U.k. Food-bank Users Return What Needs Cooking As Bills Rise

(Credit: AP/John Minchillo) Twin studies released at noon Tuesday estimate that the majority of families of front-line fast food workers use public assistance, at a taxpayer cost of nearly $7 billion a year, while seven publicly-traded fast food corporations made $7.4 billion in profit last year. The first study finds that 52 percent of families of workers employed at least 27 weeks a year and 10 hours a week in rank-and-file fast food jobs are enrolled in Medicaid, the Childrens Health Insurance Program, food stamps, the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (the program that replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children under welfare reform). That includes a majority of those workers who are employed at least 40 hours week. The study, Fast Food, Poverty Wages, was sponsored by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Urban & Regional Planning, and funded by the labor group Fast Food Forward. The estimates were based on government data. A second study , by the pro-union National Employment Law Project, extended the analysis to individual companies, estimating that McDonalds workers received $1.2 billion in public assistance while the corporation netted $5.5 billion in Fiscal Year 2012 profits, and devoted $5.5 billion to dividends and stock buybacks. This is the public cost of low-wage jobs in America, write the authors of the BerkeleyUrbana-Champaign study. The cost is public because taxpayers bear it. Yet it remains hidden in national policy debates about poverty, employment and federal spending. A spokesperson for McDonalds declined last night to comment on the fast food campaign or the extent of fast food workers use of public assistance. A spokesperson for the fast food giant emailed in August that Our history is full of examples who worked their first job with McDonalds and went on to successful careers both within and outside of McDonalds. The National Restaurant Association did not immediately respond to a Monday afternoon inquiry. As Salon first reported , New York City fast food workers mounted an unprecedented strike last November, the first in a wave of work stoppages around the country that included a 60-city walkout in August each demanding a raise of $15 an hour and the chance to unionize without intimidation. Little Caesars worker Julio Wilson said before walking off the job that hed made my way through the fast food circuit, with stints at Burger King, Subway, Arbys and McDonalds, and theyre all the same. He told Salon that many fellow employees and their families need to be compensated to be able to live. Funding todays university report represents the fast food campaigns latest salvo against the growing, increasingly representative and virtually union-free fast food industry. The key player behind the national campaign has been the Service Employees International Union. Along with a series of one-day strikes, organizers have targeted fast food companies with media, political, and consumer pressure. SEIU strategist Scott Courtney told Salon in August that given the disparity between McDonalds profits and workers poverty, the story is leverage in and of itself. Writing in defense of Wal-Mart in Slate in 2006,Jason Furman, who now chairs the White Houses Council of Economic Advisors, criticized critics who, like fast food activists, had cited hefty public assistance tolls in making their case.

Food Day Chicago 2013 Thoughts While Completing the Chicago Marathon

The Trussell Trust , which supports food banks that provide three days emergency supplies to people in need, said today 355,985 people had been helped between May and September this year, compared with 113,570 in the same period last year. It wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron requesting an inquiry. The level of food poverty in the U.K. is not acceptable. Its scandalous and it is causing deep distress to thousands of people, Trussell Trust Executive Chairman Chris Mould said in an e-mailed statement. The time has come for an official and in-depth inquiry into the causes of food poverty and the consequent rise in the usage of food banks. Food prices have risen by 12.6 percent more than inflation over the past six years, outstripping wages, and higher energy prices are likely to see more people forced to choose between eating and heating this winter, the charity said. Food-bank clients are giving back food items that need cooking because they cant afford to turn on the electricity, the trust said. There are twice as many food banks as last year, accounting for some of the increase in demand, the trust said, though well-established food banks are also reporting that theyre helping more people. Welfare Overhaul An overhaul of the welfare system has led more people to seek help, the trust said, with 117,442 people referred to food banks by agencies including the health service, social workers and police because of delays in welfare payments compared with 35,597 last year. Camerons spokesman, Jean-Christophe Gray, said the increase had been driven by the government axing restrictions on officials referring people to food banks and reflected a British tradition of charitable help for the poor. Use of the facilities increased 10 times under the Labour government that left office in 2010, he added. Its this government that has lifted the block on job centers being able to point people in the direction of the type of additional assistance that food banks provide, Gray told reporters in London . The U.K. has a proud tradition of voluntary and charitable organisations providing additional support alongside the welfare system. The previous government stopped job centers, where job seekers register for unemployment benefit and seek work, issuing vouchers for food banks because they said other help was available and they could not provide consistent support as they were unevenly distributed around the country.

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Speed forward to this past Sundays Chicago marathon. I was a charity runner. I finished though I wouldn’t call it running. I participated and completed the course in over 6 hours, which gave me a long time to think about a lot of things. Change of fortunes, hourly jobs that take up more time than they really pay, a really low fitness level, all those factors contributed to my thinking in mid-August that I needed an exercise intervention and I decided to enter the 2013 Chicago marathon for Best Buddies Illinois , a fantastic charity supporting people with disabilities in entering the workforce, that a friend of mine was involved with. As I finished, I was surrounded by plenty of people at the back of the pack and I even managed to arrive while Goose Island was still serving beer. A beer never tastes better than at the end of a marathon or long endurance event. Thank you Goose Island! On the course, given my slow pace I saw a lot. I saw Emily go by with 10 nametags pinned to her back of people she was running for a cure for. I started to think about one of the reasons that I am involved in sustainable food, Edible Chicago magazine, the online site The Local Beet , was with the hope that as people get more aware of the food they are eating and where it comes from, perhaps fewer people will come down with cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, many of the disease charities that runners were in the race for.