For the past few months, the Jewish Federation has campaigned around Los Angeles that one out of eight people in the city are hungry.
It’s a big fat lie, but that hasn’t stopped synagogues, including Orthodox ones, from embracing the lie and preaching it from their pulpits.
Is there any lie about America so outlandish that liberal Jews won’t preach it? I’m thinking in particular about the faux threats of global warming and heterosexual AIDS in America.
Dig this — the Jewish Federation campaign website is at GiveLifeMeaning.org.
I love that. Give your life meaning by peddling lies.
I’m sure that gives many people meaning. I’m not sure why we should admire that.
Last week, the Jewish Journal put this on its cover: "One Hip Campaign Tackles Two Problems: Hunger and the Federation’s Image"
Problem: There’s no evidence of widespread malnutrition aka hunger in California or the United States.
Campaigning to solve hunger is so much more sexy than campaigning to solve poverty. That’s why there are these food drives to bring cans of food. It makes people think that the problem is hunger. But the problem is not hunger. It is poverty and the complicated things that cause poverty, such as bad values, sloth, substance abuse, mental illness, etc.
Ending hunger in Los Angeles is a pretty ambitious goal. Yet The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is staking its identity on a new campaign, titled “Fed Up With Hunger,” that launched in September during the High Holy Days. Spreading the word through reusable shopping bags, strategically placed banners and a full calendar of events, Federation leaders are hoping that this obviously urgent and highly visible target will capture a new spirit at The Jewish Federation and help usher in a revitalized identity for the umbrella fundraising organization, one that will endure into the 21st century.
The campaign’s immediate goal is to ensure reliable sources of food for the 1.2 million Angelenos who don’t know where their next meal is coming from (see story on next page).
But accompanying that goal are others that have to do with the organization’s future — rethinking how people view Federation and revamping how Federation operates and relates to the institutions and people it serves.
This campaign attempts to transform Federation from a top-down benefactor into a collaborative community organizer — one that can rally Angelenos around a compelling social cause and then harness that energy into giving back to the community.
How do people feel proud about creating and promoting programs based on lies about America? Is there any calumny too outrageous that these liberal Jewish activists won’t exploit it to get power, money and fame?
For the campaign, Federation has latched onto the language employed by the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank that one in eight people in Los Angeles faces hunger. In an edgy video with a Beastie Boys soundtrack at givelifemeaning.org, a note drawn onto a ragged piece of cardboard reads, “1 in 8 Angelenos feel hungry every day,” a claim echoed by actress Debra Messing in a video message.
While one in eight people have a legitimate fear of feeling hungry every day, only a portion of those actually end up not eating enough. Still, the problem is real.
About 1.2 million people in Los Angeles County are food insecure, according to a 2003 UCLA Health Policy Research study that analyzed data from a California Health Interview Survey.
Food insecure? What kind of language is that? And what’s this talk about one in eight people have a legitimate fear of feeling hungry? Who determines whose fears are legitimate? Since when does fear of hunger equal hunger?
A recent federal report found that more Americans are going hungry — or did it?
"As American families prepare to gather for Thanksgiving, we received an unsettling report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that found that hunger rose significantly last year," President Obama said last week. He cited a Department of Agriculture survey showing that 17 million American households (nearly 15%) were "food insecure" in 2008, compared with 13 million (about 11%) in 2007.
But experts say being "food insecure" is not the same as being hungry.
"I don’t think many people would claim that food insecurity equates to hunger," said James C. Ohls, senior fellow for food and nutrition policy at Mathematica Policy Research Inc., who has led several investigative studies of Americans seeking emergency food relief. "You can get to that by questions like whether you had enough money to buy food. That’s probably not ‘hungry’ by most people’s standards."
"Hunger," experts say, better describes the plight of a persistent lack of food and malnutrition every day. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said there is little evidence of that among households in the United States.
"This is not malnourishment in the sense of people dying from hunger," Vilsack told reporters Tuesday, "but it is a circumstance where youngsters are not able to perform up to their potential."
The report avoids the word "hunger." It defines households as "food insecure" if sometime during the year they "had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources."