Opinion | There’s no excuse for Michigan kids going to bed hungry

Phil Knight is the executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan

Have you ever considered the unintended consequences of a school closure during these record low temperatures in Michigan? Have you considered the ramifications on the students who don’t have the financial stability for a nutritious meal?

Over the past few weeks, when temperatures were freezing and schools across the state were closed, there were children in Michigan who went without meals.

Michigan’s poverty rate of 15.8 percent is far higher than the national average, meaning one in every five kids in communities across our state lives in poverty. I find it staggering and unacceptable that 437,100 children experience food insecurity. To put this in a scenario for you, that’s enough children to fill Spartan Stadium nearly six times.

Levels of self-sufficiency are currently determined using the half-century-old Federal Poverty Guidelines. It accounts for food in a household and does not consider other life expenses. The Federal Poverty Guidelines are old, inaccurate and in need of replacement.

That is why the Food Bank Council of Michigan commissioned a Self-Sufficiency Standard (SSS) that ensures the best data and analyses are available to enable Michigan families and individuals to make progress toward real economic security. The standard calculates how much income a family must earn in order to meet basic needs, including housing, child care, food, health care, transportation, miscellaneous expenses and taxes.

Of course, this amount varies based on the family makeup and where they live. A single parent with two kids living in Kent County has one customized standard while a two-parent family with one child in Genesee County has another.

We must find solutions to end food insecurity in Michigan. Let’s collaborate with stakeholders and Michigan’s unified food bank network to prove that hunger is not better, not stronger, and not smarter than us.

Let’s create policies that are consistent and supportive of work opportunities and reward people for their industry rather than trap them in poverty. Currently, our hungry neighbors are weighed down by lofty expectations, unsupported requirements and the toxic stress of never earning enough.

The Self-Sufficiency Standard helps us to work with local and statewide officials, educating them on basic needs that the residents of Michigan require to support their families. We must close the gap between current wages and the Self-Sufficiency Standard by reducing costs and raising wages.

We must all work together to close that gap. In the meantime, please donate or volunteer at a local food bank in your area.  

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Kevin Grand
Tue, 03/19/2019 - 7:27am

"Let’s create policies that are consistent and supportive of work opportunities and reward people for their industry rather than trap them in poverty. Currently, our hungry neighbors are weighed down by lofty expectations, unsupported requirements and the toxic stress of never earning enough. "

Now see...that's going to be a problem.

Too many politicians feel that taking even more money out of the paychecks of Michiganians is the tried-and-true, de facto solution to each and every problem.

See Gov. Whitmer's road tax to nowhere for the latest example.

You cannot have it both ways.

Either let people keep more of their own labor, and alleviate/eliminate the problem cited above, or greatly exasperate it by not putting on your big boy/big girl pants and making the tough decisions required from the job that you run for.

It's THAT simple.

Mary Fox
Tue, 03/19/2019 - 9:53am

Well, business should show us the way by refusing tax evading subsidies, paying a minimum tax on all of their profits, and demanding they be taxed to support the infrastructure they need to do business. Until businesses take responsibility for their share of the problem, and stop expecting to profit on the backs of their workers and the public tax fund, there will be income inequality. Talk about needing big boy pants. Get out of your own diapers and stop expecting prima donna treatment to do business. If you believe in self-direction and control, stop expecting special tax cuts, subsidies, and special deductions.

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 11:28am

For any business to refuse tax evading subsidies is counter to businesses obligation to minimize expense and maximize profit for their owners or shareholders. For a person, it is just following the law. Don’t like the tax laws, then lobby to have them changed. And don’t say that private individuals could never match a lobbyist. Collectively, 500 individuals could out spend any lobbyist.

Kevin Grand
Tue, 03/19/2019 - 12:19pm

Businesses don't pay any taxes.

They never did.

The "taxes" that they do pay are already added to the price you pay for goods and services.

Politicians like to fool the rubes into thinking otherwise.

Paul Schwartz
Wed, 03/20/2019 - 7:29am

You are 100% incorrect.

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 2:06pm

Since when did business not have to pay taxes? I've clearly been missing this for the last 20+ years! When the state gives special credits (and yes this can be argued against) for doing X, Y or Z the state obviously believes this action benefited them and the community overall vs. the business not undertaking a given project at all?

Michigan Observer
Wed, 03/20/2019 - 4:25pm

I'm sorry, Matt, but you are mistaken on this one. Business collects taxes and forwards them to the government. They then tack those taxes on to the prices of the goods and services they sell; they deduct them from the compensation of their employees; they subtract them from their investors' dividends. Business collects taxes, they don't pay them. All costs of a corporation are passed on to individuals; just as are all benefits. Many years ago, the Puerto Rican supreme court demonstrated their economic illiteracy by forbidding territorial businesses from passing on a newly passed gas tax.

