Child Hunger and Banquet Food Waste

In the last several days I attended APHSA-ISM, a conference of human services administrators from all over the U.S. and the IT industry at the Philadelphia Convention Center. One of the beneficiaries we raised funds for was Philabundance, a local food bank.

A few hours  after we saw the heartbreaking marketing video of Philabundance, we attended the first conference luncheon. The ballroom had round tables for over 1,000 attendees, each table with nine chairs. Many tables were not full. There were only six people at ours.

The meal was family style. The waiters brought dishes of food and we served ourselves. Our table had large bowls of green salad and a pasta/ham salad, a basket of bread, a plate of chicken breasts, a plate of beef, and a large platter of some type of rice cake. Our table had food for at least 20 people. The beef dish wasn’t even touched. One of us took a single slice just for a taste. Then there was a plate of cupcakes for dessert of which we didn’t consume half.

I could not help but take a picture as I left:

banquet food waste
[click to enlarge]
None of the dishes were even half empty as we all walked out of the room. This was only our table.  There were over a hundred more in the room.

I do not know what the hotel did with the food that got removed from the tables. It was enough to feed an army.

I do not have the solution;  none of us in the room did, even though these were the people from around the country who have to administer food stamp programs, whose job it is to worry about the most vulnerable members of our society – hungry children.

This was a drastic reminder of the inequality in our country. Why do I get to eat in abundance in an air-conditioned ballroom, while 16 million kids in America aren’t getting the food they need?

If you would like to learn more about world hunger, key facts and statistics, here is a valuable link.

SNAP Participation Graph

SNAP Chart
Chart from Governing Magazine, March 2014, page 34

Looking at this chart of SNAP participation (food stamps) from 1969 to 2013, several things are evident:

From the beginning, enrollment went up steadily through Nixon, Ford and Carter. When Reagan came in, it immediately leveled and then started declining moderately but steadily.

Bush 41 arrives, and food stamp participation rises sharply.

Clinton comes, and it drops sharply to pre-Reagan levels.

Bush 43 comes in, and we see the same, sharp steady climb of 41 repeated. What’s with the Bushes?

Then the whopper: Enrollment has almost doubled again since Obama took office. It rose in his early years, but is still rising now in the second term. This is why many call Obama the food stamp president.

I think I want Clinton back. But I can’t.

Oh, wait, there is Hillary. Do we think she bring food stamp enrollment back down again?