Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

Food Insecurity: A national, state and local issue

This topic was discussed on September 23, 2013.
September is “hunger action month,” a project of nationwide food-bank network Feeding America. This has drawn substantial publicity around the issue of food insecurity, including highlighting a recent US Department of Agriculture report “Household Food Security in the United States in 2012.”

  • How should we interpret the USDA study? In particular, how do we feel about some of the subtleties of the study:
    • the definitional difference between “food insecure” and “very food insecure”
    • the survey questions asked
    • the difference between “at any time during the year” and “during the last 30 days” statistics (and their derivatives, the average daily incidence of food insecurity)
    • the difference between “household” food insecurity and that for specific household members (children)
  • What should we do to reduce food insecurity?
    • Enhanced welfare programs (in the context of statistics offered by the USDA on the “Thrifty Food Cost” and the average monthly SNAP payment)?
    • What about the demographic analysis in the report (e.g., households led by a single female experiencing disproportionately higher food insecurity)? Does this recommend some other potential approaches?
    • The time-series data show a significant jump in food insecurity in 2007/2008, most likely associated with the recession. To what extent might steps to encourage job creation help to mitigate the issue?
    • How about the local issues? Maine’s incidence of food insecurity is higher than the national average and we know it is a real issue here on the Blue Hill Peninsula. What should be done to address the needs of our neighbors?

Syria: To Strike or Not?

This topic was discussed on September 9, 2013.
The developments in Syria, and their repercussions in the U.S. and around the world, have dominated the news in recent weeks. On Monday, September 9, we will discuss what to do about the situation.

  • What are the U.S.’s options for action?
  • Under what conditions should the U.S. intervene?
  • What should be the minimum “coalition” behind U.S. action?
  • How should Congress vote? What should the resolution look like?
  • Does the President have the authority to act without Congressional approval?
  • What repercussions from a U.S. strike can be expected? By Syria? By Iran? By Russia?
  • What precedents are set be action? By inaction?
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