issued an injunction blocking the Trump administration from adopting a rule change that would force nearly 700,000 Americans off food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The rule change was set to take effect April 1.

In a ruling issued Friday evening in Washington, D.C., U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell called the rule change capricious, arbitrary and likely unlawful.

The rule change would have required able-bodied adults without children to work at least 20 hours a week in order to qualify for SNAP benefits past three months. It would also have limited states’ usual ability to waive those requirements depending on economic conditions. The preliminary injunction will preserve that flexibility.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it was adopting the rule change in December, but critics have called on the department to suspend implementation, especially in light of the economic crisis spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the department planned to move ahead with the rule.

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While the rule applies to “able-bodied adults without dependents,” anti-hunger advocates note that category can include parents who don’t have primary custody of their kids, youths who have recently aged out of foster care and some low-income college students.

In her ruling, Howell cited concerns raised by the spread of coronavirus and its effect on the most vulnerable Americans. “Especially now, as a global pandemic poses widespread health risks, guaranteeing that government officials at both the federal and state levels have flexibility to address the nutritional needs of residents and ensure their well-being through programs like SNAP, is essential,” she wrote.

The change to SNAP is now blocked from taking effect pending the outcome of a lawsuit by 19 states plus the District of Columbia and New York City.

“This is a major victory for our country’s most vulnerable residents who rely on SNAP to eat,” D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine, who co-led the coalition behind the lawsuit, said in a statement. “The Trump administration’s rule would have forced hundreds of thousands of people who could not find work, including 13,000 District residents, to go hungry. That could have been catastrophic in the midst of our current public health emergency.”

“At a time of national crisis, this decision is a win for common sense and basic human decency,” New York Attorney General Letitia James, who co-led the coalition with Racine, said in a statement. Her office noted that the change would have denied SNAP benefits to more than 50,000 people in New York City alone.

“As we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic,” James said, “the effects of this rule would be more destructive than ever.”

Food Shortages? Nope, Too Much Food In The Wrong Places

Food Shortages? Nope, Too Much Food In The Wrong Places

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April 3, 20201:16 PM ET
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Together Inc. food bank workers distribute food at a drive-through location in Omaha, Neb., last week. Disruptions in the agricultural supply chain caused by the coronavirus pandemic are making it difficult for food banks.
Nati Harnik/AP
Updated at 8:30 a.m. ET on April 10

In recent days, top U.S. government officials have moved to assure Americans that they won’t lack for food, despite the coronavirus.

As he toured a Walmart distribution center, Vice President Pence announced that “America’s food supply is strong.” The Food and Drug Administration’s deputy commissioner for food, Frank Yiannas (a former Walmart executive) told reporters during a teleconference that “there are no widespread or nationwide shortages of food, despite local reports of outages.”

“There is no need to hoard,” Yiannas said.

In fact, the pandemic has caused entirely different problems: a spike in the number of people who can’t afford groceries and a glut of food where it’s not needed.

Dairy farmers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Georgia have been forced to dump thousands of gallons of milk that no one will buy. In Florida, vegetable growers are abandoning harvest-ready fields of tomatoes, yellow squash and cucumbers for the same reason.

“We cannot pick the produce if we cannot sell it, because we cannot afford the payroll every week,” says Kim Jamerson, a vegetable grower near Fort Myers. Those crops will be plowed back into the ground. “We’ll have to tear ’em up,” Jamerson says. “Just tear up beautiful vegetables that really could go elsewhere, to food banks, and hospitals, and rest homes.”

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The country’s food distribution system, in normal times, is a marvel, efficiently delivering huge amounts of food to consumers. But it relies on predictability, like a rail system that directs a stream of trains, on set schedules, toward their destinations. Now, some of the biggest destinations — chain restaurants, schools and workplace cafeterias — have disappeared, and supply chains are struggling to adapt.

Jay Johnson, with JGL Produce, a vegetable broker in Immokalee, Fla., is the kind of person who makes this system work — matching buyers with sellers. “You’re getting phone calls, text messages, emails, all day and all night,” he says. ” ‘What’s your price on this? What grade? Can you do a better deal?’ You’re doing all these micronegotiations throughout the day.”

On Tuesday, March 24, he says, that all changed. “Everything got quiet. Wednesday, the 25th, superquiet. Thursday, now we’re getting nervous.”

Normally, chain restaurants buy a steady supply of produce, week after week. But most have shut down — and did so just as Florida’s vegetable harvest shifted into high gear. “Now you’re sitting there with all this production, perfect weather, and everybody’s like, ‘Oh no,’ ” Johnson says.

He told vegetable grower Mike Jamerson, Kim’s husband, that “we’re in trouble here. And it’s to the point where I’m going to fill my warehouse up and I’m going to have to tell you to stop picking.” That’s when workers stopped picking yellow squash on Kim Jamerson’s farm.

A week after Jamerson told NPR that they’d have to “tear up” their crops, the situation had improved a bit. Workers have resumed picking, but it’s now a “salvage operation,” Jamerson says. Workers are discarding vegetables that weren’t picked in time. The vegetables that they salvage will be sold at cut-rate prices, with some going to food banks.

Something similar has happened to dairy farmers. Milk sales in supermarkets have increased, but not enough to make up for the drop in sales of milk to schools and cheese to Pizza Hut. Factories that make milk powder can’t take any more milk. So some milk cooperatives have told their farmers to dump the milk that their cows are producing.

The situation is especially dire for Florida’s tomato growers, who sell 80% of their production to restaurants and other food service companies, rather than to supermarkets. “Think about all the sandwiches that people eat at lunch when they go out. Burgers, or salads at restaurants,” says Michael Schadler, from the Florida Tomato Exchange, which represents some of the state’s largest growers. “Many of those food service items have tomatoes.”

Schadler says growers already are “walking away from big portions of their crop,” writing off huge investments.

Meanwhile, food banks and pantries are having trouble supplying enough food to people who need it, including millions of children who no longer are getting free meals at school and people who’ve lost jobs in recent weeks.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, a network of food banks and charitable meals programs, says that these programs normally receive large donations of unsold food from retail stores. In recent weeks, though, as retailers struggled to keep their shelves stocked, “we’re seeing as much as a 35% reduction in that donation stream from retail,” Babineaux-Fontenot says.

Food banks are trying to claim more of the food that is stranded in the food service supply chain, either through donations or by buying it.

“We are capturing some of that. I know we’re not capturing all of it, but we have a whole team of professionals whose job is to try to make sure that we capture as much of it as we possibly can,” Babineaux-Fontenot says. “So we’re having conversations with major restaurants. We’re having conversations with major producers, with trade associations, the whole gamut.”

Kim Jamerson thinks “it’s just a shame” to have enough food, but not be able to get it to the people in need. “A woman who’s got two kids how can she live on unemployment, go into a grocery store and pay 90 cents for a cucumber? She just can’t do that.”

Part of the problem is that it takes labor to move produce from one place to another, and people are still figuring out who will pay for that. Jamerson says she can’t afford to pay workers to pick a crop that will be donated. She wants the government to step in, provide workers or the money to pay them, and make sure food gets to where it’s needed. “The government could send the food to the hospitals, the rest homes, to the food banks, to the churches,” she says.

Jay Johnson, the produce broker, says there are signs of hope. The food banks in Florida, he says, are starting to buy some of his vegetables and figuring out new ways to distribute them.

They asked Johnson to pack some vegetables in smaller packs, so food banks don’t need so many volunteers to repack them. “They’re understaffed, and don’t have warehouse space, and they’re having to think creatively,” he says.

“I see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel here,” he says, adding that he won’t make money on those sales to food banks. Farmers won’t either, but at least they’ll be able to keep their workforce employed until, hopefully, better times arrive.

Food Banks Get The Love, But SNAP Does More To Fight Hunger

Food Banks Get The Love, But SNAP Does More To Fight Hunger

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May 22, 20205:00 AM ET
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People load their vehicles with boxes of food at a Los Angeles Regional Food Bank earlier this month in Los Angeles. Food banks across the United States are seeing numbers and people they have never seen before amid unprecedented unemployment from the COVID-19 outbreak.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
Millions of newly impoverished people are turning to the charitable organizations known as food banks. Mile-long lines of cars, waiting for bags of free food, have become one of the most striking images of the current economic crisis. Donations are up, too, including from a new billion-dollar government effort called the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

Yet many people who run food banks are ambivalent about all the attention, because they know the limitations of their own operations. They point to a stream of food aid that’s far more important than food banks: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Food banks actually have two separate functions. They provide food to people who need it, but they also find new homes for food that might go to waste — often because farmers and food companies haven’t been able to sell it. This second job can be unwieldy and labor-intensive.

Take, for example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new food bank donation program. It was set up, in large part, to relieve distress among farmers and food companies who can’t find places to sell their products — like Borden Dairy, a Dallas-based milk processor which saw demand plunge when restaurants and schools closed in mid-March. The company couldn’t find buyers for all the milk its farmers were producing, and asked some of them to simply dump the surplus.

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Too much milk

As part of the new USDA program, though, Borden Dairy won a $137 million contract to send 44 million gallons of milk to charitable organizations, mainly food banks.

Tony Sarsam, Borden Dairy’s CEO, says it “gives a sense of purpose and meaning to this organization. And it’s also important because we work with so many independent farmers. It gives them stability.”

More than a hundred companies got similar contracts from USDA, worth a total of $1.2 billion. They include wholesale distributors of fresh produce and meat. More contracts are coming, with the department expecting to spend about $3 billion on this new program. It has become an emergency buyer of surplus food, and the purchase price includes money to transport the food to food banks.

Sarsam and other companies who’ve won USDA contracts now have to figure out how to give away these products. It means setting up a new and mostly unfamiliar supply chain. “We have to get off to the races, and find connections in the charitable community that can take our products. We’ve been on the phones non-stop,” he says.

It’s more complicated than one might imagine. “Cold storage is a big deal; not everybody has enough cold storage for it,” Sarsam says.

So far, he’s only found takers for about 10% of the milk that the company needs to give away to earn that full paycheck from the USDA.

Robin Safley is on the receiving end of these donations. She’s executive director of Feeding Florida, an association of twelve food banks. Those organizations deliver food to a couple of thousand small non-profit groups that hand it out to people at temporary distribution points known as food pantries.

“First of all, we’re grateful, right?” Safley says. “Grateful in a lot of ways.”

But the logistics of getting food to the right place at the right time is a challenge even in normal times. Throw in social distancing, volunteers worried about their safety, and a wave to potential donations from USDA-funded companies, and it gets downright daunting.

“That means we have new people to deal with. How many trucks are they sending, and where are they sending them?” Safley says. “We don’t want them to stack up on some of the other trucks that we have moving.” She compares it to solving a Rubik’s cube.

The USDA has a separate program that buys commodities and donates them to food banks, but it’s smaller than the new effort, amounting to roughly half a billion dollars worth of food donations each year.

There is, however, a whole different way to help people get the food: Simply distribute money that people can use to buy groceries.

Money instead of food

This is what makes SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, so effective. Last year, 35 million people received $55 billion in SNAP benefits, down from a peak of 47 million people and $76 billion in 2013. The program, which falls under the aegis of the USDA, delivers roughly nine times more food to people than the entire Feeding America network, which includes food banks.

Jess Powers, who’s worked with several food assistance programs, says that this method — transferring money, rather than bags of produce — is better in a lot of ways. For one thing, she says, “it’s just more efficient.” SNAP recipients simply pay for groceries using an electronic benefits card. Also, people have more freedom to buy what they need, and the money they spend helps local businesses.

“It has this multiplier effect in communities, and it’s actually a better economic value because it creates economic activity,” Powers says. Unlike the new USDA commodity purchases, though, SNAP does not solve the problems of farmers who’ve lost restaurant sales due to the pandemic.

Food banks themselves, in fact, are among SNAP’s biggest fans. “Those of us in the anti-hunger community, we truly believe that SNAP is far and away the most important component of our social safety net against hunger in our country,” says Craig Gundersen, an economist at the University of Illinois who also works with Feeding America.

Yet SNAP doesn’t enjoy the same bipartisan applause as food banks. Over the years, many politicians — mostly conservatives — have tried to restrict access to the program, citing relatively small scale abuses by recipients.

Before the current crisis, the Trump administration had moved to cut access to SNAP for hundreds of thousands of people. It has since put those moves on hold, and it is allowing states to increase SNAP benefits to families that currently don’t get the maximum amount. Some anti-hunger groups are calling on the USDA to go further, and boost the maximum amount of SNAP benefits that people can get.

Gundersen says food banks do have a big role to play, and they have some distinct advantages. Unlike SNAP, anybody can show up and get food, with no proof of citizenship required and no complicated application procedure. “People may run out of money at some point over the course of the month, and they have their local food pantry where they can go get more food. Wonderful!” Gundersen says.

But food pantries aren’t big enough to do what SNAP does. Even with billions of dollars worth of extra food donations, they mainly just fill in the gaps.

Puerto Rico struggles with less

Puerto Rico, however, is in a notably different situation than the rest of the country. Instead of SNAP, Puerto Rico has a program called the Nutrition Assistance Program, which delivers significantly less aid to people on the island. And unlike SNAP, which spends more money when more people qualify for benefits, Puerto Rico’s program has a fixed budget, which means that in tough times, like today, each deserving person has to make do with less assistance.

As a result, charitable organizations in the territory have been shouldering a bigger share of the burden, and a leading food distributor in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean Produce Exchange, will soon be delivering food to them under a new USDA contract worth $107 million.

Gualberto Rodriguez, the company’s president, says he’s gotten used to working with community organizations. After Hurricane Maria, the company also delivered food to them under contracts with the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We’re a much poorer community here. So one thing we have is just a lot more webs of help that are embedded in our community,” he says. “These are not strangers taking care of strangers. These are our neighbors taking care of neighbors. So it’s a very special thing that happens when we go through these situations in the Caribbean and in Puerto Rico, in particular.”

But when asked whether it would be better to transfer money instead, so that people could buy food from local businesses, Rodriguez paused.

“It’s a great question,” he said, finally. “I believe the commercial system works really well, if you empower people with the money to buy from it. It creates entrepreneurial activity where people figure out a way to address the needs of that person who has purchasing power. So I think it would [be better.]”

Frederick Douglass On How Slave Owners Used Food As A Weapon Of Control

Frederick Douglass On How Slave Owners Used Food As A Weapon Of Control

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February 10, 201711:42 AM ET
NINA MARTYRIS

American writer, abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass edits a journal at his desk, late 1870s. Douglass was acutely conscious of being a literary witness to the inhumane institution of slavery he had escaped as a young man. He made sure to document his life in not one but three autobiographies.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
President Trump recently described Frederick Douglass as “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.” The president’s muddled tense – it came out sounding as if the 19th-century abolitionist were alive with a galloping Twitter following – provoked some mirth on social media. But the spotlight on one of America’s great moral heroes is a welcome one.

Douglass was born on a plantation in Eastern Maryland in 1817 or 1818 – he did not know his birthday, much less have a long-form birth certificate – to a black mother (from whom he was separated as a boy) and a white father (whom he never knew and who was likely the “master” of the house). He was parceled out to serve different members of the family. His childhood was marked by hunger and cold, and his teen years passed in one long stretch of hard labor, coma-like fatigue, routine floggings, hunger, and other commonplace tortures from the slavery handbook.

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‘Nurse, Spy, Cook:’ How Harriet Tubman Found Freedom Through Food
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At 20, he ran away to New York and started his new life as an anti-slavery orator and activist. Acutely conscious of being a literary witness to the inhumane institution he had escaped, he made sure to document his life in not one but three autobiographies. His memoirs bring alive the immoral mechanics of slavery and its weapons of control. Chief among them: food.

