Pablo Eisenberg thinks that nonprofits don’t care about the poor anymore. He argues they are so singularly focused on their own issues, whether it be the environment, health, education, etc, that they are missing the big picture. The lack of support for the food stamps program in the US as it is on the chopping block is held up as evidence by Eisenberg.
One might think that access to a basic necessity—food—would be a right that everyone who works at a nonprofit would consider important. But that hardly seems to be the case, from the lack of action the nonprofit world took to protect Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or foods stamps.
The food-stamp program is one of the most important parts of what remains of our social-safety net. Just under 48 million Americans receive an average of about $134 a month in food assistance, an amount vital to their well-being. More than one-fifth of all residents in Washington, D.C., and Mississippi receive food stamps. Nearly half of the households that receive them have children.
He suffers from the same narrow perspective that he accuses the NGOs of having. Not every organization is overtly political, nor do they have the resources to devote to advocating for every issue. Food stamps are a vital program for the poor, but there are many important programs that are under threat right now as the US Congress looks to make deep cuts to the federal budget.
“It is an embarrassment to our country that the nonprofit organizations created to serve society, let alone the political system, are so little concerned about economic inequity and social justice. How did nonprofits lose their sense of decency?” concludes Eisenberg.
There are instances where it is happening. The Enough Food If campaign in the UK featured many international NGOs putting their collective voices behind hunger. The coordinated effort led to a pledge meeting ahead of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland and a lot of money devoted to eradicating hunger. In the US, advocates joined together to get the issue of Darfur on the White House agenda nearly 10 years ago.
Collaboration does happen among nonprofits. All have not lost their desire to work towards and advocate for a world without poverty. The problem is that the solutions are not simple as it seems that Eisenberg wishes. It is, in the end, about the people who are working with the poor.
I’d like to see Eisenberg tell a teacher working in of America’s city public schools that s/he does not care about the poor. Or the staff from the organization that works to provide additional support to the at-risk school. Or the CEO who has to raise the funds to make the organization continue its mission to ensure that every child has a chance to get a proper education.