Food for thought

Jul 7, 2004 at 12:00 am

While George W. Bush and his spin doctors are giddily hyping the news that the U.S. economy is on the road to recovery, a daunting number of Michigan’s poor are struggling just to keep food on their tables.

State food aid applications are higher than they have been in 10 years, according to a quarterly report issued by the Michigan League for Human Service (MLHS), a nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks social service trends among low-income people.

For the first quarter of 2004 there were nearly 147,000 new applications for state-run food programs, compared to about 130,000 applicants this time last year, according to the MLHS report. Though the number has fluctuated some in the past decade, application rates continue to rise, says Anne Marston, MLHS president and CEO.

Marston believes the increase is due, in part, to Michigan’s struggling economy. Michigan’s unemployment rate hovers around 7.5 percent, compared to the national average of about 5.6 percent. The number of underemployed people may also be contributing to the increased need for food aid. Also, more local groups are helping low-income people apply for state-run food programs, says Marston.

News Hits, which sorely misses having John Engler to kick around, is obliged to point out another factor in this equation: When Engler was governor, childless adults were eligible for food stamps only three months every three years. Big John, who never appeared to miss many meals himself, could have applied for a federal waiver allowing this population to receive food stamps year-round, says Marston. But, being the compassionate conservative he is, Engler chose instead to let state residents go hungry.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm, demonstrating real compassion, applied for the waiver. It went into effect in March, making it possible for childless adults to collect about $140 each month year-round in food assistance.

Marston suspects the waiver will add to the number of people who apply for food aid programs.

For information about how to apply for food assistance, call the Center for Civil Justice in Saginaw toll-free at 800-481-4989.

Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]