News Update: January 5th 2015

2015 Begins Campaign to Lift California Seniors and Disabled Out of Poverty

Happy 2015! Now, please sign our statewide petition calling for SSI/SSP benefits for seniors and people with disabilities to be raised above the poverty line:

Yes, we begin 2015 by asking you to join us in a statewide campaign to lift 1.5 million California seniors and persons with disabilities out of poverty by raising the SSI/SSP monthly benefits above the poverty line. (SSI is Supplemental Security Income, a federal payment, and SSP is the State Supplemental Payment, an additional portion provided by California.)

SSI/SSP participants rely on this monthly benefit to cover ALL of their expenses — food, shelter, medicine, clothing, transportation, utilities and more. Yet the current benefit leaves recipients under the federal poverty level and with insufficient income, ultimately faced with paying rent or buying food or medicine. California can do better than this.

We are building a new strong statewide coalition of organizations and individuals from many areas — anti-hunger, senior advocacy, disability rights, immigrant advocates, faith based organizations, housing advocates, as well as business owners, law enforcement, elected officials and many others.

This coalition known as CA4SSI is beginning to attract attention. The Sacramento Bee ran an article recently not only about the campaign to raise SSI/SSP but other benefits ranging from child care to family welfare, that have been cut or frozen especially during the recession, and have not been restored to sufficient levels even as the state budget climbs into a surplus.

Sacramento Bee: “Although federal funding grew, overall grants now are lower than they were six years ago, even without adjusting for inflation, said Scott Graves, research director at the California Budget Project. State finance officials estimate the individual maximum monthly grant in January to be $889, down from $907 in 2009. That’s a bit higher than the Budget Project’s $881 estimate.”

Read more here:

  1. First Step: Sign the petition. Our statewide petition is being hosted by St. Anthony Foundation in San Francisco. Just go to the link below and enter your information.
    If you represent an organization: Organizations have a separate sign-on letter to the campaign here: Organizational Sign On Letter

  2. Second Step: Forward the link to everyone you know.

  3. Third Step: If you would like to become involved more deeply in the campaign, contact [email protected]

Fourth Step:Read the next item, below, about the renter’s rebate and sign the petition to restore that program as well.

Yes, Rent Still Too Damn High in LA

LA area residents paid an average of $42 per month more in rent in 2014 than in 2013. In all, LA renters paid $1.7 billion more in rent. Rent is one of the major factors contributing to hunger, as it consumes much of the income of the renter, and combined with fuel, utilities, medicine and other costs leaves not enough for food. A UCLA study recently reported that renters in LA are paying 47% of their total income for rent ( see LA Most Unaffordable Rent in USA )

The article by LAist quoting rental statistics gathered by the Zillow website can be found here:
Yes, Rent Still Too Damn High in L.A.

In the past, seniors and persons with disabilities qualified for a rental rebate annually of up to $347. This program was eliminated by Gov. Schwarzenegger (the “Terminator”, indeed) in 2008. Tenants Together is leading a statewide campaign to restore that renter’s rebate . Please go to this link to sign the petition:

Higher Egg Prices Can Be a Good Thing

The relationship between the environmental movement and the anti-poverty movement can be a tricky thing. It can be navigated smoothly by thinking of particular issues in the long term, and in holistic way taking into account all of the factors involved rather than what is just presented at face value. The issue of animal welfare is a perfect illustration of this. California’s Proposition 2, passed in 2008 and only now being implemented, says farm animals must have enough room to "turn around freely, lie down, stand up, or fully extend their limbs." While any compassionate human would agree, and Californians did by 2 to 1, the argument was immediately presented that the new cages egg farmers would have to buy (or reduction in total flock being raised) would cause egg prices to go up. As an anti-hunger advocate, it’s difficult to go on record supporting something that by all logic will cause food prices of certain food items to rise. (There were some counter-arguments that the price of cage-free eggs would subsequently go down.)

Nonetheless, Hunger Action LA and other anti-hunger groups did support Proposition 2, because the larger point is that in the long run we all pay much higher costs for industrial agriculture practices that in many cases are not only cruel, but are conducive to the spread of disease. Californians have in this case boldly led the way, and other states will have to follow---under Proposition 2, they can’t sell their eggs in California unless the chickens have been raised with humane standards.

The price of eggs will go up, but anti-hunger groups did the right thing and supported a historic proposition that will start us on the road to ending animal cruelty on industrial farms. Now it will be interesting to see if environmental groups and others leading the great work of planetary stewardship can join us in calling for measures to end poverty among humans so we can afford the more humanely and healthily produced eggs. Maybe they could begin by signing on to the SSI campaign outlined above.

Why Higher Egg Prices Will Be a Good Thing

Proposition 2 Analysis and Results

Protecting The Soil and Ending Poverty in the Developing World

Whereas hunger in the U.S. is a matter of paycheck size, in the developing world where there is still a lot of subsistence farming, hunger is connected to issues of the soil, the water, and the degree to which they’ve been contaminated, often by industrial agricultural processes.

"If we deal with small farmers we solve hunger and we also deal with food production”, said Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Modern agriculture, which began in the 1950s, is more resource intensive, very fossil fuel dependent, using fertilizers, and based on massive production. This policy has to change.

The U.N. official said that new scientific research increasingly shows how "agroecology" offers far more environmentally sustainable methods that can still meet the rapidly growing demand for food/ Agroecology is a traditional way of using farming methods that are less resource oriented, and which work in harmony with society.

UN Researcher: Small Farming Only Way To Avoid Food Crisis

2015 has been designated as the International Year of Soils by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, honoring our commitment to protect healthy soils for healthy life. According to the UN, 33 percent of the planet’s soil is degraded by physical, chemical or biological causes, which is reflected in a reduction in plant cover, soil fertility, and pollution of the soil and water, and which leads to impoverished harvests. Forty percent of the most degraded land is in parts of the world with high poverty rates. But not all the news is bad.

Raúl Benítez, regional director for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), says that Latin America has made the most progress in achieving food security, as the region in the world with the greatest number of countries that have met the hunger target of the first of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) – a series of anti-poverty targets agreed by governments in 2000.

According to The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014 report, the proportion of people suffering from hunger in the region fell from 15.3 percent in 1990-1992 to 6.1 percent in 2012-2014. A large part of this is due to the work of small farmers and environmental groups working to reclaim the soil, introducing vermiculture, reclaiming land from old garbage dumps, and saving native seeds to promote diversity:

The Soil, Ally Against Hunger in Latin America

Industrial ag systems have inherent problems in that they usually end up concentrating on only one variety of fruit or vegetable, for the sake of efficiency. The Cavendish variety of banana for example has become the industry standard. But for years this variety has become more susceptible to a fungus disease called fusarium wilt. According to All Africa News, “Fusarium wilt fungus is considered a top threat to global banana production worth $36-billion, which provides a source of income or food to some 400 million people.”

Increasing diversity by developing new varieties can help this problem, but can be time consuming

Fungal Disease Affecting Banana Industry

I’ll Trade You a Weed-Eating Goat for a Plastic-Eating Mushroom

The move to promote small scale and urban farming in the U.S. is going to have to take into account the condition of the soil, too, but also laws on the books about owning animals, as can be witnessed in these recent incidents involving goats in Detroit

Detroit: Fight Over Animals in Urban Ag

The goats were going to be used to eat tall weeds in a blighted neighborhood. Nature can be used to reclaim polluted environments, but what about seemingly indestructible garbage such as plastic?

Even the toughest garbage in the world may one day be recycled into food, using natural means. RT: “ Researchers at Yale University in 2012 discovered a rare variety of mushroom that could break down polyurethane, a type of plastic. What followed was a wave of research exploring how fungi can degrade plastic without retaining any of its toxicity.

Along came Katharina Unger, who thought: “What if this waste could be turned into food?” And with five trillion pieces of plastic clogging up the world’s oceans, there is no shortage of raw material.”

Katharina and her partner came up with a way that the mushrooms could break down toxic polyurethane….and then the mushrooms could be eaten with no toxicity.

Turning Plastic Into Food

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