Yesterday, October 15, was Blog Action Day,** and bloggers around the world banded together to blog about poverty, with the intent of raising awareness and suggesting solutions about the issue. It’s such an interesting time to blog about poverty, as the global economic growth has slowed to a crawl and many Americans are facing imminent poverty for the first time in their lives. This Huffington Post report quotes some dire figures: The American poverty rate rose under the Bush administration, increasing from 11.3 percent of the population in 2000 to 12.5 percent in 2007. Disturbingly, the sharpest jump has occurred among the country’s youngest children. In 2000, there were about 4.1 million American children under the age of 6 in poverty; now there are more than 5.1 million.
In a time when everyone’s conscious of their spending and trying to tighten their belts, it’s hard to conceive of finding the money to donate to a new cause. “Charity begins at home,” was a mantra my mother said often (not in reference to donating money, in reference to how we behaved at home). But at a time like now, a phrase like that can take on a more literal meaning.
I do my part in small ways. Very small ways — recently I started taking a box of granola bars in my car, so I can give them to the homeless veterans I see every day on my way home from work. Most of them are extremely grateful that someone has even bothered to acknowledge them.
I try to support local mom and pop businesses, and to endorse small businesses in general. I know from my own family’s experience of once owning a store, every last sale counts, especially now when customers are scarce. Purchasing fresh produce from your local farmer’s market supports local farmers, all while improving your diet with homegrown goodness.
I regularly donate clothes to Goodwill, and I also gave to the Red Cross for Caribbean hurricane victims. Being Caribbean myself, and living in South Florida, it is an issue very close to my heart. I try to do little things wherever I can. Driving down certain streets in downtown Miami — far removed from the glitz and glamor of South Beach — where homeless men and women congregate and the pavements are blanketed with sleeping bodies, makes the problem of poverty seem so overwhelming.
There are so many more ways to battle poverty — Blog Action Day came up with an impressive list of resources and charities worthy of further investigation.
Poverty is one of those issues that gets shunted to the side every year. We’re mired in the War on Terror, and America continues to wage a fruitless and insanely expensive War on Drugs, but as far as I know, we’ve never tried to wage a war on poverty. Or hunger. Or homelessness.
I would love to hear your suggestions for this country to effectively deal with poverty. And I’d also like to hear how you fight poverty in your own way, whether it’s by serving food at a soup kitchen or donating money to your charity of choice.
** — I really, really hoped to finish this post by midnight, but I was running on empty. So I figured an hour wouldn’t hurt. Better late than never?