Feeding the poor
The poor and hungry in Maryland and the rest of the country are facing a cruel reduction in foods available due to sharp cuts in the federally sponsored commodity distribution program known as the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
This important program that reaches 210,000 needy persons throughout our state and has provided $80 million to purchase food plus surplus butter and cornmeal for the nation's poor this year is in danger of being eliminated, leaving only an administrative shell incapable of funding the food necessary to feed the poor.
Donations of food from the private sector have not made up for recent cuts. While TEFAP provided 6.1 million pounds of food last year and 3.7 million pounds this year, less than 500,000 pounds would be distributed under proposed funding.
This unrecognized dismemberment of a critical nutrition program for the poor is shameful. We need our congressional delegation, particularly our senators, to mount a vigorous campaign to reverse this situation and rescue TEFAP.
David M. Paige, M.D.
The writer is a professor in the Department of Maternal and Child Health at Johns Hopkins University and the chairperson of the State Advisory Council on Nutrition.
Regarding your story "One-third of all adults overweight" (July 17):
I was mildly overweight until the media convinced me I was grossly obese (at five feet, four inches tall and 155 pounds).
For the next 17 years, I went off and on "diets," losing 63 pounds during one nine-month cycle, then gaining it back plus interest over the next nine months when I was pregnant with my first child.
On and on the cycle went, each weight loss followed by a greater gain.
Finally, I found out about the size-acceptance movement and realized that I was not a freak, that most people who dieted gained back more than they lost. Only about 2 percent of people who lose weight keep it off for any length of time.
The doctors cited in the article complain about the medical problems linked to obesity. Since most obese people I know are yo-yo dieters, couldn't some of these health problems be the result of the treatment (dieting) rather than the disease?
Any treatment that is only effective in 2 percent of cases obviously is no treatment at all.
If the problem is a sedentary life-style, then focus on do-able exercise as a treatment.
But when was the last time you saw an exercise program on TV featuring large people? Fat people exercising is such a taboo that young men feel compelled to stamp it out by heckling -- or so my experience in walking and bicycling around Manchester would indicate.
Most "low-intensity" aerobic exercise classes I have taken have been too demanding, and there appears to be little interest in having classes at a level fat people can start at.
However, there may be an easier solution. Maybe if we simply said that it's OK to be big, to move in a way that's fun rather than exhausting, to eat what tastes good and not worry about tomorrow, we'd see a drop in obesity.
After all, the reverse message seems to have done nothing but increased the number of fat people.
In 1915, U.S. troops tried to save Haiti. They remained for 19 years.
Now, as a result of economic sanctions, the exodus from this poor nation continues to increase. There are not enough safe havens to house the Haitians in the Caribbean region.
A temporary solution would be to drive out the military junta and establish a democracy. For this plan to be effective our military forces would have to stay in Haiti.
Bill Clinton has to decide if the short-term rewards outweigh the long-term costs of U.S. intervention.
Our president is in a no-win dilemma. After he makes his decision, it seems to me that he will receive brickbats from those who disagree.
School board's action was not a power play
Regarding the Evening Sun editorial of July 21, we are pleased to see your continued attention to our teachers' interests.
While it is true the superintendent is no fan of the county's teaching union, I can assure you that he supports good teachers and good teaching. Your attack on the Baltimore County Board of Education adoption of a "master program" for our teachers, however, both trivializes the issue and misses the point.
Unfortunately, that is not all your editorial missed. It was the Teachers Association of Baltimore County that asked State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick for a contract negotiations impasse, not us.
Your editorial also leaves the inaccurate impression that teachers would have no grievance procedure under the master program; in fact, teachers still have a right to appeal personnel decisions to address their concerns, a right guaranteed under Maryland state law. Teachers are not unprotected.
You also write that Dr. Grasmick left TABCO's request languishing on her desk "while she visited Hawaii." Yet Dr. Grasmick had already informed both the Baltimore County Board of Education and TABCO -- three times, in fact -- that she would not declare impasse. This was done well before she left to attend a conference in Hawaii.
TABCO's leadership knew all of this, and they were well aware of the possibility that a master program could result from their continued refusals of the board's offered contract.
These are not technical legal points. They are issues that involve 6,400 of Baltimore County's professional staff, and we accord them serious consideration.
We are bound by law to establish working conditions for our employees, both for their protection and ours.
Because TABCO refused the board's offer, based on our funded budget from the county, the board was left with little choice but to adopt a master program.
The board carried out its responsibilities to our teachers and to the children of Baltimore County. It was no power play.
Adoption of the master program was also necessary to implement the 4 percent raise obtained for teachers through our county funding.
In addition, let me add that the board has reached an agreement with the system's three other bargaining groups while TABCO remains the lone holdout.
It is also curious why so many profess to be shocked at the sometimes controversial nature of our decisions.
As Baltimore County has seen, we in the schools have a responsibility to weigh decisions based not on whether they generate or avoid controversy but rather on whether they are in the best interests of children.
We will not shy away from what we feel to be the right decisions because others might disagree.
We in Baltimore County's schools have said it again and again: All of us are working toward the same goals for our county's children.
TABCO's leadership, perhaps more than anyone, knows this. So we are left to wonder why they, and The Evening Sun in its July 21 editorial, persist in exaggerating disagreement where there could be harmony. Our children deserve the best.
The writer is assistant superintendent of the Department of Community Relations, Planning, and Alternative Programs for the Baltimore County Public Schools.
Choose good role models
The O. J. Simpson case has brought up suggestions that Mr. Simpson and other celebrities are role models and heroes for the younger generation.
The media could change this hero-worshiping by publicizing the teens and young adults who excel at school and other areas.
For instance, my daughter was inducted into the Naval Academy on July 1, fulfilling a dream she had for six years.
She saw news items about commissioning week when she was in the sixth grade and decided that was what she wanted to do upon graduation from high school. She structured her entire academic life, sports and activities in pursuit of this goal.
The media focused briefly on this year's plebe induction but did not explore what it takes to get into a service academy.
There is a lot of hard work involved, not only academically but in the application procedures that require securing a congressional nomination. If more young people knew the requirements they might set their sights higher.
The young men and women of all races inducted into the Naval Academy, West Point, Air Force Academy and Coast Guard Academy ought to be the real "heroes and role models" for younger students, rather than superstar athletes and movie stars.
Joyce F. Stahl