The new book Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups argues that food banks and pantries don’t chip away at underlying issues that keep people food-insecure.
Walmart doesn’t pay its workers very well. And because it pays its workers so poorly, they have to rely on food stamps and food banks to make ends meet. So then, Walmart goes ahead and uses its charitable donations to pay food banks, to pay anti-hunger groups to support SNAP—which enables [Walmart] to pay its workers low wages. And then it also redeems about 1 in 6 SNAP dollars around the country.
Government has, for the most part, abdicated its role in providing for people’s rights to food [through] cutbacks to SNAP and cutbacks to welfare. … What I’m trying to call attention to is that this approach (food banks) solves hunger for today. It gives people three days’ worth of food at the end of the month; next month, they arrive at the same damn situation. It doesn’t solve poverty, much less the issues around economic inequality and power. It doesn’t address the wages that people get paid, so they don’t have to go to the food bank.
Where we’ve come with this after 35 or 40 years of doing this is that the way the public thinks we deal with hunger is through a food drive. They think that’s a solution to hunger, and it’s not.
Sixty percent of the non-elderly who receive food stamps are in households where there’s at least one person working. The reason they’re on SNAP or visiting food banks is because wages are so low.
SNAP has become a work support program. Work support programs used to be things like childcare. Now we’re subsidizing part of the cost of employment to companies.
We really need to focus on income inequality as a nation. We need to be raising wages and supporting workers in a way that they can make a decent living. That way, people can feed their families and don’t need to be subsidized by the government because they’re working low-wage jobs. So it’s a rethinking of the way we structure how people work in this country.