Saturday, August 31, 2013

The greatest social programs in this country. . . .

OK - so everyone hates welfare and social programs.  Go to facebook to see how your family is doing and somewhere you will see a friend spouting off on how terrible welfare and social programs are.  They are destroying this country. . . the entire reason we have the national debt we have and our country is in the state it is in is because of social programs (or at least that is how it would seem by some f-book status!)  Well, I want to voice my opinion on  few of my favorite programs!

First - Meals on Wheels.  Most of meals on wheels programs is privately funded.  Most of the food is purchased from donations.  The time spent to prepare and deliver this meals is usually donations from people who are willing to give their own time and use their own gas money to make and deliver these meals.  This program is designed to help those who are unable to prepare their own meals have at least one hot, healthy meal.  Most of the people on this program are elderly - but I know I have delivered meals to people who are my age but have end stage diseases.  This is an AMAZING program.  Not only does it provide at least one meal to individuals who may not otherwise have a meal (because of financial problems, their inability to prepare a meal, or just the fact that they are so lonely and depressed that they man not make the meal for themselves), but it also gives these people human contact that many of them may not have if this program didn't exist.  For some of these people - this may be the only contact they would have in weeks!  This helps these individuals be healthier and overall decreases costs associated with malnutrition related hospital stays.

Next - WIC.  WIC is a program through the USDA that provides formula, milk, cheese, fruit, peanut butter, cereal, eggs, and bread to at need pregnant women, infants and children under the age of five.  The guidelines for WIC are more liberal than food stamps - as far as who can get it - with the cut off being ~180% of the poverty level for each family size.  This is not like food stamps where you are given a card and can get whatever you want - you are told which formula you can get, and how many pounds of cheese, gallons of milk, oz of peanut butter - etc.  This has helped millions of infants and children by nourishing them properly.  Proper nutrition from in utero to school age DOES save money from malnutrition related illnesses, as well as promotes proper brain development to help decrease special education needs to malnourished children. 

Third, the free/reduced school lunch program (breakfast program).  OK - I know it isn't all that healthy and it should be better than it is - but the reality of it is that for many kids in this country the only food they can reliably get is what they get at school.  One out of every five children in this country do not know if they will be offered their next meal.  That is a fact.  You can go on and on about how the parents should be providing for their kids, and about how they shouldn't have had kids if they couldn't afford it - the fact is that these kids are already here and the do exist, and many go to bed hungry every night.  Free breakfast and lunch during the school year has helped millions of kids in this country to have a meal or two each day.  The kids born into poverty had no choice in the matter - they were born where they were born - so our tax money helping to give them a bowl of cereal for breakfast and a slice of pizza for lunch is - IMHO - the least we can to to help these kids.

Fourth, and I don't know if this is a social program but Pell grants and Stafford loans.  I know I would have been unable to go to college without these two things.  These programs help those to help themselves.  Not everyone is born with parents that can help them go to college, but these two programs do help individuals who do excel at college to be able to go to college. 

Last - head start.  This is a wonderful program for at risk kids.  Head start is not just for individuals with low incomes - it is also for children who have special needs.  Gabe qualified for head start because of his autism diagnosis, and the program really did help him be prepared for kindergarten (on a social level because he really could have skipped K and first grade and academically started in second grade.)  I once read a report that stated that each dollar spent on head start saved two dollars in future special education costs because it helped kids that much.

So - these are just my thoughts for the day about social programs I love.  There are more - I am sure - but these are my favorite programs.  Call me a socialist if you want.  Call me a hippy (Gabe does), but I love these programs!

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