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Community Voices: A budget reflective of our values

Corey Givens Jr.

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Welcome to the Catalyst’s Community Voices platform. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details.

Each year the mayor presents city council with his proposed operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year. On Sept. 30, the St. Petersburg City Council approved the mayor’s $700 million tentative budget. In keeping with his commitment to fiscal stewardship and responsibility, along with the strong growth in our citywide property values, Mayor Kriseman’s administration has decided to decrease our mileage rate, but increase our water bills. Under the new tiered system, customers can expect to see an average increase of at least $8.10 in their monthly bills.

My questions is: Are tax dollars being spent on what taxpayers need or what politicians want?

Our city is underperforming when it comes down to fighting hunger. This year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, St. Petersburg has grown from two low-income, low-access areas to seven. Many residents who reside in these areas, also known as “food deserts,” are forced to survive primarily on unhealthy convenience store diets, which often lead to debilitating diagnoses. Those living within a food desert usually have very limited access to transportation (public or private).

For this reason, I am respectfully urging the next mayor of St. Petersburg to allocate more of our tax dollars to eliminate food insecurities in St. Pete. I struggle with the fact that so many people in our community go to bed hungry every night. I, too, have struggled with food insecurities. This issue is becoming more prominent in our area and something needs to be done about it. Whether these people are complete strangers or our closest friends, no one deserves to suffer from starvation.

One of the many lessons learned from living during the coronavirus pandemic the past 19 months is the reminder that hunger can happen to anyone.

The effects of Covid-19 on health, jobs, the educational and social networks on which people rely heavily on, left many struggling to make ends meet, creating an unprecedented and sustained rise in food insecurity.

Food charities and food assistance programs experienced steep increases in demand for services, a demand that they expect will last beyond the pandemic.

Food insecurity is not germane to a particular people or neighborhood. a Black issue or a white issue. It’s not a South St Pete or North St. Pete issue. It’s everyone’s issue, and it will take all of us to stand up against if we’re serious about ending it.

I am so proud of local organizations like Positive Impact Ministries, The Gathering of Women & Reach St. Pete, who are proactively fighting hunger in various ways. Just recently, Reach St. Pete received the keys to a PSTA bus that was donated in-kind & will soon be converted into a mobile food pantry, as we work to drive out hunger in St Pete. Our only issue is funding, that’s why we’re asking the city to step up and assist us in this effort.

The increased high demand that local cities are facing is reflective of what’s happening across the state. Food agencies are working to increase distribution of fresh foods and meats to bolster healthy eating. These organizations and agencies need our help, they cannot do it alone. If we can afford to hire more cops to patrol the streets, then surely, we can help that single mother who’s struggling to make ends meet.

Combatting food insecurities can be as simple as growing vegetables to give to those in need, or as complicated as building a mobile market. Working together in these partnerships helps ensure that no one fights hunger alone.

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    Velva Lee Heraty

    October 4, 2021at7:21 pm

    A thoughtful and passionate plea for the ultimate equality-food needs. Here in St. Pete I see many step up as individuals in a variety of ways to level the playing field. It would be great to have an over-all plan that isn’t a patchwork dependent on the kindness of strangers. I fully support this effort.

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