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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/2/22

Congress Must Offer Food Relief to Help Detroit and Nation Immediately Before Election Adjournment

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Article published in The PuLSE Institute

By Robert Weiner and Adjanni Ramos

As midterm elections approach, Congress must persist to offer food relief to help Detroit and the nation. Democrats need to come together and resolve their differences. An article on June 28 n the Washington Post is titled "As inflation climbs, Democrats race to revive economic package""

The piece continues, Party lawmakers need to "deliver on some of their promises" as they hurry to bring back parts of Build Back Better. In cities like Detroit, which has long suffered from price hikes on meats, produce, and basic staples due to lacking supermarkets, an economic package goes a long way with rising inflation. Even before the pandemic, the city was considered one of the most food-deprived cities in America, with 39% of Detroiters now "food insecure" " the technical term for inconsistent access to enough food for an active and healthy life.

In 2018, the Michigan Department of Agriculture labeled nineteen different neighborhoods in Detroit as "food deserts." These were primarily poor neighborhoods lacking access to full-service grocery stores. Even before the pandemic, Detroit struggled with food insecurity that stemmed from high poverty levels across the city. But now it also struggles with food deserts, as over ten supermarkets closed during the pandemic as a result of people quarantining at home.

A Food desert - according to the USDA - is defined as a region where at least a third of the population lives farther than one mile away from a supermarket in an urban area and farther than ten miles in a rural area. In a December 2021 article published in The Afro-American Newspaper, PK (Peter) Semler, a National Press Club member and expert food insecurity journalist, said, "One can argue that food deserts are the best and most objective benchmark of economic disparity in the United State."

He told us, "That's why community residents call it food apartheid." When asked by NPR why more chain brands aren't opening stores in Detroit neighborhoods, resident Keyerra Richardson said, "Some don't see our city as a place to operate profitably."

Biden's Build Back Better (BBB) bill allocates five million in funds for generational investments in local small businesses. The House Committee on Small Business states on its website: "Small business provisions in the bill will pave the way for recovery in the short term and provide solutions to the perennial challenges facing small businesses."

The massive reconciliation bill tackled everything from child tax to clean energy and climate change. It quite importantly tackled the nutrition problem in America by reworking the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Biden administration implemented a 21% monthly benefits increase in October 2021 by revising the outdated assumptions of what constitutes a healthy diet.

While this change improves access to a healthy diet for SNAP recipients, its effects diminished with the expiration of benefit increases introduced with Federal Covid 19 relief. In Detroit, where 40% of households receive SNAP benefits - according to the city's Food Security Council - an increase in weekly benefits can go a long way for families. But all these benefits died with BBB, thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVA)and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's (D-AZ) opposition.

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