Hunger was the young Fred’s faithful boyhood companion. “I have often been so pinched with hunger, that I have fought with the dog – ‘Old Nep’ – for the smallest crumbs that fell from the kitchen table, and have been glad when I won a single crumb in the combat,” he wrote in My Bondage and My Freedom. “Many times have I followed, with eager step, the waiting-girl when she went out to shake the table cloth, to get the crumbs and small bones flung out for the cats.”

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As a young enslaved boy in Baltimore, Frederick Douglass bartered pieces of bread for lessons in literacy. His teachers were white neighborhood kids, who could read and write but had no food. At 20, he ran away to New York and started his new life as an anti-slavery orator and activist.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
“Never mind, honey—better day comin,’ ” the elders would say to solace the orphaned boy. It was not just the family pets the child had to compete with. One of the most debasing scenes in Douglass’ first memoir, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, describes the way he ate:

“Our food was coarse corn meal boiled. This was called mush. It was put into a large wooden tray or trough, and set down upon the ground. The children were then called, like so many pigs, and like so many pigs they would come and devour the mush; some with oyster-shells, others with pieces of shingle, some with naked hands, and none with spoons. He that ate fastest got most; he that was strongest secured the best place; and few left the trough satisfied.”
Douglass makes it a point to nail the boastful lie put out by slaveholders – one that persists to this day – that “their slaves enjoy more of the physical comforts of life than the peasantry of any country in the world.”

In truth, rations consisted of a monthly allowance of a bushel of third-rate corn, pickled pork (which was “often tainted”) and “poorest quality herrings” – barely enough to sustain grown men and women through their backbreaking labors in the field. Not all the enslaved, however, were so ill-fed. Waiting at the “glittering table of the great house” – a table loaded with the choicest meats, the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay, platters of fruit, asparagus, celery and cauliflower, cheese, butter, cream and the finest wines and brandies from France – was a group of black servants chosen for their loyalty and comely looks. These glossy servants constituted “a sort of black aristocracy,” wrote Douglass. By elevating them, the slave owner was playing the old divide-and-rule trick, and it worked. The difference, Douglass wrote, “between these favored few, and the sorrow and hunger-smitten multitudes of the quarter and the field, was immense.”

The “hunger-smitten multitudes” did what they could to supplement their scanty diets. “They did this by hunting, fishing, growing their own vegetables – or stealing,” says Frederick Douglass Opie, professor of history and foodways at Babson College, who, of course, is named after the activist. “In their moral universe, they felt, ‘You stole me, you mistreated me, therefore to steal from you is quite normal.’ ” If caught, say, eating an orange from the owner’s abundant fruit garden, the punishment was flogging. When even this proved futile, a tar fence was erected around the forbidden fruit. Anyone whose body bore the merest trace of tar was brutally whipped by the chief gardener.

But if deprivation was one form of control, a far more insidious and malicious one was the annual Christmas holidays, where gluttony and binge drinking was almost mandatory. During those six days, the enslaved could do what they chose, and while a few spent time with distant family or hunting or working on their homes, most were happy to engage in playing sports, “fiddling, dancing, and drinking whiskey; and this latter mode of spending the time was by far the most agreeable to the feelings of our masters. … It was deemed a disgrace not to get drunk at Christmas.” To encourage whiskey benders, the “masters” took bets to see who could drink the most whiskey, thus “getting whole multitudes to drink to excess.”

Enlarge this image
Frederick Douglass, circa 1879.
George Warren/National Archives
The nefarious aim of these revels was to equate dissipation with liberty. At the end of the holidays, sickened by the excessive alcohol, the hungover men felt “that we had almost as well be slaves to man as to rum.” And so, Douglass wrote, “we staggered up from the filth of our wallowing, took a long breath, and marched to the field – feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go, from what our master had deceived us into a belief was freedom, back to the arms of slavery.”

Douglass sounds even angrier at these obligatory orgies – he calls them “part and parcel of the gross fraud, wrong, and inhumanity of slavery” – than at other, more direct forms of cruelty.

“It was a form of bread and circus,” says Opie. “Slaves were also given intoxicated drinks, so they would have little time to think of escaping. If you didn’t take it, you were considered ungrateful. It was a form of social control.”

When he was about 8 years old, Douglass was sent to Baltimore, which proved to be a turning point. The mistress of the house gave him the most precious gift in his life – she taught him the alphabet. But when her husband forbade her to continue – teaching slaves to read and write was a crime – she immediately stopped his lessons.

It was too late. The little boy had been given a peek into the transformative world of words and was desperate to learn. He did so by bartering pieces of bread – he had free access to it; in Baltimore, the urban codes of slavery were less harsh than in rural Maryland – for lessons in literacy. His teachers were white neighborhood kids, who could read and write but had no food. “This bread I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge,” Douglass wrote in one of the most moving lines in Narrative.

“This also shows the ingenuity of enslaved people,” says Opie, “and how they tricked and leveraged whatever little they had to get ahead.”

Today, when one thinks of Frederick Douglass, the image that springs to mind is of a distinguished, gray-haired man in a double-breasted suit. It is difficult to imagine him as a half-starved boy garbed in nothing but a coarse, knee-length shirt, sleeping on the floor in a corn sack he had stolen. As he wrote in Narrative, “My feet have been so cracked with the frost, that the pen with which I am writing might be laid in the gashes.”

It is a heartbreaking image – redeemed by one little word, “pen.” A pen that he wielded with passion, clarity and irony to gash the life out of slavery.

Inequality & Structural Racism in the Food System

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Addressing racism must be at the core of what we do as an anti-hunger community, and we cannot end the cycle of food insecurity and chronic disease without changing the fundamental systems and policies which perpetuate racial and other forms of inequality.

We’ve been watching the news, horrified, for the last two weeks. As police violence runs through every state, it’s clear that this is what racism looks like in America.

The reality is that racism is also fundamental to why many of our Black neighbors don’t have enough to eat. With decades of discriminatory policy that have led to poorly-funded schools, higher unemployment, lower homeownership, and worse access to food, it’s no surprise that double the number of Black households face hunger as compared to white households. The staggering economic effects of COVID-19 are set to make that even worse.

Our mission to end hunger must include taking action on racism. So, non-Black allies, we invite you to join us in recommitting to fighting racial discrimination and violence in all its forms.

Five quick actions to take right now as an ally for Black lives:

Donate to the Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation and NOWTRUTH.ORG‘s “War on Human Inequities” (WOHI) – a nonprofit project of the two. See more below.
Get educated on how you can be a better ally. Here’s an anti-racist reading list to get you started.
Learn more about why tackling racism is so key to ending hunger in America.
Talk to your kids about anti-Black racism and police violence. Start with this great guide.
This is the only beginning of the road to justice for George Floyd and many. many others. Sign the #JusticeForFloyd petition and take a stand on excessive police violence.
Black Lives Matter, and we must stand with those demanding justice, accountability, and action to confront the racism and inequality that lead to police violence and hunger alike. We’re hopeful that, together, we can make a difference.

