Food Insecurity in Michigan

PRE-PROPOSAL

1. Media Artifact

Link to media artifact(s) giving background on the issue. Please list the title of the artifact(s) and then make the title(s) a link to the page in the MSC site where the artifact has been posted. You may include media artifacts made by other MSC members, if relevant, even if they are not authors of this proposal.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1r2oEWjKP3TPUkCOPUHfDvXVuAHHRxDkD/view?usp=sharing

 

2. Persona and POV statement

Persona: The issue: An increasing amount of homeless and poverty-stricken individuals in Michigan face food insecurity

Persona name:  Andres Gonzales 

Age: 45

School/occupation: Currently unemployed/ in between jobs

Location: Detroit, Michigan   

Quote: “I want to be able to consistently provide for my family”
 

About:

  • Migrated to Michigan from Mexico in hopes of a better future for himself and his family..

  • Currently going to his local Food Gatherers and other various food banks for meals

  • Has a young infant that is currently being seen for malnutrition

  • Recently laid off from his construction worker job and is currently on the lookout for a new one

  • Goals:

  • Find a stable job and earn enough to provide clean, nutritious meals for his family

  • Become proficient at English so that he can find a job with better job security

  • Educate himself on proper nutrition so that his daughter does not sustain any long-term health problems

 

POV Statement:

User: Andres, an earnest and poverty stricken immigrant struggling with food insecurity and other poverty issues

Need: Reliable access to sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious  food 

Insight: in order to allow him to pursue a better life in the United States, so that he can get a stable job to escape poverty and food insecurity that his family has faced since they immigrated.

 

 

3. Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1: Start community gardens in local neighborhoods to increase access to fresh foods, and create a sustainable environment to improve dietary habits 

SOLUTION 2: Raise awareness about resources for food availabilities with apps such as Sheltr and Strappd 

SOLUTION 3: Provide more of an incentive for people to donate food such as groceries discounts for donating. Much much more feasible in terms of cost than just increasing funding for the existing food banks. 

 

BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH PROCESS

Context

Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

Senate bill no. 55

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

This proposal would make a huge difference because it helps improve a commonly overlooked problem in food insecurity. This would help meet an essential human need for a lot of people, especially those in the lower income bracket. It will alleviate the extremely high amounts of pressure put on food banks such as Food Gatherers to provide enough meals for the people coming to them since their resources are already more than strained. Solutions like the community gardens will make sure that a food kitchen is no longer their only or primary source of food. This would make people more hopeful about their living situation in regards to food. Moreover, it will ease a lot of stress that they may have about nutrition since due to expensive diets in countys like Washtenaw, an inexpensive low-quality diet is often the only option.  

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

I first learned of this issue reading an article written by a doctorate student at Michigan where I found a crazy finding about food insecurity: In 2015, 45 percent of University of Michigan students experienced food insecurity at some point that year. This was shocking to me since college students have some of the best resources available to them relative to the general population. This made me want to investigate this issue for the caucus and in conjunction with my service activity, I was set on finding out more.  

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

Volunteering at Food Gatherers has allowed me to speak with people that are more educated and informed of this issue. They explained to me that food insecurity wasn't necessarily just about getting enough food but it was just as much about nutrition. I was purely thinking of solutions based on increasing supply of food but not quality prior to this. Being able to see the resources that they have firsthand both in the soup kitchen and the food storage area was also extremely eye-opening. It really proved to me that this was not a viable permanent solution and there is an extreme over reliance on centers like Food Gatherers. 

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1r2oEWjKP3TPUkCOPUHfDvXVuAHHRxDkD/view?usp=sharing

Consultations

Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: Chris Riecker, an Ann Arbor local resident and frequent volunteer at Food Gatherers that I visited for my service activity. We discussed the issue of food insecurity, its prevalence and how this problem pertains to those living above the poverty line contrary to popular belief. Therefore, he believes that the most effective solution wasn't necessarily to raise wages bu rather through education workshops and increased support for the various food banks.

