Over the next few weeks, America will celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. But not all Americans will enjoy a holiday feast. In fact, around 48 million Americans will have less money available for food costs.
Why? On November 1, the temporary expansion of the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) expired. Passed as part of the 2009 stimulus package, the $45.2 billion expansion raised monthly benefits (a.k.a. food stamps) to an average of $133/person. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, these benefits have now dropped by approximately 7% or $10/person.
Furthermore, as noted in a previous blog, congress is finalizing the farm bill. As part of the bill, the Senate has approved a $4.5 billion cut over 10 years to SNAP. The House has gone even further, voting to cut $39 billion over 10 years (primarily by raising qualification criteria). This would eliminate food stamps for 3.8 million Americans.
To counter the cuts to SNAP, many are increasing support to local food banks. Just last week, Op4G sent a check for $4,519 to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. The check raises Op4G’s total donations to the non-profit to $24,544! As each dollar can provide two meals, this equates to nearly 50,000 meals! Second Harvest is moved by the donation and applauds the Op4G model as “one more easy way” for supporters to “provide meals to their neighbors”.
In addition to Second Harvest, Op4G also donates to the San Francisco Food Bank ($19,856 to date), the Oregon Food Bank, the Vermont Food Bank, OPERATION: Sack Lunch, New Hampshire Catholic Charities, CUMAC and the Friends of Saint Joseph’s Food Pantry. To help reduce hunger this holiday season, please complete Op4G surveys on behalf of these non-profits today!
In recent months, this blog has covered the effects of the recession on children, the hungry, and the developing world. But there is another—often overlooked—effect. Since the onset of the recession, pet abandonment has risen around the world, forcing countless cats and dogs to “fend for themselves”.
In the United States, the most prominent example is Detroit. The struggling city, which declared bankruptcy in July 2013, has seen a steady increase in pet abandonment over the last several years. Consequently, experts estimate that as many as 50,000 stray dogs now roam the streets. This equates to an astounding 1 dog for every 14 residents, or 360 per square mile.
Internationally, Cyprus has also seen a disturbing rise in pet abandonment. Since the collapse of the country’s banking sector in March 2013, the Nicosia Dog Shelter estimates that strays have tripled in number. Mary Anastasi, President of the Cyprus Voice for Animals, says the “country’s economic woes are a key factor”. Similarly, in the UK, the number of abandoned animals has soared by 65% (to over 40,595) since 2007. The Royal SPCA attributes the rise to “owners struggle[ing] to make ends meet in times of economic hardship”.
To compound the problem of increasing pet abandonment, public sector cutbacks have led to reduced animal control and shelter services. In Detroit, for example, the Animal Control Unit went without a legally required veterinarian for 3 weeks in October and now has only 4 officers (down from 15 in 2008). Furthermore, it has become significantly more difficult to “re-home” abandoned pets. In the UK, only 12,711 dogs found news homes in 2011, compared to 16,659 in 2009.
Solving the problem does not require a complete economic recovery. Many animal non-profits can provide free or subsidized food, medical care, and spaying/neutering, relieving the financial burden on pet owners. Moreover, animal rescue organizations can help “fill the gaps where city services are lacking” by collecting and sheltering stray pets.
But these non-profits can’t do it alone. To lend your support, please donate to Detroit Dog Rescue, Dog Aide, or the following Op4G partners: City Dog Rescue, Austin Humane Society, Central Coast Pug Rescue, and the New Hampshire SPCA.
Flickr photo credit: xiaozhen