for Future Actions
Mayor David W. Moore
Health and Human Services Subcommittee, U.S.
Conference of Mayors
(Speech text is verbatim.)
Thank you very much. Good morning to all you. Oh,
my goodness. Good morning.
Thank you very much. I mean, I am already feeling
a little bit uncomfortable up here.
When Bill started talking this morning he quickly
told us that there would be some redundancy in our presentations
this morning and when Paul came up next to speak I understood that,
but when Ed finished, I began to wonder why am I here.
You know, what point can I share after hearing all
of that, and I began to look at Ed a little bit quizzical from the
side and wondering if he would catch my [expression]or I would
get in his peripheral vision and say, "Stop doing my speech."
But it is good to be here. I am very proud of the
fact to be the Mayor of the City of Beaumont, Texas. The hub city
of Southeast Texas. And also to represent the United States Conference
of Mayors. It is good in a sense to have the opportunity to represent
our Health and Human Services Subcommittee of the U.S. Conference
of Mayors because I get a chance to come and meet with people like
yourself and to hear from you and to share with you a little bit
about what I might feel is a dilemma in our country.
However, you know, I would like to also explain that
in telling you that I am from the State of Texas, I add proof to
the fact that things do grow large in Texas.
And also that my city is located on the right side
of Texas, literally the right side of Texas.
I have been asked to share just a little bit with
you about a Mayor's perspective in regards to hunger.
Last evening after arriving in the city, I thought
I should do some firsthand things like go out and have a good meal.
I had a wonderful nutritious meal. However, I must go back and talk
to them about the size of the portions. They forced me to eat more
than I should have.
And then I began to talk to myself a little bit about
the factnow physical activity is very, very important. I agree
with that. And this morning as I got up and took my vitamins to
get started and started doing my exercise, and that doggone phone
kept stopping me. I tell you. So I made a very good effort to get
out and do those things.
Now I know that time is somewhat limited so I will
kind of get into a little bit of what I want to talk about or repeat
a little bit about what has already been talked about.
The face of hunger in our communities is something
that I, as a Mayor, see day in and day out. One of the things about
it is it is nothing that I can run from.
And I cannot simply tell you I am from the government
and I am here to help you. They were all here yesterday. And I understood
from watching the local news media, it was a very exciting day for
But, you know, I thinkif you stand up here and
you look at meyou know I am not the poster child for hunger.
My mother gave me some very early advice early in life. She said,
"Young man, let me tell you something. You can be choicy about what
you eat if you want to but if you be choicy you will have a big
decision to make. If you are not choicy you will never have a hungry
day in your life."
Well, I have had very few hungry days, except for
a couple of days in college, but I am in the position to be able
to do something about my hunger and about my choices, and there
are many others who do not have the same control. They are basically
put at the mercy of various programs. They are put in situations
that they really cannot control. We find ourselves wondering exactly
where we are as a country.
Hunger kind of manifests itself, sometimes known as
a temporary food shortage. Food insecurity which has been referenced
today. People not knowing where the next meal is going to come from.
I understand skipping a few meals and I understand
the great difficulties that can be caused damaging your health and
your own personal self-esteem and when you do not know where that
meal is coming from next.
I will give you a couple of examples. As stated previously,
hungry children have the most discipline problems in school, in
our school systems, and create other problems.
Senior citizens facing food insecurity on a monthly
basis are often sicker and they struggle with depression and isolation
between having to make a choice between the medicine they must purchase
for their health and the food they need to sustain their health.
Or many people classified as the working poor. They
live from paycheck to paycheck to basically survive but there is
no back fall in case there is an emergency.
Families can suffer from food insecurity from almost
an overnight occurrence. An illness, car repair, an unusually high
electric bill can put the family at risk. You may say that is a
little bit extreme but that is so true. That is how tight the margin
is for many families today.
There are many causes of hunger. The immediate remedy
for Mayors was to focus on short-term relief unfortunately. However,
we must also examine the long-term and the permanent solutions that
address the root causes of the problem.
You know, I just want to share something with you
and maybe if you remember nothing else, you might remember this:
There is a youngwell, it is a ladyshe is a young lady
that works in our community. And this is somewhat a personal testimony
of her's. I just want to share it with you.
It says, "Recently at a nutrition center or some other
place, I was handing out lunches for a Saturday afternoon lunch
program. The line was long and when I opened the door I was overrun.
