Category: Poverty

As a 20 year old product design student, Veronika Scott developed an innovative coat/sleeping-bag for the homeless. But one day when she was giving the coats away, a woman came out of a homeless shelter and told her, “We don’t need coats, coats are pointless. We need jobs.”

Scott realized the woman was right. So she found a way to provide temporary help and still make a lasting change in people’s lives.

product_large_362In your kitchen right now is food that is going to be wasted. Although it may still be sitting in your pantry or in your refrigerator, you’ll eventually throw it away. Milk and cheese will go bad before you finish it, bread will get stale and moldy, and the can of kale will go in the trash as soon as you remember you bought a can of kale (seriously, what were you thinking?).

That Americans waste a lot of food is no surprise. But what may shock you is just how much food we waste.

According to the USDA, 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten. The estimated value of this food loss was $161.6 billion using retail prices. The estimated calories associated with food loss: 141 trillion in 2010, or 1,249 calories per capita per day. That’s a lot of calories that could be used for those in our nation who go hungry.

About 10 percent of the loss (43 billion pounds) occurs at the retail level (supermarkets, restaurants, etc.). Since a significant portion of that wasted food is edible, why isn’t it given to the poor and homeless?

As Harrison Jacobs explains, there are two main reasons usable food is wasted at the retail level. The first is liability:
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Michael Matheson Miller

Michael Matheson Miller

Acton’s Michael Miller, director of the documentary Poverty.Inc, spoke with Bill Frezza at RealClearPolitics. Miller asks listeners to rethink the foreign aid model, which has not been successful in alleviating poverty in the developing world. Rather, Miller makes the case for supporting entrepreneurship and supporting the social and political framework that enable people to lift themselves out of poverty.

Listen to the interview here.

imagesCAOWWLJWWhen the economy takes a downturn and unemployment rises, more people rely on the social safety net and programs like the recently renamed food stamp program called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). As the economy improves and employment increases, people need to rely less on government provided support.

At least that’s what used to happen. But something has changed.

From 1969 until 2003, SNAP has been very responsive to changes in the unemployment rate. But from 2003 to 2007, the number of SNAP recipients kept increasing even as unemployment declined. And the number of SNAP recipients has barely come off its all-time peak of 47.8 million recipients hit in December 2012. Since then, the number of SNAP recipients has only declined by 2.7 percent and started increasing again in the months of April and June 2014.

So why, asks AEI’s poverty scholar Robert Doar, is the number of SNAP recipients staying near record highs even as the economy strengthens? A still-weak economy is part of the answer, says Doar, but not a sufficient explanation:
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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
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ruralroadWhen it comes to reducing global poverty, the simplest solutions can often have an amazing impact. A prime example is the creation of travelable roads.

Kenneth M. Quinn, a former U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, explains how creating a rural road in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam not only improved the economy but also reduced child mortality and increased regional security:
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Blog author: jsunde
Monday, October 13, 2014
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capterrorismThe Middle East is enduring yet another wave of terror and political change, spurring countless Western analysts and elites to offer their preferred strategies and solutions, most of which involve military force, foreign aid, or some mixture of the two.

In last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto sets forth a less predictable path, arguing for “an aggressive agenda for economic empowerment,” similar to that which was promoted in Peru during the 1990s.

I know something about this. A generation ago, much of Latin America was in turmoil. By 1990, a Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization called Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, had seized control of most of my home country, Peru, where I served as the president’s principal adviser. Fashionable opinion held that the people rebelling were the impoverished or underemployed wage slaves of Latin America, that capitalism couldn’t work outside the West and that Latin cultures didn’t really understand market economics.

The conventional wisdom proved to be wrong, however. Reforms in Peru gave indigenous entrepreneurs and farmers control over their assets and a new, more accessible legal framework in which to run businesses, make contracts and borrow—spurring an unprecedented rise in living standards… Over the next two decades, Peru’s gross national product per capita grew twice as fast as the average in the rest of Latin America, with its middle class growing four times faster.

