There are a number of ways to define poverty, but ultimately, poverty means living without financial resources necessary to cover basic necessities (e.g. food, shelter, healthcare, clothing, transportation, utilities). As noted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “for many people living in poverty, tomorrow is a place of frightening uncertainty. For many poor around this nation, even the smallest economic changes today can easily send them plummeting further into hunger and misery. Even for the working poor, financial security—having the means to achieve a stable, fulfilling life for themselves and their families—is a tenuous proposition.”
In serving our community, we believe that it is important for our members to gain wisdom through experience. During the Poverty Awareness & Education Week in September, League members had the opportunity to participate in a variety of opportunities intended to give us a deeper understanding of the issues affecting women and children in poverty. Activities during Poverty Awareness & Education Week included:
Next to New Kick-Off at THE BLOCK off biltmore, 6:00-8:00 pm September 22, 2017
The Next to New Kick-Off is an opportunity to learn more about Poverty Awareness and Education Week, have fun socializing prior to a challenging week of experiential learning, and commemorate the 1960s, a decade in which major federal initiatives were undertaken with the intent of eliminating poverty and racial injustice. Although the work of the federal government in this era was and is a topic of controversy, 1960s legislation resulted in the program that preceded today’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This event is also an homage to the now closed Next to New thrift shop that was operated by the Junior League of Asheville for 60 years until 2009. Next to New has been the League’s largest fundraiser and provided a significant amount of income to support community projects for six decades.
A SNAP Challenge
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides food-purchasing assistance to individuals with low or no income. The program allows recipients to purchase only fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, dairy products, meats, fish, poultry, and consumable plants and seeds. In 2016, SNAP provided 44.2 million Americans with an average benefit of $125.51 per person per month ($4.05 per day). For our SNAP Challenge, League members will be asked to see if they can dine on only $6.46 per day. The $6.46 figure represents the maximum per diem benefit for SNAP recipients living in North Carolina in 2017. SNAP Challenge Participants may choose to donate the balance of money that they would normally utilize to purchase food to a charity of their choice. Please note that we are not suggesting that children participate directly in the SNAP Challenge, but you may choose to discuss your participation in the SNAP Challenge with your children.
Attending Lunch or Dinner at Haywood Street Congregation
Haywood Street Congregation’s “Downtown Welcome Table rests on the assumption that food is a primary means of grace, a way to love and connect. . .Never intending to be a soup kitchen or feeding line, we want our meal to be a crossroads of diverse community, a gathering of disparate folks, a fork and spoon invitation to prince and pauper alike. People who might not otherwise come to know each other develop a friendship over a shared meal.” Lunch or dinner at the Downtown Welcome Table offers you an opportunity to connect with the neediest in our community. By participating in the Downtown Welcome Table, you have a chance to hear the stories of people with whom you may dine and to connect with them on a personal level.
MANNA FoodBank’s 16th Annual Empty Bowls Luncheon or Dinner
MANNA FoodBank’s Empty Bowls Luncheon and Dinner celebrates community, art, and collaboration, while bringing awareness to the very real problem of hunger. Attendees choose a bowl handmade by local artisans and enjoy a meal of soup, bread, and dessert. The souvenir bowl reminds attendees of all the empty bowls in the world. Tickets for the Luncheon and Dinner must be purchased in advance online.
A Working Poor Simulation at the Van Winkle Law Firm
Just Economics’ “Working Poor Simulation is an experiential learning tool that exposes participants to the real-life struggles of the working poor in our community. Participants are assigned identities based on real low-income people and must complete the everyday activities of their families, like going to work, paying bills, applying for public benefits, etc. The simulation involves moving between stations, which represent the institutions and businesses individuals typically interact with each month. The simulation includes 3 month-long periods, and is followed by a reflection.” Simulation participants are encouraged to participate in this experiential activity, in a relatively safe space, to have a deeper understanding of the issues affecting individuals living in poverty. This was a free event open to the public.
Pisgah Legal Services’ 7th Annual Poverty Forum The Sherrill Center/ Kimmel Arena at UNC Asheville
Through its Poverty Forums, Pisgah Legal Services (PLS) draws attention to the plight of people living in poverty in Western North Carolina. In 2016, PLS helped more than 15,000 people in our region. Of these, 3,000 had critical housing issues (including eviction). The key note speaker for this year’s Poverty Forum is Matthew Desmond. “Dr. Desmond is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and co-director of the Justice and Poverty Project. His New York Times bestselling book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City draws on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data. Evicted won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, National Books Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. A former member of the Harvard Society of Fellows, he is also the author of On the Fireline, coauthor of two books on race, and editor of a collection of studies on severe deprivation in America. In 2015, Desmond was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” grant.” In addition to remarks from Dr. Desmond, PLS may also present stories from its staff or service recipients. To attend the forum, you will need to purchase a ticket from Pisgah Legal Services.
End of Week Event / Debriefing at Mellow Mushroom
We will wrapped up Poverty Awareness and Education Week with a debriefing session at Mellow Mushroom on Friday, September 29. Poverty Awareness and Education Week participants were encouraged to come share their experiences.
Reading and Other On-Demand Activities: League Members who have hectic schedules participated in our Poverty Awareness and Education Week by reading some of the following books:
- Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond
- The Price of Inequality, Joseph Stiglitz
- The Great Recession, Grusky et al.
- So Rich, So Poor, Peter Edelman
- All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America?, Joel Berg
Monetary Donations: SNAP Challenge participants may consider donating their daily food budget in excess of SNAP benefits to a nonprofit that assists women and children in poverty. The work of Haywood Street Congregation, MANNA FoodBank, Just Economics, and Pisgah Legal Services help women and children in poverty, in addition to other goals, but you are free to choose any nonprofit organization.
Feminine Hygiene Products: Additionally, the League will have a drive for feminine hygiene products during Poverty Awareness and Education Week. Products collected during our drive will be donated to Dignity PERIOD, a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to provide feminine hygiene products to women and girls in Henderson and Buncombe Counties via 15 area agencies and 30 schools. During the last academic year, Buncombe County Schools identified 84 middle school and 119 high school girls who were homeless or living in transitional housing, while Henderson County Schools identified 47 middle school and 62 high school girls who were experiencing homelessness. Because hygiene products are donated less frequently in-kind than other items (e.g. food) and cannot be purchased with SNAP benefits, they can be a major expense for many women in poverty. We will be collecting feminine hygiene product donations through October 10, 2017.