AMWF and NOWTRUTH.ORG‘s “War on Human Inequities” (WOHI) recruits and develops leaders from low income backgrounds and organizes campaigns to address economic survival issues that people face. The WOHI agenda includes:

Funding essential community services through progressive taxes
Food Insecurity
Judicial Reform
Social Justice Reform
Criminal Justice Reform
Workers’ Rights
Affordable Housing
Health Care
Equal Education
Welfare Reform
Living Wage and Equal Pay
Immigrant Rights
Environmental justice
AMWF bases its work on the following principles:

Unity. WOHI is committed to building an organization that brings together activists from varied segments of the community by uniting families on welfare, senior citizen activists, rank-and-file union leaders and community activists into one organization.
Multi-issue. WOHI is building a multi-issue organization that adds strength and helps support the efforts of other single-issue organizations. By working collaboratively with progressive legislators and other social action groups around the state, WOHI has developed a multi-issue agenda called the “War on Human Inequities”, which addresses such issues as Food Insecurity, Judicial Reform, Criminal and Social Justice Reform, revenue, tax reform, jobs, wages, child care, health care, housing, education, and the safety net.
Power in grass-roots organization. The key factor determining the ability to make a difference in the community is the size of its network of grass-roots activists. Whether building support for the initiatives of constituent organizations or developing independent campaign, WOHI seeks to empower ordinary people to change social policies that affect their lives. The WOHI organizing approach focuses both on developing commitment and leadership of people new to social activism, and on working with existing activists and organizations to strengthen their effectiveness.
1) Judicial Reform to END the Grand Systemic and Endemic Corruption; Social Justice Reform to END the Grand Systemic and Endemic Corruption of which Systemic Racism is a part;

2) Criminal Justice Reform; Gun Violence;

3) COVID-19 & Our Communities;

4) a. Hunger and Food Insecurity;

4) b. Homelessness;

5) Racial Injustice, Equality, Racial Justice is Education Justice, Support Ethnic Studies Programs, Black Lives Matter Barber Shop, Islamophobia, Xenophobia;

6) Wealth Inequality, Income Gap, Poverty and Basic Needs;

7) Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline; School Safe Zones; Protecting Students’ Civil Rights; Facing Hate and Bias at School, Teen Violence and Abuse, Teen Depression and Suicide, Youth Alcohol Usage, Transportation;

8) Immigration, Refugee Crisis, Families Belong Together, Dreamers;

9) Healthcare, Obesity, Smoking;

10) Climate Justice Reform,

11) Voting Rights;

12) Sport and Athletes Human Rights

Background:

The Dollar Store Backlash Has Begun, CityLab, 2018
4 Not-So-Easy Ways to Dismantle Racism in the Food System, Yes! Magazine, 2017
Leaders of Color Discuss Structural Racism and White Privilege in the Food System, Civil Eats, 2016
Growing Justice: Transcending Racism in the Food System, The Next System Project, 2016
Dismantling Racism in the Food System, by Food First, 2016
Uprooting Racism in the Food System: African Americans Organize, Huffington Post, 2013
Videos
The underlying racism of America’s food system: Regina Bernard-Carreno at TEDxManhattan

Impacts of Gentrification on Food Insecurity

Impacts of Gentrification on Food Insecurity

A video documentary researching the impacts of gentrification and urban renewal on the availability of food in Church Hill, the oldest neighborhood in Richmond, VA.

Bridging indigenous knowledge and science to end hunger | Muthoni Masinde | TEDxUFS

Bridging indigenous knowledge and science to end hunger | Muthoni Masinde | TEDxUFS

Muthoni reveals how indigenous knowledge is crucial for small-scale farmers, food security in Africa and the creation of effective solutions for managing the agriculture in rural areas that are plagued by droughts and mass hunger. The talk explores bridging recent technological innovation with indigenous knowledge, through the ´ITIKI´ computer science tool which can predict meteorological data inexpensively and accurately and assist local farmers. Muthoni Masinde is a computer scientist with B.Sc, M.Sc and Ph.D computer science degrees from the University of Nairobi, the Free University of Brussels and University of Cape Town respectively. She is currently Head of the Department of IT at the Central University of Technology. One of her greatest research achievements is the development of a novel tool to predict droughts in Africa. The tool taps into the rich African indigenous knowledge on natural disasters and augments it with ICTs. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

Black Food Matters: Race and Equity in the Good Food Movement | Devita Davison | Change Food Fest

Black Food Matters: Race and Equity in the Good Food Movement | Devita Davison | Change Food Fest

In this video: Devita Davison, director of marketing and communications at FoodLab Detroit, shares the story of Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, explaining the barriers there still are today for food entrepreneurs of color. FoodLab Detroit is transforming Detroit’s local food economy by supporting a diverse community of food businesses and allies working to make good food a sustainable reality for all Detroiters. About: Devita Davison, a native of Detroit and granddaughter of a preacher, lived almost 19 years in New York before moving back to her hometown of Detroit in 2012. Her words are not just letters strung together; they are vessels for love and fight, heart ache, wisdom, and profound joy. To say she wears her heart on her sleeve is an understatement; whether decrying injustices in the food system or expounding on the beauty of a ripe strawberry in summer, her passion for food justice is palpable. Stay up to date with all our Quickbites and exciting projects from Change Food! http://changefood.org Change Food is a grassroots movement creating a healthy, equitable food system. We provide various levels of expertise to organizations that are not getting sufficient support yet are creating real, replicable change. In addition, through conferences, events and special projects, Change Food raises public awareness and connects various parts of the food movement. Want to get to know us more? Get our monthly newsletter: http://bit.ly/signupCF Support us on Patreon!: http://bit.ly/PatreonCF Like us on Facebook: https://facebook.com/ChangeFoodFollow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/changeourfood Like us on Instagram: https://instagram.com/changeourfood LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7427675 Google+: https://plus.google.com/+ChangeFoodOrg

Systemic Racism in Our Food System

Systemic Racism In Our Food System

The incredible Pam Koch talks about our broken food supply and much more in the new episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy, which is up now https://DrMarkHyman.lnk.to/PamKoch
Food Justice & Racism in the Food System
Racism underlies the history of agriculture and food access in the United States. It began with the taking of land from Indigenous people to create farms. It continued with the enslavement of Indigenous and African peoples to work the farms. It continued with the exploitation of immigrant labor from Asia and then Latin America. During the period of Reconstruction former slaves began to gain access to land and achieve financial success. But the death of Reconstruction saw the stealing of most of this land by whites using unjust law and outright theft. In the 1940s when Japanese Americans were forced into concentration camps by a presidential executive order, farms were again taken by unethical and greedy whites, sometimes with no consequences. Racism can also be seen in the tolerance for, and in some places, imposition of food swamps or food apartheid. These are terms are used to describe the great divide in access to healthy fresh food evident when comparing the average white community to the average community of color. This inequality in access to healthy food is a major contributor to the disproportionately high rates of diet related disease found in populations of Indigenous, African Americans, Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders. Poor diets impede learning, paths to empowerment and financial success.
Food justice is the work to right this wrong. It encompasses a wide array of activities and activism. Its roots can be traced back to the Black Panther’s creation of free breakfast program for school children. The Panther’s good work helped propel passage of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 that is now operated by the US government to provide free and reduced cost school meals for all low-income students, the majority of whom are kids of color. Food justice includes development of urban agriculture projects and neighborhood kitchens, economic development initiatives to relocate healthy grocery environments in low income communities. Nutrition incentive programs that provide cash matches for SNAP and WIC benefits spent on fruits and vegetables in farmers markets and grocery stores are another form of food justice. Food justice includes the guarantees that fair proportions of public funding from the USDA and some states, will flow to farmers of color and women who have traditionally been excluded due to documented and adjudicated acts of racism or sexism. Emergent is the idea of reparations in the form of land grants to farmers of color based on the recognition that people of color have been systemically kept from owning land or had their land stolen. This latest concept is well described in Leah Penniman’s important book, Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land.
We support food justice as a primary objective in our work and promote it as a primary goal of the food movement in general.

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Impacts of Racism in the Food System

Rates of food insecurity are substantially higher for Black- (22.5%) and Hispanic-headed (18.5%) households than for White-headed households (9.3%) (USDA – ERS, 2017).