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 8:36am

We don't disagree on that. Businesses are charged and pay the taxes and toffset then how ever they can or close their doors. Just phrasing.

Anne M Gothard
Tue, 03/19/2019 - 10:11am

I have worked at several grocery stores. Michigan needs to STOP letting families use their benefits for soda pop, energy drinks, and junk food. This leads to our obesity problems in kids. I have also seen families go out with cases of pop, empty them all in the parking lot and then turn in the cans for deposits and buy smokes and a micky. They are also using them for restaurants. It's not cheap to go out and eat. Then they are short the rest of the month.
Kids go hungry with these policies. Stores are also abusing the snap program for pennies on the dollar. The state doesn't have enough under cover agents to bust these entity's. Rural Michigan is by far the worse. HELP CHURCHES TO HELP RURAL CHILDREN NOT TO GO TO BED HUNGRY. Churches are the lifeline to rural communities, and no it has nothing to do with separation of church and state.

Johnny B
Tue, 03/19/2019 - 11:40am

Since the funds for food stamps are Federal, Michigan has no say in how families spend them and can't put rules on what they can or can't buy with them. Feds have decreed they can buy any non-taxable food items, so the only possible restriction would be a tax on pop/junk food. Even trying to do that is questionable as to whether it would be allowed by the feds for this reason or whether SNAP recipients could continue to purchase those items without having to pay the tax.

As to restaurants - no food assistance can be used in a restaurant. Cash assistance (paid on the same Bridge card) could be, but I don't know of any restaurants set up to accept a Quest payment card (banking institution the Bridge card pays through). If you see a restaurant accepting a Bridge card in return for prepared (taxable) food it's likely fraud & should be reported.

Tom P
Fri, 04/26/2019 - 9:29pm

Check out the "You Buy We Fry" fish houses - designed to purposely to skirt the purchase of prepared foods restriction. These establishments provide many more raw to cooked items than seafood.

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 2:12pm

Poverty is about a lot more than how much money you have or don't. This is the point missed in these exercises in hand wringing.

Agnosticrat 2.0
Tue, 03/19/2019 - 5:12pm

That's the most absurd thing I have read all day...
noun: poverty
the state of being extremely poor.

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 9:33am

This indicates how little contact you have with those in poverty. It is a difference in a lot of things, way more than just monthly income, totally different outlook on life and priorities.

Agnosticrat 2.0
Tue, 03/19/2019 - 5:15pm

I think you are making it all up.

Agnosticrat 2.0
Tue, 03/19/2019 - 5:17pm

The "smokes and a micky." phrase is a racist dog whistle I've heard and read a bunch of times

Fri, 04/26/2019 - 8:41pm

I agree Anne. I worked at a store and caught a couple doing something similar. They bought cases of pop, walked to the next store, took in in for the deposit (without even emptying it), then took the money and went to the gas station for cigarettes. In turn, the other store was reselling the pop, since it had never been opened. I reported it. That couple was charged with food stamp fraud, and retail fraud by diversion.

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 2:00pm

Too many 'parents' are popping out babies that they know they can't afford to raise. How about investing in birth control??

Agnosticrat 2.0
Tue, 03/19/2019 - 5:13pm

Or abortions!

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 2:03pm

Your mom?

John Q. Public
Tue, 03/19/2019 - 6:34pm

"We must close the gap between current wages and the Self-Sufficiency Standard by reducing costs and raising wages. We must all work together to close that gap. In the meantime, please ... volunteer at a local food bank in your area."

You're going to have to choose, because by doing the latter, you work against the former. Nothing drives down wages quite like the availability of free labor.

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 4:16pm

It seems that everyone discussing this issue has accepted that Taxes by the Government is ok. It is time to say No. Our earnings should not be forcibly taken by the State.

Michigan Observer
Wed, 03/20/2019 - 5:01pm

Will Mr. Knight slowly and carefully explain to me how "the best data and analyses" from the "Self-Sufficiency Standard (SSS)" will "enable Michigan families and individuals to make progress toward real economic security."? And will he explain how we are to "close the gap between current wages and the Self-Sufficiency Standard by reducing costs and raising wages."? If wages are equivalent to an individual's marginal revenue product, the question becomes: How are we to raise their marginal revenue product? Does he have any suggestions? And isn't "reducing costs" accomplished by entrepreneurs perceiving an opportunity to get rich by providing a better quality good or service at a lower cost? Isn't that how global per capita incomes have risen by 3000% since 1800? Does he have a better approach? Isn't it expected that, at the current rate of improvement, real global per capita incomes are expected to quadruple in the next hundred years? Has he followed the World Bank figures showing how rapidly extreme poverty has declined in the last sixty years?