Michael Green: How we can make the world a better place by 2030 – Filmed September 2015 at TEDGlobal>London


Can we end hunger and poverty, halt climate change and achieve gender equality in the next 15 years? The governments of the world think we can. Meeting at the UN in September 2015, they agreed to a new set of Global Goals for the development of the world to 2030. Social progress expert Michael Green invites us to imagine how these goals and their vision for a better world can be achieved.

Who counts as ‘homeless’ depends on how you ask – by Joanna S. Kao  , E. Tammy Kim , Haya El Nasser  January 31, 2015 5:00AM ET


LOS ANGELES — About two dozen volunteers gathered in a room Wednesday night for their instructions: Don’t shine flashlights at people. Don’t talk to them. Use your judgment when you see a recreational vehicle or makeshift tent. Do not get out of the car alone.

 Clyde Heimer (left) and his friend Bill (who did not give his last name), volunteered in the Los Angeles homeless count Wednesday night. They themselves are homeless and said the tally underestimates the number of people living on the streets.Haya El Nasser / Al Jazeera America


Clyde Heimer (left) and his friend Bill (who did not give his last name), volunteered in the Los Angeles homeless count Wednesday night. They themselves are homeless and said the tally underestimates the number of people living on the streets.Haya El Nasser / Al Jazeera America

It was day two of a three-day homeless count in Los Angeles, the U.S. city with the largest population living on the streets. About 6,000 people had signed up to help. Each was required to attend a 30-minute training session, then paired with another volunteer and provided a map, tally sheet and flashlight.

Leah Hubbard, a graduate student, canvassed a 0.89-square-mile area of the city’s Westchester neighborhood. “Most people think homelessness is confined to Skid Row,” she said. But on the count, she and her teammate looked for homeless people along far less infamous areas.

Counters in some 3,000 cities and counties across the country helped quantify the nation’s homeless population this month. It’s a massive ritual overseen by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.

Yet critics warn against relying solely on this “point-in-time” method and its underlying definition of homelessness. Last January, HUD counted 578,424 people on the streets and in shelters in the U.S., down 11 percent from 2007 — while the Department of Education, or DOE, which uses a different, more expansive methodology, reported that child and family homelessness doubled over the last decade.

Advocates concerned about this discrepancy are pushing for a legislative fix. On Wednesday, a bipartisan bill meant to enlarge HUD’s concept of homelessness was introduced, for the second consecutive year, in both houses of Congress. The Homeless Children and Youth Act, or HCYA, would force HUD to align its definition with those used by federal programs for low-income families and vulnerable minors and reduce the requirements for proving homeless status, backers say. Esoteric perhaps and, in the context of a new legislature, an unlikely priority. The Obama administration, meanwhile, has stuck by HUD’s current definition and emphasized services for adults. The president’s Opening Doors plan promises to eliminate veterans’ homelessnessby the end of December, chronic homelessness by 2016, and homelessness among children, families and youth by 2020.

This timetable puts a focus on adult homelessness, said Barbara Duffield, director of policy and programs at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth and an architect of the HCYA. “HUD has essentially forced communities to prioritize adults over kids.”

Article continues:

http://america.aljazeera.com/multimedia/2015/1/who-countsas-homeless-depends-on-how-you-ask.html

10 cities where an appalling number of Americans are starving – SATURDAY, JAN 10, 2015 1:00 PM UTC


If Republicans have their way with anti-hunger programs, it’ll get a lot worse before it gets better.

10 cities where an appalling number of Americans are starving
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNetHunger is a concept that is often connected with poor developing countries, but it has also become increasingly common in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 49.1 million households experienced food insecurity at some point in 2013. On December 11, the U.S. Conference of Mayors released its 32nd Annual Report on Hunger and Homelessness. The report covered 25 American cities: 71% said the number of requests for emergency food assistance had increased in the last year, while only 25% said that requests for emergency food assistance had decreased. And 84% of the cities surveyed expected emergency food requests to increase in 2015, but many food banks may not have the resources to meet those requests.