Although many communities suffer from food system disparities, data shows that  Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) suffer disproportionately.
In our work over the past 25 years, we make note of research that indicates:
Rates of food insecurity are substantially higher for Black- (22.5%) and Hispanic-headed (18.5%) households than for White-headed households (9.3%) (USDA – ERS, 2017).
Communities of color and low-income families have limited access to affordable healthy food and welcoming shopping spaces due to supermarket “redlining” and “greenlining” (CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute, 2018).
Mass incarceration and exploitation of Black Americans in agricultural systems has been well documented into the 1940s, enabled by collusion between law enforcement agencies and farmers (INFAS, “A Deeper Challenge of Change” report, 2018).
African Americans in North Carolina are 1.54 times more likely than white North Carolinians to live within three miles of facilities controlling animal waste (EarthJustice, 2014).
At the turn of the 20th century, formerly enslaved Black people and their heirs owned 15 million acres of land, primarily in the South, mostly used for farming. Now, Black people are only 1 percent of rural landowners in the U.S., and under 2 percent of farmers (USDA data & Food & Environment Reporting Network).
Pigford v. Glickman, a successful class action lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), unveiled a historical pattern of racial discrimination in the allocation of farm loans between 1981 and 1996. This is one of many examples of how these historical impacts have benefited some, while preventing access to opportunity for many.
Cases of COVID-19 disproportionately affect the Hispanic population in NC and have a higher incidence in the Black community.
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To Fight Hunger, We Must Take Action Against Racism
June 8, 2020

by Amirio Freeman, Danny Navarro, Mike Glymph, Mya Price, and Thao Nguyen
Feeding America Government Relations Team
The below text is from Feeding America Action. Addressing racism must be at the core of what we do as an anti-hunger community, and we cannot end the cycle of food insecurity and chronic disease without changing the fundamental systems and policies which perpetuate racial and other forms of inequality.
We’ve been watching the news, horrified, for the last two weeks. As police violence runs through every state, it’s clear that this is what racism looks like in America.
The reality is that racism is also fundamental to why many of our Black neighbors don’t have enough to eat. With decades of discriminatory policy that have led to poorly-funded schools, higher unemployment, lower homeownership, and worse access to food, it’s no surprise that double the number of Black households face hunger as compared to white households. The staggering economic effects of COVID-19 are set to make that even worse.
Our mission to end hunger must include taking action on racism. So, non-Black allies, we invite you to join us in recommitting to fighting racial discrimination and violence in all its forms.
Five quick actions to take right now as an ally for Black lives:
Donate to the Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation and NOWTRUTH.ORG’s “War on Human Inequities” (WOHI) – a nonprofit project of the two. See more below.
Get educated on how you can be a better ally. Here’s an anti-racist reading list to get you started.
Learn more about why tackling racism is so key to ending hunger in America.
Talk to your kids about anti-Black racism and police violence. Start with this great guide.
This is the only beginning of the road to justice for George Floyd and many. many others. Sign the #JusticeForFloyd petition and take a stand on excessive police violence.
Black Lives Matter, and we must stand with those demanding justice, accountability, and action to confront the racism and inequality that lead to police violence and hunger alike. We’re hopeful that, together, we can make a difference.

AMWF and NOWTRUTH.ORG’s “War on Human Inequities” (WOHI) recruits and develops leaders from low income backgrounds and organizes campaigns to address economic survival issues that people face. The WOHI agenda includes:
Funding essential community services through progressive taxes
Food Insecurity
Judicial Reform
Social Justice Reform
Criminal Justice Reform
Workers’ Rights
Affordable Housing
Health Care
Equal Education
Welfare Reform
Living Wage and Equal Pay
Immigrant Rights
Environmental justice

AMWF bases its work on the following principles:
Unity. WOHI is committed to building an organization that brings together activists from varied segments of the community by uniting families on welfare, senior citizen activists, rank-and-file union leaders and community activists into one organization.
Multi-issue. WOHI is building a multi-issue organization that adds strength and helps support the efforts of other single-issue organizations. By working collaboratively with progressive legislators and other social action groups around the state, WOHI has developed a multi-issue agenda called the “War on Human Inequities”, which addresses such issues as Food Insecurity, Judicial Reform, Criminal and Social Justice Reform, revenue, tax reform, jobs, wages, child care, health care, housing, education, and the safety net.
Power in grass-roots organization. The key factor determining the ability to make a difference in the community is the size of its network of grass-roots activists. Whether building support for the initiatives of constituent organizations or developing independent campaign, WOHI seeks to empower ordinary people to change social policies that affect their lives. The WOHI organizing approach focuses both on developing commitment and leadership of people new to social activism, and on working with existing activists and organizations to strengthen their effectiveness.
1) Judicial Reform to END the Grand Systemic and Endemic Corruption; Social Justice Reform to END the Grand Systemic and Endemic Corruption of which Systemic Racism is a part;
2) Criminal Justice Reform; Gun Violence;
3) COVID-19 & Our Communities;
4) a. Hunger and Food Insecurity;
4) b. Homelessness;
5) Racial Injustice, Equality, Racial Justice is Education Justice, Support Ethnic Studies Programs, Black Lives Matter Barber Shop, Islamophobia, Xenophobia;
6) Wealth Inequality, Income Gap, Poverty and Basic Needs;
7) Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline; School Safe Zones; Protecting Students’ Civil Rights; Facing Hate and Bias at School, Teen Violence and Abuse, Teen Depression and Suicide, Youth Alcohol Usage, Transportation;
8) Immigration, Refugee Crisis, Families Belong Together, Dreamers;
9) Healthcare, Obesity, Smoking;
10) Climate Justice Reform,
11) Voting Rights;
12) Sport and Athletes Human Rights

In solidarity, safety, and health,
Amirio Freeman, Danny Navarro, Mike Glymph, Mya Price, and Thao Nguyen
Feeding America Government Relations Team

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Addressing the Root Causes of Food Insecurity in the U.S. – Disparities and Discrimination
April 5, 2019

by Sabea Evans
Policy & Communication Fellow, Center for Hunger-Free Communities
In 2017, 21.8% of African American households and 18% of Latinx households reported food insecurity, while the national food insecurity rate was 11.8%.
“How are racism and hunger related? Being mistreated at school, on the job, in health care and beyond, translates to lower wages and exclusion from society. When employers discriminate, people of color make lower wages than white people. When health-care providers discriminate, people cannot get the health care they need, and when the courts and the police are biased, they are more likely to put our family members behind bars, which damages their prospects for economic security.”
Sherita Mouzon, a community engagement specialist at Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities, wrote this in an op-ed for the Inquirer on the necessity of facing racism and discrimination as key factors in food insecurity in the U.S. Issues of food justice, economic and racial equity, and food sovereignty cannot be solved by our emergency food system. Racism and systemic oppression permeate all of our systems, including those that hold up pretenses of service.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Black and Latinx households have had higher annual rates of food insecurity compared to the national average among all households since 1995. Sherita’s words are part of a conversation that people of color and people living in conditions of poverty have been trying to broadcast for generations and that the Center for Hunger-Free Communities hopes to amplify.
Through examination of our Children’s HealthWatch data from interviewing nearly 700 caregivers of children under the age of four at St. Christopher’s Children’s Hospital between 2015-2017, we found significant associations between reported caregivers’ experiences of discrimination based on racial or ethnic identity and food insecurity status. We asked participants for the number and context of experiences of discrimination they had encountered due to race, ethnicity, or color. To share this data and confront the lack of urgency in addressing the root causes of food insecurity in Philadelphia (and in the wider U.S.), we released a series of reports called “From Disparities to Discrimination: Getting to the Roots of Food Insecurity in America.”
The reports focus on multiple arenas in which experiences of discrimination are associated with food security: in applying for housing, public assistance offices, receiving healthcare, schools, hiring, workplaces, public settings, policing, judicial systems, and within immigrant populations. Caregivers who reported one or more experiences of discrimination were more likely to report food insecurity compared to those who had not experienced discrimination, across the board. Caregivers who were people of color who reported experiences of discrimination were more likely to report food insecurity, while the food insecurity of white caregivers was unimpacted.
Simply providing people with food has proven to be an unviable solution to ending hunger in the U.S. Policymakers, meds & eds, big businesses, non-profits, philanthropists… We all need to acknowledge, address and help people heal from the racism and discrimination in our systems and within ourselves in order to intervene in systemic oppression and reduce food insecurity in the U.S.
April is National Minority Health Month. Learn more about how to effectively work with communities to address and eliminate health disparities.
Sabea is currently the Policy & Communications Fellow at the Center for Hunger-Free Communities. She has a B.A. in Linguistics from Haverford College, where she invested much of her extra/co-curricular work in diversity, access, and engagement. Sabea’s interests also include ethical ethnographic media, language diversity and activism, and ethnolinguistics. She thrives in collaborative spaces and aspires to co-facilitate projects that amplify the voices, knowledge, and creations of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.
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How One Organization Can Shorten Food Bank Lines Across the United States
The nation’s largest food charity, Feeding America, has failed to embrace the progressive values needed to make a real impact. Here’s a plan to change that.

