Dan Kenney

Perspective: 'Pity The Nation' Again

Oct 5, 2020

Events of the past week reminded me of the poem “Pity the Nation” written by Lawrence Ferlinghetti 13 years ago. I believe it captures much of our current America.  

Pity the nation whose people are sheep,

and whose shepherds mislead them.

Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,

and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.

Pity the nation that raises not its voice,

except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero

and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.

Perspective: Live Fully Every Moment

Aug 31, 2020
photo courtesy of Dan Kenney

This is a unique perspective for me. I may be dead when you hear this.

I write and record on the eve of my heart bypass surgery. Tomorrow morning they will literally stop my heart from beating so they can fix it. Trusting my surgeon and team to hold my heart in their hands.

During these past few days I found myself preparing both to live and to die.

Paul Melki / Unsplash

From the White House to street corners of Chicago, from 10:00 a.m. Sunday mornings to nightly AA meetings you will find this disease. It is sewn into the fabric of our culture. It cannot be cured with a vaccine nor can your doctor give you a prescription. All of us have experienced it, some of us know it and others are unaware of its symptoms.

Clay Banks / Unsplash

May of 1963, at age 10, I sat watching Walter Cronkite report about police officers in Birmingham Alabama turning fire hoses and dogs on civil rights marchers. Including children my age.

Today people are still marching for civil rights and protection from the police.

14 years ago I marched with over 400,000 people in the streets of Chicago joining in the peaceful call for a path to citizenship for over 2 million people. Police wearing riot gear lined the route.

Today millions are still waiting for that path.

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

COVID-19 has caused disruptions in how families get their food. That’s one reason why more people are growing their own. 

The concept of a victory garden dates to the Second World War. Food was in high demand, and canned food was rationed for the war effort. Sarah Vogel is an educator at the University of Illinois Extension. She said the federal government encouraged citizens to grow their own food and provided lots of information on how to do so.

Photo provided by DCCG

DeKalb County Community Gardens is a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting fresh produce to people who are experiencing food insecurity. According to the DCCG, 20% of children and 14% of adults in the county deal with it and the numbers are going up because of the pandemic. But the DCCG is using extra resources such as the Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program to make sure everyone has access to healthy food.

Perspective: We Must Do Better Than Normal

May 18, 2020
Winnebago County Health Department

The air is filled with spin words about “opening up and going back to normal.”

The coronavirus, like Katrina and other disasters, has put a bright light on what is broken in our country. A fragile food system. Overcrowded prisons. Or how Hispanics and African Americans are always the most vulnerable in times of disaster and every day.

The percentage of people who have died who are black or Hispanic is twice as high as the number of people who are white.


“I never thought I would have to ask for food.” The young mother said as a box was placed in her car.

In the last three weeks over 500,000 Illinois residents have filed for unemployment. We have never seen such a sudden, dramatic increase in the need for food in our region. There are now growing lines at area food pantries. Numbers of those seeking help has tripled. For 70% of them this is their first visit to a food pantry.

Perspective: Stand Up And Be Counted

Mar 9, 2020
adapted from work by Karen Arnold / Pixabay

April 1st, 2020 is fast approaching. This year it is not an ordinary April Fool’s Day. This April 1st is Census Day 2020. The day that has been designated for everyone to be counted. Everyone regardless of your citizenship status. Everyone is counted regardless of age. And you will be counted where you are living on that day. 


Perspective: Time To Do What Is Right

Jan 27, 2020
Renno new / Pixabay

I write this as the Senate takes up articles of impeachment. By the time you hear this it may be over. Whether the President is removed from office or not, this process, and the last three years, have brought a deep dark truth out of the shadows.

What troubles me more than the president’s behavior is all of those who rationalize his behavior, those who say it doesn’t matter. That so many, in roles of power, are willing to cast aside reason, willing to turn their backs on morals, and are willing to run from integrity.


As I write this it is a cold clear night. It is also the night our President was impeached. A sad day for our Country regardless of your political view.  It has been a day of bitter bickering and angry politically based debating, a day of us versus them, which has left me feeling sad and anxious.

When you hear this it will be two days before Christmas. A time of year for being together, yet this year we as a Country, will be as divided as we have ever been.

Perspective: A Culture Of Affluence And Greed

Nov 18, 2019
QuinceMedia / Pixabay

Jim Cramer, former hedge fund manager and now television personality giving investment advice to millions said, “What’s important when you are in that hedge-fund mode is to not do anything remotely truthful because the truth is so against your view, that it’s important to create a new truth to develop a fiction.” 


Perspective: The Death Of Small Family Farms

Oct 14, 2019
James Baltz / Unsplash

"In America, the big get bigger and the small go out," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

Perdue made these comments at the World Dairy Expo in Madison Wisconsin, which touts itself as America's Dairyland and has lost 551 dairy farms in 2019 and a total of 1,654 dairy farms lost since January of 2017. More than one farm a day for the last three years. It has become so serious that Wisconsin’s legislature's finance committee voted unanimously last month to spend an additional $200,000 to help struggling farmers deal with depression and mental health problems.

Perspective: First, Listen. Always.