Helene Schneider, mayor of Santa Barbara and co-chair of the Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness, warned in the report that Congress will increase hunger in U.S. cities if Republicans defund federal anti-hunger programs; the report found that in eight of the 25 cities, at least 20% of the emergency food being distributed came from federal funding (in Los Angeles, it was 51%). Here are 10 U.S. cities where an appalling number of Americans are going hungry.

1. Memphis

In 2010, a study by the Food Research Action Center declared Memphis to be the hunger capital of the U.S. and found that 26% of its residents had suffered from food insecurity at some point during the previous 12 months. Four years later, Memphis had the worst hunger problem of the 25 cities examined in the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ new report: 46% of the requests for emergency food assistance in Tennessee’s largest city—almost half—were being unmet. Food pantries in Memphis are overwhelmed with requests, and according to the report, they are having a hard time “securing funds to purchase the food needed to meet the need.” Unemployment, low wages and poverty were cited as the main causes of hunger in Memphis, where the official unemployment rate is 7.5% and 26.2% of its residents are living below the poverty line. The Conference of Mayors noted that in 2015, “city officials expect requests for food assistance to increase moderately and resources to provide food assistance to decrease moderately.”



2. San Antonio

In the Conference of Mayors’ report, there is both good news and bad news where San Antonio is concerned. The good news is that requests for emergency food assistance in San Antonio have “decreased over the past year by 18%.” But the bad news is that 38% of the requests for emergency food assistance are still going unmet in that Texas city, where the Conference said that the number of homeless families “increased by 19 percent” over the past year. For 2015, city officials expect a “moderate” increase in food requests combined with a “moderate” decrease in the resources to meet them—and almost half of the San Antonio residents facing food insecurity next year are likely to be the working poor. The Conference found that 46% of the people requesting emergency food assistance there were employed.

3. San Francisco

San Francisco has long been one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. Extreme gentrification in the Northern California city has gone from bad to worse in recent years, making it even more difficult to stay afloat without at least an upper-middle-class income. The U.S. Conference of Mayors reported that of the 25 cities analyzed, San Francisco is among the worst for hunger: 37% of the requests for emergency food assistance in San Francisco went unmet in the last year (compared to 15% in Denver or 10% in Charlotte, NC). Food pantries in the Bay Area are working hard to meet the heavy demand for food assistance: the Mayors Conference reported that the San Francisco/Marin Food Bank Pantry Program feeds, on average, 30,000 households every week and distributed an impressive 30 million pounds of food through its pantry network in 2013. It also fights hunger in San Francisco with an aggressive food stamp outreach that includes special “SNAP in a day” events in which the poor can receive EBT cards the same day they apply for them. But in a city with such a high cost of living, the San Francisco/Marin Food Bank Pantry Program needs a lot more funding. The Conference of Mayors predicts that in 2015, the need for emergency food assistance in San Francisco “will increase substantially” while funding for the city’s anti-hunger programs “will decrease substantially.”

Article continues:

http://www.salon.com/2015/01/10/10_cities_where_an_appalling_number_of_americans_are_starving_partner/

26 charts and maps that show the world is getting much, much better – by Dylan Matthews on December 29, 2014


Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at Dec 30, 2014 5.10

The press — and humans in general — have a strong negativity bias. Bad economic news gets morecoverage than good news. Negative experiences affect people more, and for longer, than positive ones. So it’s natural for things like Russia’s incursion into Ukraine or the rise of ISIS or the Ebola outbreak to weigh on us more than, say, the fact that extreme poverty has fallen by half since 1990, or that life expectancy is increasing, especially in poor countries. But for Thanksgiving it’s worth paying some attention to the latter factors. The world is getting much, much better on a whole variety of dimensions. Here are just a few.


Economic progress

  1. Extreme poverty has fallen

    This is probably the most important chart on this list. The extraordinary rate of economic growth in India and China — as well as slower but still significant growth in other developing countries — has led to a huge decline in the share of the world population living on less than $1.25 a day, from 52 percent in 1981 to 43 percent in 1990 to 21 percent in 2010. That’s a low bar for what counts as poverty, and some development experts are arguing we should be using a global poverty line of $10-15 a dayinstead, but that very debate is a sign of the tremendous progress made in recent decades.