Has our collective sense of imagination and action become so limited that the best we can do is to give organic veggies to the millions of newly unemployed? Source illustration: TarikVision/SHUTTERSTOCK
By: Andrew Fisher
Dedicated to the memory of Hank Herrera, a lifelong advocate for racial justice.
This is the time of year when middle-class America gives thanks for our privilege, and considers the plight of the less fortunate. We staff the turkey dinner lines at the local homeless shelter, donate cans to the food drive, or write checks to the food bank. We do so regardless of our partisan affiliation, race, or geographical location.
Food charity is, after all, one of the few things that historically has united most Americans. While we remain a country deeply divided, it has become America’s lowest common denominator. Even the mean-spirited Trump administration has poured at least $10 billion into food banks since 2017.
The outpouring of charitable donations to food banks in the wake of the Covid economic crash makes me appreciate that we, as a nation, retain some sense of caritas, even while millions of President Trump’s supporters scoff at masks and flip the bird to any sense of communal responsibility. Yet it also frustrates me that distributing more free food, even when it is grown organically by farmers of color, is all we can seem to manage as a response to this dire situation. Never let a good crisis go to waste, Sir Winston Churchill used to say.
Never let a good crisis go to waste, Sir Winston Churchill used to say.
In 2020, when America is gasping for breath, from the smoke that chokes the West Coast, police brutality, a democracy on life support, and 12 million (and counting) people struggling with Covid-19, I wonder if our collective sense of imagination and action has become so limited that the best we can do is to give organic veggies to the millions of newly unemployed? Where is our vision? Our political project?

Andrew Fisher is the author of “Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups.”
At a moment when America’s seamy underbelly and gaping wounds of inequities, racial and otherwise, have been exposed like no time since 1929, I wonder what does it take to turn the apolitical food bank industry onto progressive politics. I keep hoping that food bankers will recognize the urgency of structural change, and embrace progressive values. Black Lives Matter. Reparations. The Green New Deal. Medicare for All. A $15 minimum wage. This is the language of social change in America. Yet, the food charity sector has almost unanimously failed to embrace any of these strategies.
For the past 40 years, since the explosion of food banks in the early 1980s, we have been handling hunger as if we were doctors, with doses of medicine in the form of food giveaways. We have been treating the symptoms and ignoring the disease. At the heart of this medical model, or hunger industrial complex — the web of connected corporations, anti-hunger groups, and government agencies that perpetuate hunger because it is profitable — sits the charity behemoth Feeding America. The nation’s second largest charity, with a $2.8 billion budget, it deploys a network of 200 food banks across the entire country, distributing 4.6 billion pounds of food annually.
Feeding America and its affiliated food banks possess an unparalleled potential to mobilize our anti-hunger response toward social, racial, and economic justice. They feed 40+ million people, engage millions of volunteers, and reach tens of millions of donors every year. They could be mobilizing and organizing half of America to take bold political action. They can be at the forefront of working with poor people to help them build power and wealth. But progress remains geographically uneven and sporadic.
The silver lining in this horrible year can be that food bankers finally step on the gas and accelerate toward justice. They will need a road map to get there. Here, I propose a 10-point plan for how Feeding America could play a leading role in substantially reducing the incidence of food insecurity for millions of Americans.

