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September 26, 2013 7:29 am

Harvest a reason to celebrate — and also a time to share

Written by Tom Lawrence

Harvest time has been a cause for celebration across the area, state, country and world for eons.

Farmers cash in for their hard work, while people hold feasts and gather for autumnal festivals — as we will in Powell on Saturday. They share in the produce that long hours, rich soil and life-giving rain and sun have delivered to us.

While machines do much of the work now, we are still very much like our ancestors who reaped grain and plucked berries by hand. The warm promise of summer has once again delivered the full storehouse of food for winter.

Not everyone will fully share in the harvest, however, unless they are given a helping hand. The needy and hungry will always be amongst us. That was true centuries ago and it remains the case today.

The kind, devoted people behind the Backpack Blessings Project in Powell strive to ensure that hungry kids in our community are fed. They fill dozens of backpacks each week to provide two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and some snacks for students who head home on Fridays to homes that are often without any food at all.

The effort was launched during the 2011-12 school year by the Cornerstone Church and now First Southern Baptist, First United Methodist, New Life Christian fellowship, Union Presbyterian and Hope Lutheran Church have joined the cause. Several volunteers are also taking part.

The Backpack Blessings Project accepts donations of non-perishable food items and cash, and would welcome your assistance.

Call Nancy Roberts at 754-2748 or 254-1712 if you want to help.

You also can also stop by Plaza Diane on Saturday and enjoy some chili during the Cook for Hunger chili cook off. People can enter their recipe, or can buy a ticket for $5 to enjoy a bowl of the hearty soup. You can also help judge the contest with a $10 ticket.

It’s interesting to learn more about this local effort as we hear the loud voices coming from Washington in the ongoing political battle over food stamps.

Republicans want to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program over the next decade, while also mandating that adults between 18 and 50 without minor children get a job or enroll in a work-training program if they wish to receive benefits. The GOP also favors other restrictions and limits, including drug-testing.

“This bill makes getting Americans back to work a priority again for our nation’s welfare programs,” said House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.

The Republican effort has generated a lot of headlines, and is preventing the passage of a new farm bill. It is also doomed, since Democrats control the Senate, and President Barack Obama has pledged to veto any such bill.

The chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D.-Mich., said it’s “a monumental waste of time.”

We think having such a discussion is appropriate, especially in light of the fact that the number of food stamp recipients has doubled in the past decade. Abuses and fraud need to be greatly reduced.

However, it’s also worth noting that about 47 million Americans receive assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as the food stamp program is formally known.

That’s almost exactly the number of Americans who are living in poverty. The two numbers are connected for an obvious reason, and the Great Recession, as the economic calamity of the past five years is now officially known, is assuredly a factor.

While examples of a surfer snacking on exotic food paid for with food stamps or a welfare cheat trading them for alcohol are sure to outrage people, the fact is that 83 percent of the benefits go to homes that contain a child, an elderly person, or someone who is disabled.

Making sure those people don’t go hungry is why we need a strong food-assistance program. It’s also why those church members and the volunteers in the Backpack Blessings Project invest their time and energy into getting food into the hands of kids in our community.

They know the harvest must provide for everyone. It’s hard to enjoy a celebration when kids are going hungry.

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