Audit Substantiates Concerns About Quabbin Forestry
I have been following the letters and comments in the Valley Advocate that began in response to the request by Ben Wright of Environment Massachusetts that citizens support their petition to the Governor to ban commercial logging in the forests of the Quabbin Reservoir. (March 9, 2012)
Some comments in defense of logging insist that logging has been accepted at the Quabbin for 50 years. However, those who make this argument fail to acknowledge that the management plans for aggressive polka dot clear-cuts of recent years that have ignited a widespread public outcry are not typical of all forestry during those 50 years.
Forestry at the Quabbin was granted Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) "Green Certification" in the '90s and through April of 2009. There were ongoing citizen concerns that green certification was not guaranteeing the quality forestry the citizens of Massachusetts expected with that title. Given FSC generous sympathies for the time, resources and mistakes it takes to improve forestry, it is all the more significant that auditors for the FSC found fault with the Quabbin watershed forestry in 2009 and placed serious "corrective action requests" (CARs) upon the state during the recertification assessment. [Editor's note: To see the FSC audit, go to valleyadvocate.com/mis/pdfs/FSC-SCS-Report-2009.pdf]
The concerns raised in the 2009 auditor's report were significant. It is notable that forestry on Massachusetts public lands was not deemed eligible for certification for having "well managed forests" in 2009 and has not been FSC certified since that time. The FSC audit of forestry at the Quabbin to demonstrate that criticisms of the forestry by concerned citizens, Massachusetts Forest Watch and Environment Massachusetts are not just of isolated incidents, nor are they radical or unfair. They are substantiated by independent forestry auditors.
Food Bank Faces "Perfect Storm"
Because of the slow economic recovery, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and our 350-plus member agencies are facing a perfect storm. Unrelenting high demand for emergency food assistance persists in the midst of rising food costs. Despite this sobering reality, two vital anti-hunger programs are at risk of inadequate funding in the upcoming state budget for next fiscal year beginning July 1st: the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps).
To make matters worse, The Food Bank of Western Mass. is receiving almost 50 percent less food from the federal government than it did last year. This translates into approximately 600,000 fewer meals for the 110,000 individuals in Western Massachusetts who still rely on food assistance in any given month.
On May 16, the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means plans to unveil its budget recommendations for FY 2013. In order to more effectively meet the needs of the community, The Food Bank asks our neighbors concerned about hunger in their communities to call on their state senators to increase spending for MEFAP for all four food banks in the Commonwealth from the proposed $12.5 million to a much needed $15 million. Due to rising food prices, The Food Bank of Western Mass. had 15 percent less MEFAP to distribute in the first 6 months of this fiscal year than during the same period the year before. As a result, individuals received an average of 16 percent less MEFAP food. MEFAP is a reliable source of staples such as meat, eggs and local fresh produce that are rarely donated in sufficient quantities.
We're grateful to Representatives Kocot (Northampton), Kane (Holyoke) and Farley-Bouvier (Pittsfield) for spearheading a $500,000 increase in the House budget. However, food security for tens of thousands of people now rests with the Senate, which can approve the higher MEFAP increase necessary to combat hunger across the entire state.
Similarly, The Food Bank urges readers to contact their state senators to increase funding for the Department of Transitional Assistance's case worker account to the $64.2 million proposed in the Governor's budget. Anything less falls far too short of what is needed to ensure that eligible households receive vital SNAP benefits without overwhelming food banks and the emergency food network. Not only does SNAP provide a family with additional funds exclusively for food purchases, it also injects hundreds of millions of federal dollars into Massachusetts local businesses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that for every $5 in SNAP monies spent more than $9 is generated in local economic impact.
For moral and economic reasons, we shouldn't turn our backs on our most vulnerable neighbors —children and elders—as well as job seekers and struggling working households who are making painful decisions between paying for prescriptions, rent or food.
Our food insecure neighbors need your help. Visit www.foodbankwma.org and click on our Take Action page to find all the information you need to contact your state senator. A call from even one individual can have an enormous impact. Please, contact your senator today and tell them to support increases for these programs, and fight hunger in our community.
Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts
Skip the Meat
The number of Americans considered obese is expected to rise from the current 34 percent to 42 percent by the year 2030, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and discussed at Monday's "Weight of the Nation" conference in Washington. Diabetes, kidney failure, heart disease, and other obesity-related ailments account for countless premature deaths and as much as 18 percent of the $2.6 trillion national cost of medical care.
The leading causes of obesity are consumption of fat-laden meat and dairy products and lack of exercise. This is particularly critical during childhood years, when lifestyle habits become lifelong addictions.
A five-year Oxford University study of 22,000 people, published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2006, found that those on a vegetarian or vegan diet gained the least weight. A review of 87 studies in Nutrition Reviews concluded that a vegetarian diet is highly effective for weight loss.
The time has come to replace meat and dairy products in our diet with wholesome grains, vegetables, and fruits and to undertake a regular exercise program. Parents should insist on healthy school lunch choices and set a good example at their own dinner table.