1. Support labor-friendly policies, including a higher minimum wage
Analysis: Prior to the pandemic, the vast majority of emergency food recipients were employed, largely at jobs that paid low wages, or where they were unable to gain full-time work on a regular basis. The minimum wage still remains at $7.25 in 21 states. A $15 minimum wage would make 1.2 million households food secure. Yet, Feeding America and the vast majority of its network have failed to take a position on raising the minimum wage, either nationally or at the state level.
Action: Feeding America and its network need to support a national $15 minimum wage by 2023, starting first with paying a living wage to its own employees and contractors. Yet raising the minimum wage is just one part of the solution. Other important policies that they should support include eliminating the sub-minimum tipped wage for restaurant employees, and establishing predictive scheduling, paid sick leave, and anti-wage theft policies. Oregon Food Bank has done an exemplary job here.
2. Place racial equity at the center of their work
Analysis: Racism is at the root of poverty, which is in turn at the root of hunger. Yet the emergency food system only reinforces this racism, both at the inter-personal and structural levels. For example, volunteers (disproportionately white) get to control what recipients (disproportionately people of color) get to eat. The system does little to build power, wealth, or agency for their patrons.
Action: Like most non-profit organizations and other institutions in the United States, food banks need to own their legacy and 40-year history of unconsciously perpetuating structural racism before they can undo the harm they have done. They should seek to dismantle racist practices within their organization, and become strong forces for anti-racism. They can develop an action plan to make changes, such as advocating for dismantling the policies and practices that perpetuate gaping health inequities linked to social determinants of nutritious food access, holding themselves accountable to the communities that they serve. Follow the lead of the Oregon Food Bank in this area.
3. Expand SNAP organizing
Analysis: SNAP provides nine times the amount of food as food banks. It is the keystone to ensuring food security, yet its benefit levels are set at unrealistically low levels. Feeding America has dedicated substantial resources to fighting against new restrictions and for expanded funding during the pandemic.
Action: This is one area in which Feeding America could not only expand its own staffing but fund organizing positions in key states to grow the SNAP program. It should place SNAP as its top policy priority alongside advocating for an increased minimum wage. Bread for the World does an exemplary job of mobilizing its communities toward policy action.
4. Diversify their Board
Analysis: Who’s at the table shapes what’s on the agenda. And by and large, it’s white people who work in corporate America who sit on food bank boards. My own review found that 22 percent of the board members of food banks worked at Fortune 1000 companies or their private sector equivalent. Very few are persons of color and even fewer are people with lived experience of hunger. These governance structures keep food banks as appendages of the food industry, not as agents of social change.
Action: Feeding America and its affiliates need to be held accountable to the people and communities that they serve. They should set ambitious targets for board diversity, including by occupation, ethnicity, gender, and include people with lived experience of food insecurity, and provide incentives for the network to do the same. Look to the Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland, CA, for an example of how to engage community residents in its public policy advocacy.
5. Establish a strategic plan for a 50 percent reduction in food banking from pre-Covid levels by 2028
Analysis: Before the pandemic, the amount of food distributed by Feeding America food banks doubled over the past decade. Part of this increase is due to contractual obligations that mandated a 50 percent increase of food distributed per person in poverty. Despite this increase in food distribution, food insecurity did not dip below 1995 levels until 2018. Clearly there is not a statistically significant link between reducing food insecurity and emergency food distribution.
Action: As part of its annual contract with its network, Feeding America should stipulate a reduction in the amount of food delivered per person in poverty with a corresponding increase in other social indicators, such as social capital, poverty reduction, and resilience. They can reorient funding, such as the $100 million Jeff Bezos donated, to strategic shrinking initiatives to address the root causes of hunger, rather than expanded capacity. Bring in community members with lived experience of poverty, alongside researchers to help develop innovative measures of success, beyond just persons served and pounds distributed. Look to the great work of the Community Food Centres of Canada for innovation in measuring success beyond food distribution.
6. Reorient their communications
Analysis: For far too long, Feeding America and its affiliates have systematically misled the public that charity can end hunger. It’s been done in the name of raising funds to keep their good work going. It’s led to a crisis of imagination, which has, in the current pandemic, meant that funders double down on hunger relief efforts rather than addressing the root causes.
Action: Revise their communication strategy to reinforce new root cause-oriented programming. Tell the public that we can’t food bank our way out of hunger, and that’s why we’re investing more funding into fighting tomorrow’s hunger through policy advocacy, human development, and addressing the social determinants of health. Boldly name the root causes of hunger and debunk the bootstraps myth that prevents our country from fulfilling its protective obligations to our most vulnerable citizens. Consider Northwest Harvest’s role to get passed a constitutional amendment in Washington to establish the right to food.
7. Put a moratorium on expansion
Analysis: Buildings become stakeholders. The bigger the food bank building, the more sophisticated the infrastructure, the more pressure staff and Board will feel to ramp up their distribution efforts. It’s like building a new lane on the freeway to reduce congestion. It doesn’t work. It just creates more traffic. For too long, food banks have seen newer, shinier, bigger digs with larger freezers and coolers as a key strategy to expanding their capacity to feeding the need.
Action: Feeding America should put into its contract language a clause to actively discourage and penalize food banks that undertake expansion campaigns. Similarly, they should seek to diminish their food procurement department while redirecting resources to policy advocacy, organizing, and a new department of strategic shrinking. Foodlink in Rochester, NY, did a great job of not expanding, but instead using its space strategically to support community-based food businesses.
8. Keep up the great work on health and take it to the next step
Analysis: In the face of epidemics of obesity and diabetes, the quality of the food passing through Feeding America’s network has undeniably improved in recent years. The amount of produce has increased dramatically. More food banks have nutrition policies and staff to evaluate the quality of the product they distribute. Roughly one in seven food banks no longer accept soda or candy.
Action: Feeding America has done a good job of increasing produce distribution, but has largely failed to limit unhealthy foods in the system. Mazon’s seminal report (A Tipping Point) has shown how snack foods and baked goods are still overrepresented in food pantries. They should set national standards, rejecting sugary beverages and candy, while continuing to fund projects that connect food banks with local agriculture. Similarly, they should recognize that access to health care is a critical variable in the health and financial status of its clientele (medical bills are the primary cause of bankruptcies in the U.S.), and should actively support universal free health care. Consider the work of the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County (CA) to re-focus itself on improving community health as its core purpose.
9. Re-examine the relationship between food banks and Big Food and Big Ag
Analysis: The Feeding America network has a massive conflict of interest problem on its hands through its reliance on corporations with egregious labor, health, and environmental practices such as Smithfield, Walmart, Amazon, and Tyson. These are companies that cause hunger among their millions of employees through their practices, yet Feeding America casts them as hunger fighters in their partnership promotions.
Action: Until Feeding America approves corporate donation policies that establish clear criteria for its acceptance of food and cash, it will continue to be ethically compromised. Its continued relationship with agri-business enables them to over-produce, while having the benefit of a morally acceptable way to dispose of their surplus products. Feeding America needs to adopt a more sophisticated analysis of its role in promoting food waste and in enabling bad actors to continue their egregious labor practices. Look to WhyHunger for model corporate donation policies, as a starting point.
10. Embrace sustainable food systems as a core part of their mission
Analysis: As some of the largest food-oriented non-profits with transportation staffing, and cooling resources, food banks can and should play a role in supporting community economic development programs in their local area. Many food banks have indeed become an integral element of their local food systems, through buying from local farmers, allowing local businesses to utilize their facilities off-hours, serving as a food hub, hosting farmers markets, supporting community gardening programs, and operating organic farms.
Action: While many individual food banks have embraced local food systems as a core part of their work, they have done so largely without support from Feeding America. Feeding America can play many roles, such as aggregating data about the impacts of the work of individual food banks in this area, providing financial resources, researching and disseminating information on best practices, as well as communicating to the public about the importance of these efforts. The Food Bank of Northern Alabama and the Atlanta Community Food Bank have done exemplary work in this area.

Andrew Fisher has worked in the anti-hunger field for 25 years, as the executive director of national and local food groups, and as a researcher, organizer, policy advocate, and coalition builder. He is the author of “Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups.”

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Our Statement on Racial Justice
At Food Bank of Central New York, our mission is to work to eliminate hunger through nutritious food distribution, education, and advocacy in cooperation with the community. As leaders in the fight against hunger, we must lend our voices to those partners and organizations calling for justice. Systemic racism lies at the heart of many issues that contribute to food insecurity across our communities and America.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion have been priorities for Food Bank of Central New York and will continue to be as we move forward. These goals are in our current strategic plan and a part of our core values and we work hard to integrate them in our daily work. As we all navigate through the days and weeks ahead we extend our support and hope that through all of this we will become a more just and equitable world for all.

District Attorney Grants New Trials to 22 Defendants, Reversing Legacy of a Brutal Judge

District Attorney Grants New Trials to 22 Defendants, Reversing Legacy of a Brutal Judge
BY CALVIN JOHNSON
MAR 5, 2021 – 6:00 PM


Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams talks with the media announcing an unprecedented and sweeping legal action that his office waived all objections to new trials for 22 state prisoners convicted by split juries between the years 1974 and 2014 on the Orleans Parish Courthouse steps Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (Staff photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)
PHOTO BY DAVID GRUNFELD DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY

When District Attorney Jason Williams’ office told me he would grant 22 defendants convicted by nonunanimous juries new trials, I was amazed. I didn’t know the event would trigger so many memories. That Williams started this in Section G, Frank Shea’s court, was intentional.

I watched Shea brutalize defendants there. It is easy to focus on those tried within minutes, as the article does (Terrance Knox’s 1996 murder trial, during Shea’s waning months in office, lasted three hours) but every day he jailed people for little or nothing.

He single-handedly contributed to mass incarceration and intergenerational trauma. Think about those young people he put in jail for little or nothing. They went into jail as children and they came out labeled as criminals. There was a simple reason: Once stamped with a felony conviction, they were doomed for life.

Worst was the media, print and electronic, who portrayed him as a crime-fighting hero. Shea’s speed on the bench was the stuff of legends. In 1975, he purportedly held 168 jury trials, and the following year the Louisiana Legislature commended him for “silencing long-winded, redundant attorneys.” In 1984, Shea held six felony trials in a single day, The Lens reported.

A hundred and sixty-eight trials in one year mean few if any of those received what our Constitution requires — effective assistance of counsel. They received no representation at all because there was not a real public defense system.

The media couldn’t care less. They perpetuated Jim Crow and racism, created a mindset in New Orleans and Louisiana this was a good thing. In keeping with his need to achieve his trial results, he never appointed the Tulane or Loyola Law Clinic, supervised by me, to represent anyone in his court. He literally said to me, “Why are you here? You don’t represent anyone in this court.” My reply: “I just came to watch.”

At Williams’ news conference, former District Attorney Ed Tarpley, of Alexandria, who led the fight for the unanimous jury constitutional amendment, shared these thoughts: God hates injustice. And let me tell you that Louisiana has lived through generations of injustice and this is our chance to change that. And what this man has done here today is a step forward to restore true justice in Louisiana and fight the generations of injustice that have plagued the citizens of our state too long.