CONSULTATION 2: Joanie (Feeding America Michigan Branch). Joanie was especially knowledgable about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Michigan and told me that the capital invested into SNAP was almost doubled in the economic activity it generates. She also emphasized the importance of President Trump signing the Farm Bill in 2018 since itwas both budget neutral and was incredibly helpful in funding neighborhood organizations to ensure its nutritional-assistance benefits

CONSULTATION 3: Sarah Waugh (Michigan United Way Committee member) Sarah and I discussed low-cost community food clubs that provides lessons on gardening, waste, and food preservation. This was a huge pressure reliever for food pantries and other food kitchens that are strained on resources. She also stressed the importance that grants to the Community Investment Fund makes and that no donation is too small to make a difference. 

 

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

Cassie's posts and personal advice to me about narrowing down the scope of my proposal and considering financial feasability really helped me pick a much more attractive solution. One of the many reasons why food insecurity exists is due to low monthly incomes and obvious surface level solutions would be to increase wages. However, solutions like that aren't exactly easy to implement given the cuts. Through Cassie's comments, I was able to realize that there were definitely other ways to tackle the issue at hand that the state will be more willing to evaluate. This is what led me to look into tax and other financial incentives, which I think will be more appealing, instead of focusing on capital injections. 

Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

My research process revolved around understanding exactly what the issue and the roots of food insecurity was all about and trying to see past temporary solutions like Food Gatherers for something more long-term and impactful. After deciding on my issue, I attended Nicole Taylor's Food Literacy talk for one of my Town Hall meetings. There, she spoke a lot about community gardens that were founded in local neighborhoods and the benefits that they bring. In addition to this, as I was looking at current Michigan laws and bills that related to my project, I stumbled across Senate Bill no. 55, which allowed taxpayers to credit 50% of the sum of the cash amount and values of food items donated to homeless shelters, food banks, food kitchens etc.  This eventually got me thinking about somehow combining the two and implementing community gardens as a part of this tax incentive program.  

 

 

Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

My classmates and TCs definitely had great proposals and ideas/comments of their owns that I was able to get inspiration from. I worked on this project by myself and take responsibility for the following work. 

 

FORMAL PROPOSAL

The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS.... In the most educated city in America, one in seven residents struggle with food insecurity

WHEREAS....  food insecurity is an issue that affects people across all ages, economic status, and other demographics

WHEREAS.... good nutrition is linked to being extremely important in fighting diseases  

WHEREAS.... Emergency food programs are used at consistently high rates because the problem continues to persist in a vicious cycle

 

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED....

1.  Since Senate Bill no 55. pledged to enact tax deductions under the internal revenue code for contributions in the forms of cash or food made to shelters and foodbanks, it tackles the issue of food insecurity from a more financially feasible standpoint. By incorporating donations specifically to the community gardens into Sec. 261 of the bill to return 55% of the sum of the donation amount, taxpayers will become more incentivized to opt for this option than a simple cash or food donation prior to this addition. This helps support the long-term solution of community gardens as opposed to just increasing funding for food banks like Food Gatherers. 

2. Funding to these community gardens will be approved and handled by local committees, each with a nutrition specialist in order to ensure that the quality standards of the food being grown is met in addition to the quantity. By revamping people's criterion on necessity and quality of food, it is not only helping address people who are currently food insecurity but the younger generation who are on their way to malnutrition if they choose to follow the same unhealthy and imbalanced diets as those before them.

3. By setting up these committees to help regulate food standards and also look over distribution, this solution is also helping create jobs and in turn, giving a lot of these people the opportunity to earn an income and support their families. This is especially key for areas such as Flint and Muskegon, where unemployment rates are at their highest. 

 

Counter-arguments:

What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. How can we ensure that the ordinances and local regulations are lifted in order to support the growers and the community garden incentive?

2. How do you prevent taxpayers from "over-donating" to the creation of these community gardens for their own financial gains?

3. How do you balance sustainable farming practices with high incubation and initial set up costs?

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  

There would be the initial incubation costs for community gardens, which I believe can be pooled from Community funds like Heart of West Michigan United Way's Community Investment Fund. Naming rights for these community gardens can be an incentive for donors to participate in the program. The proposal would cost an additional 5% in lost tax revenue in senate bill no.55.  

References:

These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2019-2020/billintroduced/Senate/pdf/2019-SIB-0055.pdf

https://www.uwwashtenaw.org/food-insecurity-threatens-residents-washtenaw-county-and-united-way-counters

https://www.uwwashtenaw.org/nutrition-data

https://www.feedwm.org/need/

https://www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/health-of-women-and-children/measure/food_insecurity_household/state/MI


 

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Total votes: 9

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