Screwing Philadelphia’s Poor While Stroking Wall Street’s Elite

Below is an email I sent today to the Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture.

Dear Mr. Schafer:

Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer contains a news article alleging that U.S. Department of Agriculture intends to kill Philadelphia’s “Universal Feeding Program,” which provides some 121,000 students with free or reduced-priced school meals. According to the Inquirer, “the participation rate in the Philadelphia Universal Feeding sites has been nearly twice the rate as in non-Universal sites — 80 percent vs. 45 percent.” Perhaps, that explains why U.S. Senator Tom Harkin –Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry — recommended that Philadelphia’s program serve as the model for other school districts throughout the country.

Instead, USDA sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Education announcing the program’s termination. According to the news article, USDA is killing the 17-year old program now because it seeks greater accuracy (by demanding individual application forms that had not been required in the past), when accounting for the children in the program. (Cynics suspect that USDA decided to drop Philadelphia’s program — as too expensive — after New York and Los Angeles sought something similar.)

The demand for individual applications assures fewer children will be fed. Why? Because, according to Jonathan Stein, general counsel of Community Legal Services, “Children forget, and poor parents already beset with outsized difficulties are unwilling or unable to deal with the forms.”

Although I do not necessarily sympathize with the “outsized difficulties” of irresponsible parents, I do believe their children should be fed. After all, the appeal issued by Pennsylvania’s Department of Education noted that the termination of the program would hurt “the children who depend upon the school district as the source, and sometimes the only source, of one of the basic necessities of life, which is food.”

Finally, USDA’s demand for individual application forms, which will deprive some children of food in Philadelphia and cost the Philadelphia school district at least $800,000 annually, surfaces at the very moment when the Bush administration has put in place a program to lavish $700 billion on equally irresponsible and unaccountable Wall Street bankers and financiers.

As a taxpayer living in Philadelphia — who has no children in the program — I find it outrageous that USDA would decide to end Philadelphia’s “Universal Feeding Program.” But I’m not surprised. Republican administrations almost always choose to protect profits over people. Which is why a gathering political tsunami will soon sweep Republicans out of office.


Walter C. Uhler

Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including Dissident Voice, The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA). He can be reached at: Read other articles by Walter C., or visit Walter C.'s website.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. manitor said on October 23rd, 2008 at 11:59am #

    Barack Obama was 100% behind the $700 bailout, and he keeps funding Iraq at the same time as he plans more expensive wars.

    So how in the hell is he different?

  2. MrSynec said on October 23rd, 2008 at 2:05pm #

    Mr. Uhler wrote:
    But I’m not surprised. Republican administrations almost always choose to protect profits over people. Which is why a gathering political tsunami will soon sweep Republicans out of office.”
    There is no difference between the Democrats and Republicans.
    Both of them are owned and controlled by Big Business/Money
    and are in its service and not in the service of the average Joe/Jane.
    Vote for the Green Party. It has the start of a viable third pary which
    will really represent the people and not the business/moneyed class.

  3. Poilu said on October 26th, 2008 at 3:43pm #

    “There is no difference between the Democrats and Republicans.”

    On that premise, I would completely disagree. While the differences nowadays are notably few insofar as subservience to the Corporatist interests are concerned, the Democrats have yet to demonstrate any consistent tendency towards lock-step uniformity, unlike their Republican [NeoCoNazi] adversaries.

    While a good many Establishment Democrats ALSO need to be swept from power, I believe Uhler’s conclusion is essentially correct. However, only the vote “tallies” — such as they be — will tell. And our E-lections this century have thus far been notoriously unreliable. (So should the “official” results differ markedly from that sensible projection and the polling, particularly the highly accurate EXIT polling, as they have in the past, let the rioting — i.e., the Revolution — begin!)

    I commend Mr. Uhler’s stand on this. That this thoroughly rotten GOPig regime would abolish a program providing basic sustenance to children, while lavishing BILLIONS on obscenely wealthy fat cats utterly responsible for their own greedy downfall, goes completely beyond the pale.