This is a new day for New Orleans and Louisiana. We have the power legally and morally to correct past wrongs. John P. Nelson, director of the Loyola Law Clinic, said “It’s never too late to do what’s right.” This is Williams’ time but — more importantly, our time — to do what’s right.
CALVIN JOHNSON
Retired Chief Judge, New Orleans

WHO We serve Demographics

We serve many, many People of different ages and nationalities depending on location
We serve over 30,000 people a month from our various location partners where the ethnic and racial makeup of the people we serve dramatically changes from location to location that we serve. The composition of those we serve in the deep East Oakland area is vastly different from those we serve in Livermore/Pleasanton, Berkeley, Union City, Sacramento, or Vallejo. That’s impossible to calculate as it changes with every distribution.

Here is the guestimated percentage of people served from the following categories using the EEOC definitions of race.

Asian: 0%

As much as maybe 40% in certain locations such as downtown Oakland for example.

Black or African American: 0%

As much as maybe 70% in certain locations such as East Oakland above International Blvd. for example.

Hispanic or Latinx: 0%

We serve many immigrants and refugees that are from that are of that make up, as much as maybe 70% in certain locations such as East Oakland below International Blvd., or Fruitval District for example.

Middle Eastern or North African: 0%

We serve many immigrants and refugees that are from that area and Muslim, as much as maybe 95% in certain religious locations.

Native American or Alaska Native: 0%

Although our CEO and family are of Native American descent, AMWF does not serve many, maybe 2% in certain locations.

Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%

We serve many, many Islanders, maybe 8% in certain locations.

White (European descent): 0%

As much as maybe 15% in certain locations.

Two or More, Mixed Races: 0%

As much as maybe 1% in certain locations.

Boys and Men of Color: 0%

As much as maybe 30% in certain locations.

Differently Abled People: 0%

As much as maybe 5% in certain locations.

Girls and Women of Color: 0%

As much as maybe 70% in certain locations.

Immigrants, including Naturalized Citizens: 0%

As much as maybe 40% in certain locations.

Incarcerated/Formerly Incarcerated People: 0%

As much as maybe 10% in certain locations.

LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and more): 0%

As much as maybe 10% in certain locations.

Low Wage Workers: 0%

As much as maybe 90% in certain locations.

Opportunity Youth (ages 16-24, not working and not in school): 0%

As much as maybe 30% in certain locations.

Refugees: 0%

As much as maybe 25% in certain locations.

Underemployed Workers (Part-time workers who would prefer to be full-time): 0%

As much as maybe 30% in certain locations.

Undocumented Immigrants: 0%

As much as maybe 25% in certain locations.

Unemployed People: 0%

As much as maybe 85% in certain locations.

You can make your check payable to: AARON & MARGARET WALLACE FOUNDATION (AMWF), 4200 Park Blvd, Ste# 116, Oakland, CA 94602; you can donate with Paypal email to: amwft@amwftrust.org, or our PayPal Fundraising Link: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=SE6DGFDH9XVKL.

FaceBook Fundrazr
AMWF has a 100% donation policy, and we are transparent about how we use donations.
May Allah (swt) bless you for your Zakat, Sadaqah and Sadaqah Jariya donations, iA!

You can view the AARON & MARGARET WALLACE FOUNDATION, (AMWF) video of Imam Zaid Shakir and the Lighthouse Mosque of Oakland, Ca., https://youtu.be/Ez8Wse1ghXU

Berkeley Masjid in Berkeley, Ca, iA, at:

Noor Islamic & Cultural Community Center at:

the CALIFA’s – (Center for Advance Learning Improving Family Awareness) Vallejo, CA at: https://youtu.be/MVXeno23U9I

Muslimas Free Food Giveaway at Masjid al-Islam at:

Masjidul Waritheen in Oakland, CA, at: https://youtu.be/VtFKhaXFhqk

Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation Free Food Program Celebrity Giving Back. The Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation really catered to everyone Saturday, August 6, 2011 at the “Oakland’s Got Talent” event at DeFermery Park. We distributed $25,000 worth of groceries FREE to ALL that came, “Fresh Start” Backpack Giveaway with 5,000 FREE Backpacks filled with school supplies, haircuts, manicures, health services, picnic Bar-B-Q lunch, games, entertainment, etc.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1rTp4eDaUo

The second one is Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation Kids Celebrity Gift Back Packs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-Ay8hwnKvA

You can view the following Santa Fe Elementary School’s Peace March with Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation, SemiFreddi’s, Trader Joe’s, Little Ceasar’s Pizza, Marshawn Lynch’s “Fam1ly F1rst” and Leon Powe’s “Fresh Start Oakland”:

Santa Fe Elementary School’s Peace March with Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgBFtZcRVwA

Santa Fe Elementary Little Caesars Pizza Part 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUChKi5FzWg

Santa Fe Elementary Little Caesars Pizza Part 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILB6KRTkkEE

Here’s the ABC-TV broadcast of our “Community Movement Toward Improvement” Music Conference in Oakland, California featuring MC Hammer, Martin Wyatt-KGO TV, Mohammed (MTV Real World-SF), Sway, Imani, Davey D, Raphael Saadiq- Tony Toni Tone, Greg Khalid Peck- Warner Bros,Karen Lee- Warner Bros Music, Eric B, Rico Cassanova, Abdul-Jalil,Tony Collins- Giant Records, Anita Greathouse-Knight, Gene Shelton, Lenny Williams,Thembisa Mshaka, Roy Tesfaye-Death Row Records shown in ABC-TV news clip.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMukHQgim0Q

Here’s the “I Know You’ll Love Oakland” Commercial for the City of Oakland Image Campaign.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWXcv5jg6PE

Here’s Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson’s City Urban Economic Development Conference Commercial:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvDKfRQlwZU

Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation Kids Celebrity Gift BackPacks

Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation Free Food Program Celebrity Giving Back

Santa Fe Elementary School’s Peace March with Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation, SemiFreddi’s, Trader

Joe’s, Little Ceasar’s Pizza, Marshawn Lynch’s “Fam1ly F1rst” and Leon Powe’s “Fresh Start Oakland

Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation and Santa Fe Elementary LilCaesars Pizza Part 1

Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation and Santa Fe Elementary LilCaesars Pizza Part 2

Abdul-Jalil Honored in Port Au-Prince, Haiti and Miami, Fla. for Relief Missions to Haiti

The Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation and ¿eX-whY AdVentures? Trader Joe’s Emeryville KPFA Interview Video

The Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation and ¿eX-whY AdVentures? Trader Joe’s Emeryville Customer Appreciation

The Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation and ¿eX-whY AdVentures? Trader Joe’s Alameda Customer Appreciation

The Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation and ¿eX-whY AdVentures? Entourage & Randy Holland in Trader Joe’s Pinole “Tribute to Legends of Jazz” Show

Abdul-Jalil Honored in Port Au-Prince, Haiti and Miami, Fla. for Relief Missions to Haiti

Thanks You from Arch Bishop Joel Jeune to Abdul-Jalil

Here’s the link to the YouTube video from radio station KPFA’s July 17, 2010 broadcast with Tom Frainier, a Haas boardmember and owner of SemiFreddis; with Cal Haas Business School student Gian “G” Pepe of Pepe International/Little Napoli Resturant/Carmel Bakery discussing Haas School of Business, the Y.E.A.H. Program, The Bread Project and giving back to the community. The video includes lots of good stuff on the Bread Project with some very appetizing shots of their products and it will make you hungry for some of your delectable wares upon watching! All the folks at Haas Business School have been in love with it for some time now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUCyNYRqP4c

Dr. Kenya Numan discuss AMWF relief missions to Haiti on KPFA Radio Part 1, https://youtu.be/GsgrngbfHn8

Dr. Kenya Numan discuss AMWF relief missions to Haiti on KPFA Radio Part 2, https://youtu.be/HGsdfrxvPZE

Dr. Kenya Numan discuss AMWF relief missions to Haiti on KPFA Radio Part 3, https://youtu.be/IK-g9wSqiyo

Dr. Kenya Numan discuss AMWF relief missions to Haiti on KPFA Radio Part 4, https://youtu.be/w1r4Kwc-wpQ

Sincerely,

Abdul-Jalil
President
510.394.4501