  2. Hunger is falling

    This animated map shows the Global Hunger Index — a measure of undernutrition calculated by the International Food Policy Research Institute — across the world form 1990 to 2014. Red and orange countries have especially high levels of hunger and undernutrition, while green ones have lower rates. So it’s encouraging to watch the globe gradually get less red and more green over the past 24 years.

Article continues:

http://www.vox.com/2014/11/24/7272929/charts-thankful

Global warming could udercut efforts to eradicate poverty – November 24, 2014 12:54AM ET


World Bank report finds climate change would cut into crop yields, possibly set back anti-poverty efforts in many areas

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at Nov 24, 2014 1.18

Climate change could undermine efforts to defeat extreme poverty around the globe, the World Bank warned Sunday.

In a new report on the impact of global warming, the bank said sharp temperature rises would cut deeply into crop yields and water supplies in many areas and possibly set back efforts to bring populations out of poverty.

“Climate change poses a substantial and escalating risk to development progress that could undermine global efforts to eliminate extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity,” the report said.

“Without strong, early action, warming could exceed 1.5-2 degrees Celsius and the resulting impacts could significantly worsen intra- and intergenerational poverty in multiple regions across the globe.”

An increase of 2 degrees Celsius is an increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Past and predicted emissions from power plants, factories and cars have locked the globe on a path towards an average temperature rise of almost 2.7 Fahrenheit above pre-industrial times by 2050, it said.

That means that extreme heat events, rising sea levels and more frequent tropical cyclones may now be unavoidable.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, in a telephone news conference on the report, titled “Turn down the Heat, Confronting the New Climate Normal”, called the findings “alarming.”

“Dramatic climate changes and weather extremes are already affecting millions of people around the world, damaging crops and coastlines and putting water security at risk,” Kim wrote in the report.

As examples of extremes, he pointed to the hottest November day in Australia during a recent Group of 20 summit “or the five to six feet of snow that just fell on Buffalo” in the United States.

Article continues:

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/11/24/world-bank-reportclimatechangesetsbackbattlepovery.html

‘Poor people don’t plan long-term. We’ll just get our hearts broken’ – Linda Tirado The Observer, Saturday 20 September 2014


Why do so many poor people eat junk food, fail to budget properly, show no ambition? Linda Tirado knew exactly why… because she was one of them. Here, in an extract from her book, Hand to Mouth, she tells her story in her own wordsLinda Tirado photographed by Scott Suchman near her home in Washington DC for the Observer New Revie

In the autumn of 2013 I was in my first term of school in a decade. I had two jobs; my husband, Tom, was working full-time; and we were raising our two small girls. It was the first time in years that we felt like maybe things were looking like they’d be OK for a while.

After a gruelling shift at work, I was unwinding online when I saw a question from someone on a forum I frequented: Why do poor people do things that seem so self-destructive? I thought I could at least explain what I’d seen and how I’d reacted to the pressures of being poor. I wrote my answer to the question, hit post, and didn’t think more about it for at least a few days. This is what it said:

Why I make terrible decisions, or, poverty thoughts 

There’s no way to structure this coherently. They are random observations that might help explain the mental processes. But often, I think that we look at the academic problems of poverty and have no idea of the why. We know the what and the how, and we can see systemic problems, but it’s rare to have a poor person actually explain it on their own behalf. So this is me doing that, sort of.

Rest is a luxury for the rich. I get up at 6am, go to school (I have a full course load, but I only have to go to two in-person classes), then work, then I get the kids, then pick up my husband, then have half an hour to change and go to Job 2. I get home from that at around 12.30am, then I have the rest of my classes and work to tend to. I’m in bed by 3am. This isn’t every day, I have two days off a week from each of my obligations. I use that time to clean the house and soothe Mr Martini [her partner], see the kids for longer than an hour and catch up on schoolwork.

Those nights I’m in bed by midnight, but if I go to bed too early I won’t be able to stay up the other nights because I’ll fuck my pattern up, and I drive an hour home from Job 2 so I can’t afford to be sleepy. I never get a day off from work unless I am fairly sick. It doesn’t leave you much room to think about what you are doing, only to attend to the next thing and the next. Planning isn’t in the mix.

