On November 12, Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosts CNN Dialogues, focusing on the issues of food security and food deserts in the United States, with a particular emphasis on the nearly 16 million children who spend their days and nights hungry. Learn more about the series here. Panelist Hugh Acheson is the chef/partner of Five & Ten and The National in Athens, Georgia and Empire State South in Atlanta, Georgia as well as a judge on the current season on Top Chef, and author of "A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen."
Today is Veterans Day and I would like to thank my grandfather for his sacrifice. I don’t think he was fighting for his individual rights when he lost his life during World War II, riding in a jeep far into enemy territory in Occupied France. He was fighting for a greater idea of freedom that defines modern democracies, a collective freedom that allows us individual liberty. First we succeed together, which gives us the allowance to succeed as individuals.
When we build a society, as we continue to do every day, we need to think of everyone. Success for the lower and middle class in recent years has been made difficult to attain as the American dream has become an elusive goal. Stacked against success are many pitfalls that seem to keep the poor, well, poor. High interest rate loans, lack of viable employment, housing-market collapses: all of these things have not only kept people from rising out of poverty but have driven more people into it.
The poverty rate for children in my state of Georgia is 26%, a figure that makes me queasy. Cuts to programs to assist those in need make me angry. It’s a divisive issue but I prefer to be on the side of trying to help those in need. I just firmly believe in this statement: We are better off as a country when all of our kids have access to nutritious food.
We live in a country that, despite its successes, has the lowest life expectancy of any affluent democracy with a population above 10 million. Sadly our reactions to hunger and poverty have largely been to either ignore or vilify. These reactions will eventually catch up to us.
Look, this isn’t about a free lunch, but it is about coming to terms with an economic reality: the richness of a few has been at the expense of many. The middle class dream in the U.S. just got a foreclosure notice. SNAP gives back some decency to those affected in the form of access to a better diet.
Some would argue that this creates a welfare state or a consistent dependent class, but the reality is that more than half of SNAP recipients are on the program for less than a year. Another argument made against SNAP is that people buy non-nutritional food with the funds, but studies show that purchases for groceries is much the same throughout all rungs of society, SNAP assisted or not.
The next generation of America doesn’t need a crutch but it does need a helping hand. SNAP is an investment in our healthy future.