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Pontifical Urban College seminarians and faculty at the conference

Pontifical Urban College seminarians and faculty at the conference

On Tuesday Istituto Acton, the Acton Institute’s Rome office, completed its two-day PovertyCure conference for seminarians and faculty of the Pontifical Urban College in Rome. The conference served as part of the students’ pastoral formation before the academic year begins next week.

The event also marked the first full and official screening of the PovertyCure DVD Series in the Italian language. Episodes 1-4 of the DVD Series were shown on day one of the conference, Sept. 29, and Episodes 5-6 were featured the next day.

Chairman of the PovertyCure Advisory Council, Michael Matheson Miller, and Istituto Acton Director, Kishore Jayabalan, served as conference hosts, giving overviews of each DVD Series episode, the project, and Acton’s mission, and answering a variety of questions from the audience.

Rector of the Pontifical Urban College, Msgr. Vincenzo Viva, moderated the discussion, which gravitated towards such topics as the effects of paternalistic colonialism, the false correlations of high populations with high poverty, Malthusian predictions about overpopulation, the zero-sum fallacy, networks of exchange, import substitution/protectionism, global markets, and above all debate about the effects of international aid and secular humanitarianism.

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commisaryImagine you have a family member who has been in prison for a month. You decide to send them some money to buy a tube of toothpaste from the prison store. How much would you need to send them?

At some prisons you’d need to send $130.

Jails often deduct intake fees, medical co-pays, and the cost of basic toiletries first, leaving the prisoner’s account with a negative balance. To provide enough money for them to buy that initial tube of toothpaste would often require, at a minimum:

  • $25 for booking fee
  • $90 for subsistence and medical co-pays ($3 a day for 30 days)
  • $8.95 for payment transfer fees
  • $5.64 for Senodyne toothpaste

This is one of the findings from an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity that reveals how prison bankers, private vendors in prisons, and corrections profit off the innocent by shifting costs onto inmates’ families.
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gb_pamphlet2An estimated 10 million American households — about 8 percent of all households — are “unbanked” and one in five households — 24 million households with 51 million adults — are “underbanked.” These are households which don’t have accounts at banks and other mainstream financial institutions and use cash for most of their transactions. As a result, notes the FDIC, these “cash consumers pay excessive fees for basic financial services, are susceptible to high-cost predatory lenders, or have difficulties buying a home or otherwise acquiring assets.”

The highest unbanked and underbanked rates are found among non-Asian minorities, lower-income households, younger households, and unemployed households. Close to half of all households in these groups are unbanked or underbanked compared to slightly more than one-quarter of all households.

One of the most common reasons people have for avoiding checking accounts is overdraft fees. If you write a $10 check and it “bounces” (fails to clear because of lack of funds) most banks will charge you a $35 per transaction fee. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the average overdraft fees paid per bank customer was $225. If you make less than $20,000 a year, you can easily find yourself paying one percent of your annual salary on overdraft fees alone.
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Former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson declares a “war on poverty” – Jan. 8, 1964

Former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson declares a “war on poverty” – Jan. 8, 1964

Last week the U.S. Census Bureau released its report, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013. The agency announced that “in 2013, the poverty rate declined from the previous year for the first time since 2006, while there was no statistically significant change in either the number of people living in poverty or real median household income.”

Sure to spark reactions from both sides of the political aisle, the report, along with this year’s 50th anniversary of the U.S. government’s launch of a “war on poverty,” present an opportunity to reflect on the effectiveness of the United States’ domestic poverty alleviation strategy to date.

But amid the necessary analysis and debate about government’s role in helping the least among us, it is essential to keep at the forefront of our thinking the primary figure poverty alleviation efforts are intended to help: the human person. Through taking the time to recognize each individual’s unique gifts and creative capacity, we can more fully appreciate his/her contribution to society and form relationships that enable this flourishing to take root.

Ismael Hernandez, founder and executive director of the Freedom and Virtue Institute, echoes the importance of recognizing people’s true nature. He says, “The person needs to be called by name, the ‘poor’ need for us to dump that label and look at them as unique and unrepeatable human beings, not simply another token belonging to an expansive and yet shallow sea of sameness.”

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