When I was pregnant the first time, I was living in a weekly motel for some time. I had a mini-fridge with no freezer and a microwave. I was on WIC [government-funded nutritional aid for women, infants and children]. I ate peanut butter from the jar and frozen burritos because they were 12 for $2. Had I had a stove, I couldn’t have made beef burritos that cheaply. And I needed the meat, I was pregnant. I might not have had any prenatal care, but I am intelligent enough to eat protein and iron while knocked up.

I know how to cook. I had to take Home Ec to graduate from high school. Most people on my level didn’t. Broccoli is intimidating. You have to have a working stove, and pots, and spices, and you’ll have to do the dishes no matter how tired you are or they’ll attract bugs. It is a huge new skill for a lot of people. That’s not great, but it’s true. If you fuck it up, you could make your family sick.

We have learned not to try too hard to be middle class. It never works out well and always makes you feel worse for having tried and failed yet again. Better not to try. It makes more sense to get food that you know will be palatable and cheap and that keeps well. Junk food is a pleasure that we are allowed to have; why would we give that up?

We have very few of them.

The closest Planned Parenthood [family planning clinic] to me is three hours. That’s a lot of money in gas. Lots of women can’t afford that, and even if you live near one you probably don’t want to be seen coming in and out in a lot of areas. We’re aware that we are not “having kids”, we’re “breeding”. We have kids for much the same reasons that I imagine rich people do. Urge to propagate and all. Nobody likes poor people procreating, but they judge abortion even harder.

Convenience food is just that. And we are not allowed many conveniences. Especially since the Patriot Act [aimed at strengthening domestic security in the war against terrorism] was passed, it’s hard to get a bank account. But without one, you spend a lot of time figuring out where to cash a cheque and get money orders to pay bills. Most motels now have a no-credit-card-no-room policy. I wandered around San Francisco for five hours in the rain once with nearly a thousand dollars on me and could not rent a room even if I gave them a $500 cash deposit and surrendered my cellphone to the desk to hold as surety.

Nobody gives enough thought to depression. You have to understand that we know that we will never not feel tired. We will never feel hopeful. We will never get a vacation.

Article continues:

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/sep/21/linda-tirado-poverty-hand-to-mouth-extract?CMP=fb_gu

Americans Have Spent Enough Money On A Broken Plane To Buy Every Homeless Person A Mansion By Hayes Brown July 9, 2014 at 4:03 pm Updated: July 9, 2014 at 5:17 pm


Americans Have Spent Enough Money On A Broken Plane To Buy Every Homeless Person A Mansion

An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in its natural habitat: on the ground

An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in its natural habitat: the ground

CREDIT: AP Photo/Lockheed Martin

Just days before its international debut at an airshow in the United Kingdom, the entire fleet of the Pentagon’s next generation fighter plane — known as the F-35 II Lightning, or the Joint Strike Fighter — has been grounded, highlighting just what a boondoggle the project has been. With the vast amounts spent so far on the aircraft, the United States could have worked wonders, including providing every homeless person in the U.S. a $600,000 home.

It’s hard to argue against the need to modernize aircraft used to defend the country and counter enemies overseas, especially if you’re a politician. But the Joint Strike Fighter program has been a mess almost since its inception, with massive cost overruns leading to its current acquisition price-tag of $398.6 billion — an increase of $7.4 billion since last year. That breaks down to costing about $49 billion per year since work began in 2006 and the project is seven years behind schedule. Over its life-cycle, estimated at about 55 years, operating and maintaining the F-35 fleet will cost the U.S. a little over $1 trillion. By contrast, the entirety of the Manhattan Project — which created the nuclear bomb from scratch — cost about $55 billion in today’s dollars.