I asked them to please get in lines and there was no need to push
and shove. There was enough for everyone but the pushing and shoving
continued. I asked one of the members in the crowd, 'Why are you
all running over each other just to get to a hotdog, a piece of
fruit, chips and dessert?' And his response to me was, 'Lady, if
this were the only food you were going to get today you would push
and shove too to make sure that you got one.'"
As long as, she said, she has worked in this business
for over 20 years, that one question brought home to her the reality
of hunger, the desperation of hunger, and the sorrow of hunger.
And that is what I see day in and day out, and I am
sure many of you also work with and try to get resolved.
One of the goals of the 196 Welfare Reform Act was
to reduce expenditures for the Federal Food Stamp Program by $27.7
billion from 1997 to the year 2002. Since 1994 the number of Texans
receiving food stamps has dropped almost by half, far out pacing
any drop in poverty or employment or unemployment.
Experts tell me that confusion over the new regulation
and the time limited benefits associated with the program discourages
many Texans from either participating or understanding their eligibility
for the program.
And, quite frankly, an unintended consequence of program
changes intended primarily as budget-cutting measures to reduce
the value of the food stamp benefits for low-income families has
been that individuals who are qualified for food stamps have been
dropped from the rolls, and over half of the savings in the welfare
bill came from the Food Stamp Program cuts.
Now I believe in every program there should be a balance
of the burden with a benefit to those who truly need it. I do not
necessarily believe that we in government should be trying to balance,
you know, our budgets or our general fund campaigns, whatever the
case may be, by taking food out of the mouths of children.
Now the message has not reached those families. Even
if a family loses its temporary emergency needs in terms of giving
them benefits, benefits due to increased earnings in the Food Stamp
Program really have not happened.
Even though we are experiencing a great robust economy,
there is great conversation about it, there is new created jobs
all over the place, those jobs are basically low-wage jobs and are
not sufficient to take care of family in its entirety.
Now, in Texas, we remain by high standards a very
traditional State and very proud. But, you know, we do have some
woes that we must work through. In fact, when I looked at a percentage
of 1998looking at the poverty numbers, we had an increase
of like 16 percent. Also, society in general must realize that moving
a family from welfare to work does not guarantee self-sufficiency.
Now I am a firm believer that able-bodied people should
go to work and I believe that everybody should do their absolute
very best to take care of their families. But, also, I am very realistic
and very practical about what it is they do and how far it will
The working poor will always be in danger of experiencing
temporary hunger crisis when an unexpected expense arises as we
talked about earlier.
Now, as a Mayor, I am very sensitive to the plight
of most of the vulnerable populations within my particular community,
especially the elderly and children.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors 1999 Status Report on
Hunger and Homelessness in American Cities was a 26-city survey.
It found that requests for food assistance by the elderly have increased
by nine percent over the past year.
Now as a Mayor, being in a very different elected
position from a lot of other elected individuals, I am somewhat
on the front line. I feel, and most mayors feel across this country,
I am where the rubber meets the road.
I am the individual, if I go to church, if I am going
to a special event, if I am traveling through the community, I encounter
people that suffer from hunger. I encounter programs that suffer
from a lack of funding and I also encounter people who really in
their heart want to make a difference.
Now there is a great risk out there for seniors. You
know, it is a really tough deal when you watch people as you grow
up put into positions of being on fixed income. Once they get to
that point, the reality of their ability to survive and the choices
that they have to make really touches home.
And then when you think about the insecurity factor
that could possibly arise, here are people making decisions, basically
not eating as they should for fear of running out, basically not
purchasing their medicine or not getting all their medicine because
they fear they will not have enough money to buy enough to food
to survive for the balance of that particular month.
Now I am a firm believer that, you know, before our
country became so institutionalized with organizations and activities
that are supposed to provide all the care, we kind of took care
of each other and we looked after each other, and that has changed
in some regards and it has gotten better in others.
It is one of those painful things that you look at
and, as stated earlier, when people fail to provide themselves the
proper nutrition, they bring on other problems that stagger their
lives in such a way that they never recover. And that is part of
the pain that I look at day in and day out.
What they experience is depression and isolation,
and often the older Americans on fixed incomes do not feel like
they are living the American dream any longer.
