A Nonprofit Insider’s View on Child Nutrition

Last week I asked the question how, given our nation’s’ extensive social safety net, it is possible that children in Virginia go hungry and suffer from malnutrition. Are government support payments deficient? Are food deserts to blame? Do people squander their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) stipends? Is something else going on? The explanations we hear from the usual sources don’t seem to add up.That piece triggered a response from Robin Mathews, who worked with recipients of SNAP and WIC programs as an employee in the nonprofit sector for several years. “I feel like I’ve seen just about all,” she says. Here are key points she makes in response to specific questions I raised in the post. (I have reproduced her comments here with light editing.)Eligibility for SNAP.

Unemployment rates are low but the income guidelines are stringent; a single parent with two children working full time at Amazon earning $15 an hour would not qualify for SNAP or WIC so these programs may be intended to supplement the “working poor” families.

Could single mothers’ budgets be stretched by live-in boyfriends who don’t qualify for food stamps? Of course, but what I see more often in public and subsidized housing is the “live in” who is not always a boyfriend but a “boarder” who has income (sometimes from selling drugs and guns) to pay for items not covered by SNAP and contributes this in exchange for the room and board/food he receives from the recipient who is eligible.

Could drug addicts be selling their allowances for cash? Not only do drug addicts sell allowances, so do unemployed individuals needing cash to pay their rent. As you know, RRHA has the highest eviction rate in our city. Here are three “approved” SNAP vendors where I have witnessed recipients conduct a “transaction” and receive cash back:

Tiger Market
786 Convenient Deli
East Market

Is the magnitude of the problem being exaggerated by a professional caring class whose livelihoods depend upon fostering a sense of crisis? Although I agree there is a need to supplement the diets for the children of the “working poor” to assist their parents in being financially self-sustaining, I strongly believe the “problem” is most definitely exaggerated as a result of multiple nonprofits trying to stay in business and increase their executives’ salaries.

For example, No Kid Hungry, the program cited in your blog post, is a “campaign” of  “Share Our Strength” located in Washington, D.C. It promotes programs that are already in place, including:

According to their 990’s, No Kid Hungry and Share our Strength receive $8 million in revenue from government grants. More than $3 million goes to executives for salaries (not including benefits).

The current Executive Chairman, Billy Shore earned $324,727 and his sister, Debbie Shore (Executive Leadership), earned $228,166, while Thomas Nelson, president and CEO, earned $448,080. I find that excessive for an organization that “connects” people to state and federal resources that already exist. Why can’t local governments or other nonprofits do this themselves?

Feed More has fewer than 100 employees and pays $1,121,739 to 5 executives. Its CEO earned $253,132 in FY 2017.

After having worked for the Virginia Department of Taxation and various nonprofits, I learned more than I care to about what goes on behind the scenes and it is discouraging.

Robin Mathews, a Richmond resident, worked for the nonprofit Richmond Outreach Center and Cross Over Healthcare. She now does accounting for a small, family-owned business.

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10 responses to “A Nonprofit Insider’s View on Child Nutrition”

  1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “No child should go hungry in America, but 1 in 6 kids will face hunger this year. Using proven, practical solutions, No Kid Hungry is ending childhood hunger today …” Taken from Mission Statement.

    Jim’s article reports “According to their 990’s, No Kid Hungry and Share our Strength receive $8 million in revenue from government grants. More than $3 million goes to executives for salaries (not including benefits).”

    If true, some few folks are getting very rich off feeding poor kids with taxpayer dollars. Could all this be true? If so, why?

    Might the federal government find a far cheaper and more effective way to hand out taxpayer dollars?

    Who understands that 990 federal form for Share Our Strength better than I do? Please tell us all what is going on here?

  2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    This makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t begrudge fair and reasonable pay for non-profits but this is just obscene. Their tax-exempt status should be removed and soon.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Another question. Are the Richmond Times Dispatch reporters stooges? Just stupid? Or are they, and their “newspaper,” part of an elaborate network pushing a sham game for profit at taxpayer cost, and poor kids cost, and at the cost of their readers’ ignorance and expense all as promoted by the “newspaper” itself?

      1. The RTD reporters and editors are neither stooges nor stupid. But they share a common SJW framework for looking at the world, which means they have enormous blind spots. When groupthink exists, it precludes looking at anything that might challenge the group worldview.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          Jim, I have no sympathy. Horrible results are the same year after year. A reporter’s job is to tell the reader what is going on in real world, not a figment of his or her groups imagination. Do we never learn? How many Russian Collusion stories, and poor starving kids stories does it take.

          If I understand this reporting here, and I may be wrong in my understanding, hence am asking questions, not making statements, very large amounts of money here might well be drained away out of funds that are truly needed elsewhere, or should not be spent at all. If news reporters facilitate that wastage, they need be called out.

          Indeed, the wasting funds of such funds comprises much of the $22 Trillion public debt you rightly complain about, whether it goes to rapacious crony capitalist military contractors or non-profit government contractors claiming charitable works. And if they are smart and still refuse to correct their ways, then it becomes a moral issue.

          1. The nonprofit sector gets a free pass in Virginia. Except for rare instances in which financial scandals burst into the public view, Virginia journalists never question the altruistic motives of nonprofit executives. They never question the efficacy of nonprofit programs. People who profess good intentions are the beneficiaries of an endless parade of puff pieces.

            So, yes, I agree with you that the press is derelict in its duty, never asking if nonprofits can justify their special tax-exempt status, never questioning the results of their endeavors.

            When I say that journalists are captive to a particular worldview, it is not to excuse them, only to explain them. If we think of them as stooges or stupid, we severely under-estimate them.

          2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            “If we think of them as stooges or stupid, we severely under-estimate them.”

            That is a good point as to elders. Much of rest don’t know better.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    As folks who comment here may know, My wife and I have worked for a Church Food pantry for a number of years. We get the food from the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank.

    They get their food from a variety of sources – retail stores, and distribution centers, and farmers. The date on the food drives a lot of the donations when the stores/warehouses determine they have more stock than they will sell by the due-date and they then send it to the Food Bank well enough in advance so that it can distribute it to the pantries in time to give out before the due date.

    Except for baby formula – there is no law about the dates. It’s really a “best if used by” date.

    FYI – break and produce are “free”. All one has to do is go pick it up and give it out which we do – hundreds of pounds worth every other week.

    We also give out frozen meat and OTC drugs.

    We also give out USDA and Food for Life. And the clients often also qualify for SNAP.

    There are qualification requirements and it is booked on a USDA database to verify their need. We give a single bag of groceries to those who are not on the list but in need.

    We do this every two weeks and the food they receive will not last more than a week so they still have to go find more at other pantries and/or spend money or use SNAP.

    The above are facts. Below is commentary.

    First – If Food Banks give away bread and produce – 24/7/365 – you don’t need to try to “grow it” in urban plots. All it takes is a volunteer
    with a car or truck to go get it and give it away.

    There are a wide variety of “players” involved in “helping people and especially Kids” and rather than blame the media, I would advise folks to go to Charity Navigator to ascertain the fitness of the charity and I would, as we have – focus efforts on the local Food Bank and satellite pantries. It’s an efficient and cost-effective system that has zero profit and relies heavily on volunteers ( who can donate their own labor – instead of or in addition to cash).

    Yes – there is way too much duplication and it’s up YOU AND ME to find out as much as it is to blame the media and “social justice warriors”. You can choose to volunteer your labor and do some good or you can just sit back and criticize things you don’t like and use that as an excuse to do nothing but blame.

    The world is not a perfect place and especially so when it comes to charities including those with high paid CEOs and administrative staff. Go to Charity Navigator and you’ll easily see them identified.

    Too many are good-hearted RUBES when it comes to “feed the kids” and “save the animals” and etc.. all groups have GOOD intentions (in theory) but there ARE way too many and they do not collaborate and coordinate their efforts to be cost-effective and efficient. Some are outright scams. You can identify which yourself rather than blame media or social justice fools.

    But after all is said and done – there are people and kids who need the help – just be intelligent about where you do choose to help.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      A wonderful post, Larry. Thank you so much for all of it.

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