“The political armor of the F-35 is as thick as the heads of the people who designed the airplane and its acquisition plan,” Winslow Wheeler, a former congressional staffer and outspoken critic of the F-35, recently told Foreign Policy about the longevity of the plane, despite the many setbacks it has endured. The support for the F-35 is so great in Congress that there’s actual a bipartisan Joint Strike Fighter Caucus dedicated to promoting it and keeping it alive. With that in mind, here are just a few of the other things that the insane amount spent on the troubled fighter could have gone towards instead, both at home and abroad:

Buying Every Homeless Person In The U.S. A Mansion

On any given night in 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services concluded, there were an estimated 600,000 homeless Americans living on the streets. Numerous studies, however, have showed that rather than putting money into temporary shelters or incarceration, communities have saved millions of dollars by investing in permanent homes for the homeless. A recent report showed that in one Florida community, it cost taxpayers an estimated $30,000 to take the homeless off the streets through traditional methods, but only around $10,000 per person to give them permanent housing and provide job training and other support. Expanding that concept to the Federal level, even taking into account things like varying real estate prices around the country, it’s possible that $7.4 billion would be more than enough to start a program nationwide. With the full amount spent on the F-35 at its disposal, the U.S. could afford to purchase every person on the streets a $664,000 home.

Unilaterally Funding Every Humanitarian Crisis

Overall, the United States less than one percent of its federal budget to foreign assistance. The State Department and USAID in Fiscal Year 2014 set aside about $31.1 billion in foreign aid funding, according to ForeignAssistance.gov. This includes $4.5 billion devoted towards funding the U.S. response to humanitarian crises around the world, including those in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, and others. Millions of refugees and internally displaced people in these conflicts are struggling to survive, as the United Nations reports that each of these emergencies remain chronically underfunded. This year alone, the U.N. Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has raised only 35 percent of the funds it needs. In contrast, the $49 billion per year spent on the F-35 would singlehandedly fund not just UNOCHA’s $16.7 billion request, but also those of UNICEF and other emergency disaster relief bodies, saving countless lives.

In addition, U.N. officials want the situation at the U.S.’ southern border to be classified as a refugee crisis as well, as most of the thousands of children currently being detained fled their homes to escape a myriad number of life-threatening conditions. The Obama administration has requested $3.7 billion from Congress in emergency spending to help staunch the flow and provide for those who have already made it to the United States, but Republicans already appear to be lining up against the proposal. The F-35′s increased cost from last year alone would have easily covered that amount and then some.

Feeding Every Schoolchild In The Country

Earlier this year, President Obama signed into law an compromise version of the Farm Bill after months of deadlock saw the expiration of the former version. As part of the deal, House Republicans demanded huge cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), former known as food stamps, backing down only after a veto threat from the White House. The final bill, however, still included $8.7 billion worth of cuts, equaling about a $90 per month cut for recipients. The F-35′s excess costs for the last year by themselves could have nearly covered all of the losses, prevent state governors from having to scramble to provide families with the assistance they need.

As a backup when food subsidies are cut, low-income families often find themselves turning towards schools to provide meals during the day for their children. The National School Lunch Program feeds approximately 31 million students every year, at the cost of about $16.3 billion in both cash and commodity payments. The full cost of the plane so far would have funded this program as it stands for 24 years. If the amount being dispersed to schools was doubled, allowing the program to reach all 55 million students enrolled in K-12, the F-35 still would be able to cover that for the next decade.

Article continues:

http://thinkprogress.org/world/2014/07/09/3458101/f35-boondoggle-fail/

Barely getting by in Laurel County, Kentucky – by Naureen Khan June 24, 2014 5:00AM ET


Hard-pressed Appalachia district has one of highest concentrations of food stamp recipients.

 Vada McCoy, left, pulls a cart of groceries through the Come-Unity Cooperative Care Center in London, Kentucky. McCoy depends on the food pantry to get her through each month.

Pat McDonogh for Al Jazeera America

LONDON, Ky. — Corn flakes, bread, milk, green beans, a bag of oatmeal, a jar of peanut butter and cans of corn, peaches and pears, pinto beans, and chicken noodle and cream of broccoli soup are stacked neatly in a box.

Volunteers at Come-Unity Cooperative Care, a nonprofit here in rural Laurel County, will eventually load the box into a grocery cart, add fresh produce and meat and wheel it out to those who line up for sustenance at this food pantry.

The staples are a lifeline for Vada McCoy, who, like clockwork, shows up the first Wednesday of every month when her own pantry shelves inevitably begin to look bare.

“Coming in here helps me a lot because then I got enough food to do me till the 8th,” she said, referring to the day when her food stamp benefits are renewed. “I have to have the food. I’m just too low.”

With the new provisions, McCoy will make peanut butter crackers to eat each night before bed to help control her diabetes. The produce and the meat, so expensive these days at the supermarket, McCoy said, is a godsend. She will give the oatmeal to the family who live next door in her apartment building.

“They’ve got four itty-bitty, little kids, the oldest one in the first grade,” McCoy said. “Where I live we take care of each other. And you know when someone don’t have no groceries. When you hear so-and-so don’t have nothing, well, you send something over there.”

In southwestern Kentucky, hardship and need seem to spring forth from the cracks and crevices of the lush green rolling hills; they line the dulcet tones of the people who matter-of-factly recount their struggles to stay afloat. For the last half century, the conundrum of calcified, generational poverty has stumped policymakers, with the luckless denizens of Kentucky’s Appalachian mountains one of its most enduring symbols.

Unlike urban areas that have also come to typify entrenched poverty, Kentucky’s Fifth District is overwhelmingly white (98 percent). And unlike many of the other districts where constituents are heavily reliant on government programs like SNAP, it is represented by conservative politicians who have voted to dial back those programs, alleging fraud and individuals addicted to handouts.

But it’s hard to imagine they are talking about McCoy, 62, who is among those who could not survive without federal help yet has seen a dramatic reduction in her benefits, from $200 to $82 a month.

McCoy’s life followed the same contours of many living here in rural Appalachia. After she turned 18, she started working — 17 years on the assembly line at Ford Motor Co., six years in a hospital-supply factory, seven more at a plant where she sewed men’s underwear. By the time she was in her late 40s, McCoy’s body had begun to break.

In addition to diabetes, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and declared legally blind; she suffers from neuropathy, a nerve disorder that causes a burning sensation in her feet. Her last job was as a waitress working for $2 an hour under the table and scraping together tips, but that was more than 10 years ago, when she was able to drive.

With disability and SNAP payments, McCoy can just get by.

SNAP was first cut in November, when emergency stimulus funds that had financed it through the recession ran out. It was hit again when a new Farm Bill, which included $8 billion in cuts to the program over the next decade, was signed into law earlier this year.

“There’s nothing I can do about it. What can I do?” McCoy said. “You know you just gotta live with it.”

Clyde Proffitt, an employee at the Come-Unity Cooperative Care center, carries a box of pre-sorted groceries at the food pantry. Many people who are struggling financially in this part of Kentucky depend on the monthly allotments of food the center distributes. Pat McDonogh for Al Jazeera America

Fifty years after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty, 20 percent of residents in Laurel County still live below the poverty line, according to census data. While the debate about how to lift them up ebbs and flows, conditions here and in surrounding areas seem frozen in place. Unemployment was mired at 9 percent through 2013, according to the most recent data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, although residents say they see jobs beginning to flow back into London of late. Thirteen percent of residents here have graduated from college. Laurel is relatively fortunate — Owsley County, an hour away, is the poorest in the country, with a 36 percent poverty rate and unemployment that stands at 12 percent.

Many Republicans — including Kentucky’s own — argue that the same welfare state meant to alleviate these problems is partly to blame by creating powerful disincentives to work. Democrats, meanwhile, have tried to defend the programs and expand benefits, but have been equally unable to answer the question of what lies behind such persistent and severe economic blight.

In the midst of it all, food stamps have been a particular target of lawmakers focused on slashing the federal budget. Before the Senate passed the bipartisan Farm Bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., fretted to farmers in the state that the legislation was becoming a “food stamp bill.”

“We need to move in the direction of having a vibrant, productive, expanding economy. And you don’t do that by making it excessively easy to be nonproductive,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has gone further in expounding on that philosophy, arguing that large government programs do nothing to create a vibrant economy, as lowering taxes and regulations would. Paul supported a failed amendment earlier this year in the Senate that would have cut the program nearly in half and turned over funding decisions to the state.

“The war on poverty failed. It has trapped us in multigenerational dependency,” he said in his response to President Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this year. “I fully believe most Americans hate the trap of government dependency but can’t break free because big government gives them no exit.”

Laurel County’s own representative, Rep. Hal Rogers, the Republican chair of the Appropriations Committee, has pumped federal dollars into his district and said he is supportive of SNAP benefits for those who truly need them, but railed against “scammers, lottery winners, gamblers and others who may be able to work, but simply refuse.” He too ultimately voted for the SNAP cuts, although 26 percent of his constituents use the program, according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ranking the district among the top 10 of those with the highest proportion of recipients.

All the political chatter matters little to Gladys Klontz, 35, whose overriding concern is putting food on the table for her three children — ages 15, 7 and 6 — after her family’s SNAP allocation was reduced $32 a month.

“I work my tail off and I still don’t get nowhere,” said the single mother, who works full time at McDonald’s. “I put in more hours, all the hours they’ll give me, and I still have to rely on the pantries and the food-stamp allotment.”

The cuts mean fewer snacks, less produce and more searching for local food pantries to make up the difference. Those who come to Come-Unity can collect food once a month and must show proof they meet the income guidelines mandated by the state: Klontz’s family is surviving on less than $2,584 a month, or about $10,000 a year.

“What I think is great is that for us working people, they do help us like this,” she said. “If I didn’t have the help on the side, I don’t know what I’d do.”

Howard Day, too, has his coping mechanisms. A garden means he can grow some of his own food and freeze it to get through the winter. Tomato, onion and mayonnaise sandwiches are a staple of his diet. Day said he doesn’t like taking handouts, but he doesn’t know what else to do.

“Money’s just so tight right now,” he said. “This helps a whole lot. The ladies here are real nice — it makes it easier coming, because some people can be hateful.”

Day, 49, served in the military for four years in the 1980s and was working multiple jobs when he came back to Kentucky. A major heart attack put him out of commission in 1998. Now the kind of work he could get in Laurel County is no longer the kind of work he is able to do. His income consists of a $916 monthly check from Social Security and $14 a month from SNAP, down from $16.

“At the convenience stores they want you dragging a big mop around, and that rubs my chest the wrong way and it starts hurting,” he said. “I talked to the doctor about going back to work and he said no way.”

Kentuckians here bristle at questions about their will to work or their desire to provide for themselves and their families.

“What do they want me to do? Well, I’ll go home with ’em if they want me to,” Vada McCoy cried when asked about lawmakers who warned of the dangers of government dependency. “Them politicians — they’ll get up there and talk about food stamps and all of these problems up on TV, but they don’t do nothing about it.”

Marjorie Burns, 54, said she started working when she was 14 years old and made a good living as a paralegal for many years. Then she was diagnosed with kidney cancer and her daughter and her granddaughter moved in with her, asking for help. Even a short walk around the food pantry left Burns out of breath.

“You can’t help it if you get cancer or get in a car wreck and get disabled,” she said. “People that have tried and are trying, leave ’em alone. Help them if you can.”

And what would members of Congress, the ones with lofty theories on poverty and work, know about struggle anyway, Burns asked.

“They don’t really work. What do they do? Sit there in Congress on a plush bench in the air conditioning?” she said. “What if they were putting roofs up on a building or something and needed help putting food on their family’s table? How would they feel about it then?”

U.S. DISTRICTS WITH MOST S.N.A.P. RECIPIENTS

State, District People on SNAP % of District on SNAP Representative Party Non-hispanic White African-American Hispanic
New York, 16 111,871 49.8% Eliot Engel D 1.40% 32.20% 71.20%
Michigan, 13 62,602 33.19% John Conyers Jr. D 14.80% 75.60% 7.70%
Michigan, 14 58,453 29.28% Gary Peters D 20.90% 73.90% 1.40%
Pennsylvania, 01 66,677 28.23% Robert Brady D 14.70% 55.90% 26.80%
Texas, 15 64,636 27.98% Rubén Hinojosa D 5.50% 1.10% 92.70%
Texas, 28 65,920 26.6% Henry Cuellar D 6.50% 1.30% 92.20%
Kentucky, 05 67,712 26.39% Hal Rogers R 97.80% 0.80% 0.50%
New York, 10 61,031 25.33% Jerrold Nadler D 14.70% 59.20% 26.30%
Arizona, 04 54,937 25.27% Paul Gosar R 19.10% 12.30% 63.40%
New York, 15 60,975 24.57% José Serrano D 5.30% 36.90% 62.60%