A homeless man was tried for stealing $4.50 worth of food. Here's what the judges said.

In 2015, Roman Ostriakov was sentenced to six months in an Italian jail for attempting to steal $4.50 worth of cheese and sausage.

Ostriakov was convicted for stealing cheese and sausage. Photo via torange.biz.


His sentence was finally overturned this week by a panel of judges for the sort of reason that restores your faith in humanity just a little bit.

Italy's Supreme Court in Rome. Photo by Tiziana Fabi/Getty Images.

According to a BBC report, the judges ruled that because Ostriakov was homeless and had stolen the food because he was desperately hungry, the theft was not a crime.

A man in Italy sleeps outside a train station. Photo by Tiziana Fabi/Getty Images.

The ruling was a stunning display of compassion and a rare acknowledgment of the cost of being poor.

A man in India eats in a prison yard after having been rounded up for begging on the street. Photo by Chandan Khanna/Getty Images.

Ostriakov's conviction and acquittal highlights the often harsh (and disproportionate) punishment meted out to crimes that are born out of poverty and desperation.

In the United States, things like conviction and sentencing disparities for crack versus cocaine and petty theft versus financial crime serve to reinforce the notion that being poor deserves an increased level of criminal scrutiny.

There is evidence that poverty — even when less extreme — primes people to make negative decisions.

A 2013 study, published in the journal Science, found that for the subjects of the experiment, who were poor, worrying about money noticeably impaired their ability to perform well on unrelated spacial and reasoning tasks.

Rather than wasting public resources throwing people in prison for being hungry, we can and should use those resources to make sure they're not hungry in the first place.

Photo by Paul Sableman/Flickr.

In the U.S., that means supporting programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as SNAP or food stamps), which feeds millions of the hungriest Americans every year despite frequent efforts to draw down its funding or defund it entirely. It's not always sufficient, but it's often better than nothing — and ultimately a fairly small component (2.3%) of the federal budget.

Recently, more radical measures like universal basic income, which would provide in place of targeted social programs, have gained some traction with advocates on both sides of the aisle.

We can't give everyone a free pass, but we certainly give them enough of a hand that they shouldn't need one.

People eat at a food bank in New York City. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

An editorial in an Italian newspaper — translated by the BBC — hailed the ruling for being a guided by a concept that "informed the Western world for centuries — it is called humanity."

Better yet, let's extend that humanity to hungry people before they're forced to a choice to steal or starve — a choice that no person should have to make.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture