So I was having a really bad day yesterday, and I planned to do a purely political post — a little ranting for some catharsis. Ripping into politicians can be a good way to let off steam.
But then I turned on my computer and saw that thousands of people were interested in a school nutrition program aimed at communities with high levels of poverty.
Thousands of people care about feeding Maine children. Thousands of people across all socioeconomic levels and political parties. In that post about Skowhegan’s SAD 54 program to give every child a free breakfast and lunch, I mentioned that nutrition director Laura Pineo brought me to tears. Readers did it again.
I don’t mean to be going all John Boehner. It’s been a long week.
Anyway, the response to the post taught me a couple things and left me thinking a couple more.
First, hunger is a huge issue to Mainers: There are thousands of people who care about hunger in Maine, and there are thousands of hungry people and children in Maine. Out of six months of blogging, my third and fourth best posts so far have been the one about SAD 54 and another about a cookbook for food stamp recipients and the poor.
Mainers like living in a state with neighbors the likes of Laura Pineo. I also have to throw in Randall Liberty — the next warden of the state prison. He’s the one who started the Kennebec Restorative Garden that donates produce to many programs including the one in SAD 54.
Mainers are the kind of people who like to work with each other to find solutions that, with some government support, can exponentially benefit Maine communities.
Which brings me back to politics. The response to the SAD 54 post has me thinking that maybe there’s something to be learned from it on a larger scale. Maybe the key to bridging the serious divisions paralyzing our politics is to start with things everyone agrees on.
Everyone agrees we should end child hunger. Not even Gov. Paul LePage can stand against that issue. Maybe someone should propose legislation that creates the support system necessary to ensure that all schools who qualify for this program get support in accessing it. I’m guessing it would get near unanimous support.
And maybe the spirit of unanimity could carry over and soften the negotiations necessary to make progress in more contentious areas. Especially areas that could improve our economy, so we don’t have entire school districts with so many hungry kids.
The response also has me thinking about a post I did about money in politics. I expressed frustration that a liberal organization was able to raise $1.3 million in just three months to spend between July and Nov. 3 on Question 1. Three-quarters of this money came from out of state, and in 2014 outside groups spent $14 million on the gubernatorial and state elections.
I get frustrated when I see that kind of money spent on air and postcards people throw away in seconds. It’s like whoever is in charge of our political discourse has no clue that some parts of Maine are getting kind of third world-ish in the absence of manufacturing.
It’s like whoever is in charge of our political discourse has no clue that there are kids in Maine who “leave on school on Friday and don’t have a healthy meal again until they return to school on Monday,” as Pineo said.
It’s like whoever is in charge of our political discourse doesn’t understand that the same $1.3 million blown on Question 1 could have fed an entire school district of children breakfast and lunch for an entire year, including the staff to make the meals.
Proportionately speaking, that’s ridiculous.