Having older relatives and understanding that plight,
you know, it gets closer to home with me and going to the community
and looking at people living in conditions that are not desirable
by any standards should embrace us all and should engage us all
to do something different about it.
Children who experience hunger experience a number
of physical behavior problems, including headaches, fatigue, frequent
colds, trouble concentration on school work, and disruptive behaviors.
One thing about a child, even a child at a very young
age, they have a lot of pride and they do not want to tell folks
what is bothering them that day. So many things are interpreted
different but we also come to understand it is due to that pride
that they will not tell someone, "I have not eaten today."
I am a big supporter of Head Start programs and I
am a big supporter of free lunch and a big supporter of after school
programs because then we know that we are doing our small part to
In case I have not been subtle enough, and contrary
to what some of you might believe, hunger does exist in the State
of Texas, but there are also solutions in the State as well. In
the wake of welfare reform, the TEXCAP program, which utilizes a
system of regional food banks as a distribution vehicle to get food
to those in need, is a good program.
In addition to receiving State funds, these food banks
may receive donations from nongovernmental sources. However, while
TEXCAP is recognized as a nationwide model for the most effective
and efficient distribution of USDA commodities to those in need,
it has not proven to be the answer to all of our problems.
As I previously noted, poverty remains a concern in
our State. As of September 1999, Texas had over $175 million in
unspent Federal welfare assistance funds. I know many excellent
providers in our community who could put that money to good use,
and I am sure that other communities might feel the same way.
But it sometimes feels as though States spend too
much time and effort reducing the welfare rolls without examining
the consequences on a case by case basis as I mentioned.
In Beaumont we have several programs available to
those who need food assistance. The Southeast Texas Food Bank serves
eight counties in Southeast Texas. They distribute food to 96 local
nonprofit agencies, including 42 in Beaumont. Each month Beaumont
agencies serve over 100,000 meals made with food received from the
food bank reaching 1,700 families.
In the last 3 years the food distribution has tripled
to 1.5 million pounds per year. Solid proof that we are not doing
the best but we can possibly address the problem of hunger to a
There are other programs and other social service
activities that you all have in your community, be it the Salvation
Army where we utilize our emergency shelter grant or be it the rescue
mission where people start up their own causes and we try to benefit
them that way, or neighbors helping neighbors.
Some other places: A soup kitchen in Beaumont that
serves over 200 people per day as well as 120 more delivered to
their homes. This program relies on generous donations as well as
assistance from the city, most in the form of community-development
block grant funds and low-cost lease for that facility.
I often drive by this soup kitchen on my way to city
hall and every morningI have a very early meeting on Tuesday
I make it a point to go by there just to see if things have changed.
Yet, the lines are still long, and it is a very painful remembrance
or a reminder that there are those in our community who need help.
The churches in the Beaumont community have also increased
their involvement by organizing meal days. Working together to ensure
that at least one of them is open for assistance each day of the
week. They have been extremely helpful in galvanizing the community
and providing spiritual and nutritional food for our citizens' needs.
Now the root causes of hunger must be addressed, but
the immediate nature of the problem compels society to establish
these networks of emergency food-assistance programs.
As mayors, we see the harmful effect of hunger in
our community firsthand and daily. Because of our local providers,
which are usually the last line of defense, we often spend most
of our resources on the immediate solution, finding them a meal.
A hungry child will not wait until a parent learns
the skills to get a higher paying job. Even then we find that we
do not have the resources to meet all the needs on a daily basis.
Support at the State and Federal level for our local programs is
the most efficient way that I know of to attack the problems of
Only by assisting each family on an individual basis
will we ensure that the neediest and most helpless Americans receive
the most basic human need, that being food. Food is a very basic,
yet most essential, ingredient for survival and also for the foundation
on which to build a higher quality of life.
I have enjoyed the time spent here this morning sharing
with you just a little bit about what we try to do, but I guess
the bigger question is what iswhat will all of us do to fight
this monster known as hunger.
Everybody needs an opportunity to have a choice and
a chance to change the direction of their lives. If you are hungry,
if you have headaches, if you are tired, if you are exhausted, if
you feel isolated, that choice is very, very difficult.
I would like to commend everyone who helped put this
together because the information shared here should create a greater
awareness that we all can take back to our respective communities.
Elected officials can take and put into practice some of the things
that can make a difference in their local communities. But, most
important, let's not forget that the face of hunger can affect all
Thank you very much.
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