Sep 9, 2019
Gerd Altmann / Pixabay

“First, shut up and listen.” 



“If people don’t ask for help leave them alone.”  

Perspective: Thousands Will Lose Benefits

Aug 5, 2019
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Editor's note: The audio portion of this Perspective is incorrect in the number of Americans who are food-insecure. The correct number is 1 in 8, which was in the original script.  

“I’ve never done this before,” a woman tells me as I help her sign up for food assistance at the Grow Mobile pop-up pantry. “My husband has been ill, and I had to quit my job to take care of him.” One of millions of stories. 


Perspective: I've Never Seen A Spring Like This

Jul 1, 2019
Dan Kenney


“I’ve been farming 60 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.” A farmer said this to me recently. He was discussing the wet cold spring which prevented planting of corn at its normal time. 

Keturah Moller / Pixabay

More than 660,000 American soldiers have been killed in battle since the birth of our Country. Each year on Memorial Day we pause to remember those who have died in protection of our American Ideals: The ideals of democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality. Yet, the protection of these ideals goes beyond the battlefield to all of us. 

Abraham Lincoln warned. “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

“Only when the last tree has died, the last river been poisoned, and the last fish been caught, will we realize we cannot eat money.”  -- A Cree Tribe Proverb from 350 years ago.   


Perspective: Government Debt? Blame The Poor

Mar 18, 2019
Linus Bohman / CC by 2.0

“It’s like they don’t want us to get ahead.” An African-American friend said that to me recently as I gave her and her son a ride so they did not have to stand in the cold March chill waiting for a bus.

As a single mother with two children she struggles to keep food on their table. Her teenage daughter found a $9 an hour part-time job trying to save a little for college, and then the household was hit with a cut in benefits.

A common story with those who struggle to get above the poverty line if they try to get ahead a little only to get pushed back down.

Perspective: We Need Civics, Not Politics

Feb 8, 2019

We were told the recent State of the Union speech would unify the nation. Yet, even as the speech was being given, hateful tweets were flying in all directions. 

Perspective: The Conversation We Avoid

Dec 31, 2018

It is the season of giving. Every year the holidays bring an abundance of generosity. We talk about toy drives, food drives, and free turkeys.  

A conversation we should be having is how to ensure our neighbors aren’t poor. We should be asking questions about why when there is more food distribution than ever before the need continues to grow.  


Turning Food Deserts Into Food Destinations

Nov 26, 2018



What's A Community Food Center?

Oct 22, 2018
Susan Stephens / WNIJ


What if we create a ‘Community Food Center’ in DeKalb County? 


People And Nature Carry On

Sep 19, 2018


The Haves And The Have-Nots

Aug 13, 2018


“There are the haves and the have-nots.”

“The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.”

These are a few of the sayings I heard from my parents growing up in a small rural farming community. Expressions my working class parents who never finished grade school used to help themselves understand and accept their positions.


Lost Children In A Lost Nation

Jul 9, 2018

“Dad when are you coming to get me?”

The father put the phone down, unable to speak. His sobs choked his voice.

He sat in his one room house deep in Mexico after being separated from his daughter at the border and deported.

We have all seen the photos by now. Children of all ages trying to sleep fully clothed in wire cages under aluminum foil. Some curled up in balls of terror. Others sobbing in the dark. Little ones crying out for their mother.

A Victim Of Farm Transformation

Jun 4, 2018

As a kid, one of my chores was delivering water to livestock in the field. I would drive a tractor pulling the water wagon out to a distant pasture. While the water slowly emptied into the field tank in the stillness of the setting sun, I would listen for the distant bobwhite quail in the hedgerows.

At one time, most of the Midwestern fields were surrounded with Osage Orange hedgerows. The bramble provided a natural fence as well as an ecosystem that included quail that were drawn to the cover.

Farming Isn't What It Used To Be

Apr 25, 2018

My father was born into a farm family in 1908. The land was worked with horses. His day went sunrise to sunset.

As a farmer, he never owned his own land but share-cropped with land owners. By the time I was in eighth grade in 1965, he was working nights as a watchman so he would have enough money to keep farming.

At the time, the Secretary of Agriculture toured the country telling farmers, “Get big, or get out.” My father got out, sold his farming equipment, and we moved into a little ranch house in town. He went to work as a truck driver in a small-town factory.  

We Need To Go To The Source

Mar 19, 2018

“Where are all these babies coming from?” the villagers asked as they pulled babies from the stream.

Every day there were more babies to be rescued, so they built special equipment to pull the babies from the water and hired people to care for them.

They struggled to feed them. And, even though the number continued to increase, they never went upstream to see where all the babies were coming from.

Dealing With The Issue Of Hunger

Feb 12, 2018

“My mother keeps our food locked in a cupboard. We can’t eat when we are hungry or we will run out of food before the end of the month.”

“You know what we had to eat last night? Just a cold can of pork-n-beans. Just ate them right from the can. We couldn’t pay our gas bill so our stove is turned off.”

Just two of the stories I have heard from children over my years of teaching and working on hunger relief in DeKalb County as the founder of DeKalb County Community Gardens.