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Empty shelves

DearTelegraph Editors,

I’m writing to draw attention to the dire need for the basic necessity of food that everyday residents here in Durango are lacking due to the worsening economic recession. Everyone knows how bad the economy is; but the part nobody talks about is how it is affecting their own neighbors. It’s easier to believe the problem is somewhere else, but this is not the case. My case in point to illustrate this issue is the emptiness of the Durango Food Bank. After speaking with Executive Director Sarah Smith, I determined the problem needs to be brought to attention. About 10 percent of the total population of La Plata County now falls into the category of poverty, and 9.4 percent of the population of children under 18 years old are considered to be living in poverty (Census data analyzed by the Food Action Resource Center). Durango’s middle class residents are being pushed to the point where they can’t even afford food to put on the table and will go hungry without help from their own community.

Sarah Smith has worked at Durango Food Bank for about 25 years but became the executive director in July 2008. She said now the numbers are at an all-time high. July 2009 was a record-breaking month, in which they helped more than 347 people, an alarming majority of them children. In the past year alone, the bank has distributed 69,532 pounds of food. All of this food is donated by eight local grocery stores and individuals. Smith said when the recession first hit, the numbers seemed unchanged. However, once spring 2009 hit, the numbers went through the roof and haven’t gone down. Along with the growing number of recipients, less food then ever is being donated, leading to a severe shortage.

There are other resources available in town, such as Manna Soup Kitchen and quite a few nonprofits in the area. However, with resources so low in times like these, competition is fierce and there are still many hungry people in La Plata County. About 25 percent of people who come to the food bank are on food stamps, but the government assistance isn’t enough. Either the amount of money given isn’t adequate, or the assistance takes up to five or six weeks to arrive after they are applied for. The Durango Food Bank is left filling the gap for these families.

One of the biggest misconceptions that Smith wants to clear up about the food bank is about its customer base. Lately, many more women with small children have been requesting the food bank’s help, whereas before the clientele consisted mainly of single men. “These are not people milking the system, trying to get a free meal, trying to play the government. These are people with nowhere else to go, and they are too ashamed to ask for help from anyone else.” Our own neighbors should never feel that way. Falling on a hard time shouldn’t be a taboo subject that one will receive ridicule for.

Even in this day and age, many people still blame those who’ve lost their jobs and don’t think it’s their place to help out. But Smith strongly points out that blame is being put in the wrong place. “What most people don’t understand is that outside factors are guiding lives right now more than personal decisions,” she insists. And she sees it every day. It’s easy to see why a blue-collar town has gotten hit so hard by the recession.

The citizens of Durango need to understand how bad their own neighbors are hurting, and do something to fight it. Donations are at an extreme low, and any donation is always appreciated. But at the moment, the food bank is in particular need of salad dressing, cooking oil, condiments, breakfast items (such as oatmeal, cereal, pancake mix, syrup) and peanut butter and jelly. To easily donate, you can drop off food in the donation bins outside of Albertson’s, both City Markets, Wal-Mart or Nature’s Oasis. Donations are also welcome at Durango Food Bank, at 989 S Camino Del Rio, across from Durango Mall, next to Target Rental. Even throwing an extra box of pancake mix in your cart then dropping it in the bin on your way out would help a child whose parent can’t afford breakfast. If your family can still afford groceries, consider yourself lucky, because at any time fate can change, and it could be you asking for help.  

– Danielle Shay, via e-mail


A new recipe for pork

To the Editors:

When President Obama was campaigning for president he made a solemn pledge he would eliminate or reduce earmarks. He broke that promise during the push to implement the new health care program.

The White House cut backroom deals with a number of senators to secure their votes for the bill. Sen. Ben Nelson, of Nebraska, received $100 million in federal funds for a rip off that exempted his state from paying for new Medicaid patients. Sen. Mary Landrieu, of Louisiana, got a kickback of $300 million in extra federal spending for her state.

The health care bill will add $1 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years, and the Medicare system will suffer cuts of $500 billion. Approximately 30 million people will be added to the health care system. This will place a severe strain on hospitals and doctors who will not be able to handle the huge influx of new patients. The end result will be long waiting periods and lower quality service for all.

A particular concern is the impact of the program on small businesses, which will be forced to provide health insurance to their employees. This program could force many small businesses to raise prices and/or reduce costs (primarily labor costs), and some businesses will be forced to close their doors. It should be noted that small businesses account for about 70 percent of the jobs in this country.

It is unfortunate the White House had to resort to pork barrel chicanery to get a highly flawed health care bill passed.

– Donald A. Moskowitz, via e-mail


On Christmas Day

Christmas is here

It’s that time of year...

Big fancy presents with ribbons and bows

Rows and rows of cars in mall parking lots

People running around spending a lot…

That is what Christmas is about, is it not?


Sure it’s cool to get new stuff

but for many folks, it’s never enough


As for me, I say enough is enough!

Let’s make modern holidays a thing of the past

I don’t want more stuff

I want memories that last


I want hope for the future

and lasting peace


I want love and equality

for man and beast


I want all that Jesus stood for

to be celebrated all year


I want an end to sickness, poverty, hatred and fear


As the snow falls gently on the trees

I look up to the heavens,

then drop to my knees and pray

that we will all wake up in a new world

On Christmas Day

– Joanne Finch, via e-mail




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