Bush Skeptical On TX Hunger Report. He's Out Of Oouch, Critics

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 25 Dec 1999 18:53:33 -0800 (PST)

FWD  San Francisco Chronicle - Saturday, December 25, 1999 - Page A5


     Ignorant about poverty, they say

New York Times -- Gov. George W. Bush's skeptical response to
a federal report detailing hunger in Texas has brought criticism from
Democrats who say Bush is out of touch with poverty in his state.

The Department of Agriculture, in a study titled ``Measuring Food
Security in the United States,'' found that 5 percent of Texas
households had reported suffering from hunger from 1996 through 1998.
Only Oregon had reported a higher percentage, the study said.

``I saw the report that children in Texas are going hungry.
Where?'' Bush said earlier this week in an interview with the Fort
Worth Star-Telegram. ``You'd think the governor would have heard if
there are pockets of hunger in Texas.''

Democrats quickly criticized Bush, who has campaigned for the
Republican presidential nomination as a ``compassionate

In Washington, the Democratic National Committee distributed the
comments to reporters. In Texas, state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, a
Democrat who is chairman of the House Committee on Human Services,
issued a statement Thursday saying that he was ``appalled'' at the
governor's comments and that ``there are massive numbers of people
who go hungry.''

``Could it be the governor also doesn't know that Texas ranks at
or near the bottom in every recognized national poverty-related
category?'' Naishtat said in the statement. ``Perhaps so.''

A Bush campaign spokesman, Scott McClellan, noted that Bush's
remarks to the Star-Telegram included a fuller comment in which the
governor said, ``I want to know the facts. I would like for the
Department of Agriculture to show us who, where are they, and we'll

McClellan said Bush signed a measure earlier this year approving
$2 million for nutrition education and outreach efforts to needy
families. One of the governor's priorities, the spokesman said, has
been to mobilize religious groups and charities to help the poor.
Bush is proposing tax benefits for people who donate money to such

``He is committed to doing something about hunger,'' McClellan

After a campaign appearance in Manchester, N.H., on Monday, Bush
was asked whether he had been surprised by the hunger report.

``I'm sure there are some people who are hungry,'' he replied. ``I
don't believe 5 percent of the children in my state are hungry, and
if they are, we'll fix it.

``Yeah, I'm surprised. I'm surprised all of a sudden a report
floats out of Washington, D.C., as I'm launching my campaign for
president. There seems to be a lot of reports to be coming out of
Washington, D.C., these days.''

Celia Hagert, nutrition policy analyst for the Center for Public
Policy Priorities in Austin, a nonprofit organization focusing on
issues affecting low-income Texans, said statistics compiled by
America's Second Harvest, a network of food banks, showed that food
banks in Texas distributed 25.9 percent more food in 1999 than in
1996. The amount was 118.6 million pounds, up from 94.2 million

Jan Pruitt, executive director of the North Texas Food Bank in
Dallas, said demand at the food bank had increased about 12 percent
over last year while donations had increased by 5 percent.

Pruitt said the people seeking food were different from a decade
ago, when the needy were mostly the unemployed.

``I've seen not only the need increase but the whole face of the
hungry change,'' she said. ``Now it's working people. They're
employed, and they cannot feed their families.''


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