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The Hunger Game

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Chaz Valenza       (Page 5 of 6 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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That large corporations will enter more and more business categories where small business once thrived is a foregone conclusion.    Today, there are only a handful of small business opportunities that have not been taken over by corporate category killer big box and national chain operations.

Odds that some day you and your family will need food assistance because you haven't yet made the rent or paid the phone or gas bill and your next paycheck is nine days hence: better, much better, in my opinion, than ten to one.

The Hunger Game:   What You Will Do to Get Food

As stated earlier, unless for some odd reason you are unable to make contact with the outside world, you will not starve to death in America.    You will, however, play a game with certain rules and you will also spend time, money and effort to play the hunger game.

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As with many lifelines in American society, help is available but you will need to jump through a few hoops to get it.    We just can't bring ourselves to make basic needs easy to get.   It's a puritanical punishment our society seems to need mete out to those in need.

Money is short.    The fridge has a bottle of ketchup and bread bag with a heel in it.   What do you do?   That night you'll scour the house for loose change and buy some macaroni and a jar of tomato sauce.   While you're eating you'll vow to do something about the situation.  

That night on the internet tubes, you will look into Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps.   SNAP is not only an acronym, it's also a contradiction; nothing about the program is quick or easy.

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You will probably find you don't qualify as your income can be no more than 130% of the federal poverty threshold.    If you're single that's $14,079 pre year; for a childless couple $18,941.   Then, for each additional person or child in the family add $4,862.   Really!?!   It just doesn't add up, expenses for children can be much greater than those for adults, but that's the formula.

Let's say you think you may qualify, SNAP won't get food on the table tomorrow or the next week or even necessarily the next month.    Remember Joan, the woman who moved with her family from Toledo?   She applied for SNAP in September of this year.   To date, her application has neither been accepted nor rejected.

Eventually, depending on how dire your need is, you will find a food pantry.    If the one you find isn't open the next day, you may get referred to one that is.   Maybe you'll remember those little $1, $3 and $5 coupons you occasionally purchased at the supermarket that make a donation to a food bank.   In that case, you might call the food bank and they will somehow get you somewhere you can get your first supply of emergency food.

Congratulations!    You've just join the ranks of 37 million Americans served by Feeding America and all the related agencies that are part of their food assistance programs and the ranks of approximately 49.1 million people who are food insecure in the U.S. today.   Don't be embarrassed.   If you or you spouse or significant other has a job you are among 36% of those millions that do, the working class Americans that are not able to afford food.

That's just the beginning.   Now the major part of the game begins.   Pantries are not open every day and lately they've also been running out of food.   More importantly, you may not be able to get there when they are open.   So, like any good game, you'll need a strategy and a plan.

Still got a car?    Great!   You can drive to the food pantry and depending on their inventory you may get enough food for a day or two.   No, car?   It's public transportation or spring for a car service.   Call before you leave to check if food is available.   Also ask when they open and get there early to be sure you get your share.

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Big events, like FBSJ's Hope Mobile are a godsend as you'll pick up 5 days of food in one stop.    But chances like this don't come every day, or every week, just once a month.   Deborah, Joan and Paul all drove 20 miles, about 30 minutes, each way to get to the Browns Mills Hope Mobile.   They were early birds and waited just three hours to receive about $50 worth of food.

So, to win the Hunger Game, you will gather information on where the pantries are and when they are open.    You will talk to a counselor at your child's school and enroll your children in whatever programs may be available.   You will get pre-qualified with the local food bank.   If you're an older citizen or physically disabled you may be able to get your food delivered, if possible, or a senior center or other nearby agency to relieve you of the need to stand in line.  

The Hunger Game comes with an excellent support feature.    You are not alone.   Organizations like the FBSJ and other Feeding America organizations are playing the game and they're on your side.   Besides procuring surplus food and donations to buy food for you, they are also working every day to figure out who is hungry, where they are and how to get food to them as easily as possible.

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Chaz Valenza is writer and small business owner in New Jersey. He earned his MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. His current feature film project is "Single Point Failure" an insider's account of how the Reagan Administration (more...)

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