What would you eat, if you only had a budget of $4.00 a day?
It’s not an easy question to answer. Now, figure in these other complicated overlays:
There are no grocery stores within a 3 mile radius of your home.
You have no car.
Your kitchen is outfitted with an apartment sized refrigerator, a hot plate, and a small microwave.
The possibilities become even narrower, don’t they?
For 50 million Americans, that question, with or without those other complications, is an everyday reality.
Out of our population of 300 million, that means 1 in 6 of us faces the challenges of inadequate food access on a daily basis.
And, 17 million are children.
Together, we are shining the light on the grim facts to spread the awareness that hunger is your neighbor.
After I sold my catering company in 2005, I turned my attention to food activism. What does that mean?
We look at our food system in these areas: how to make good food accessible and affordable, how to support our local farmers and producers, and how to effectively solve the problems of hunger and food insecurity.
I volunteer at our food bank, teach healthy cooking classes; I worked at community gardens and farmers markets. Over time, I have seen a dramatic shift in the collective consciousness:
People want to know and support local farmers. They want to know where their food comes from.
People recognize a crisis of obesity in our nation. Poverty, processed foods, and obesity are all interlocked.
People understand the need to eradicate “food deserts.”
People believe that having access to basic good healthy food is a fundamental human right.
No one wants anyone to go hungry.
And yet, the numbers of those who suffer from hunger and food insecurity have Not dwindled. Sadly, the opposite is true. Why?
Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush tackle the complex problem with clarity in the documentary, A Place at the Table. The film follows three families who come from diverse backgrounds and live in different parts of the country–in rural and urban settings.
What they share is a struggle to put food on the table everyday.
The film examines the many contributing factors of our ever-widening food gap: a stagnant economy, huge government subsidies of Corn, Wheat, and Soy (which have made Processed Foods very cheap-a core piece of the poverty-obesity epidemic) while ignoring fresh vegetables and fruits, and a shift away from government assistance to private charities.
Since 1980, food banks across our nation have grown from 40 to 40,000. Without question, they help, but what they do is not enough. Jacobson and Silverbush make the case that while the food system is broken, the hunger issue is solvable. We have solved it before. It takes the will of the people.
Below you’ll find links to more information.
Meanwhile: Consider what would you eat if you had only $4.00 a day?
I gave it a lot of thought. Here are three healthy recipes that are inexpensive to make.
When I was shopping for this post, I kept in mind that if I were in the shoes of 50 million of my fellow citizens, I might have a limited pantry. I might not have olive oil, or a wealth of herbs and spices. I might not have a freezer to store food in bulk, which is cheaper. I might not have access to fresh produce. So, I shopped lean. All three dishes could be made “better” with more and costlier ingredients, such as cheese. Or meat.
But, as they are, they are tasty and nutritious.
SWEET POTATOES RANCHERO
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large sweet potato, cubed–2 cups sweet potatoes
1 can tomatoes with chilis (Ro-tel brand makes several–get the spice level you like)
1 handful fresh greens (collards or mustards, kale or chard), finely chopped
1/2 cup rice
4 corn tortillas
2 green onions, chopped
salt and pepper
Toss cubed sweet potatoes in oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spread out on a baking sheet. Roast in a hot (400 degree) oven for 15 minutes, until cubes have crisp brown edges and cooked interiors.
Simmer chopped greens of choice with diced tomato-chili blend.
Cook rice. (1/2 cup rice with 1 cup lightly salted water: bring to boil, then simmer, covered for 12 minutes.
Warm tortillas in the oven.
Fry two eggs.
Assemble the Ranchero:
Place 2 tortillas on each plate. Spoon rice over tortillas. Spoon wilted spiced greens-tomatoes over rice.
Place sweet potato cubes over the spiced greens layer.
Top each with a fried egg.
Serves 2 generously.
Cost of the entire dish: $3.45 ($1.73 each)
RED LENTIL-COCONUT MILK SOUP
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder ( or make own blend of cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
1- 14 oz can coconut milk
Place a large pot on medium heat. Add vegetable oil (or olive oil.) Stir in onions, garlic, and carrots and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add curry powder (or 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon ginger) Allow spices to bloom in the heat of the mixture.
Add lentils and 3 cups of water. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
Stir in coconut milk. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Makes 1 1/2 quarts (6- 1 cup servings)
cost of the entire dish approx. $3.00 $.50 per serving
BASIC PASTA E FAGIOLI
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
2 cloves garlic, slivered
1/2 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight, or 1 15 oz. can cannellini beans
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (I found “Italian style” which already had some herbed seasoning—otherwise, season with your own
blend of dried herbs—oregano, basil, thyme
1/2 cup ditalini pasta
Place a large saucepan on medium heat. Add oil, then garlic and onions. Stir in salt and red pepper flakes. When onions are translucent, stir in beans. If using dried beans, add 3 cups of water and simmer, uncovered for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
When beans are cooked (they will be firm, with soft interiors) add the canned diced tomatoes and juice. Fill the can with water and pour into the pot.
If using canned beans, drain and rinse the beans and add to the garlic-onion saute. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the canned diced tomatoes and juice. Fill the can with water and pour into the pot. Stir, and continue simmering.
In a separate pot, bring lightly salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Stir cooked pasta and pasta water into bean-tomato mix. Taste and adjust for seasonings.
cost of entire dish approx. $2.75 ($. 71 per serving)
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Education and Advocacy: sharing recipes and knowledge, spreading awareness, contacting your elected representatives on local, state, and national levels are all ways to get involved to promote change and help end hunger.
HEALTHY AFFORDABLE RECIPE ROUND-UP:
Share your ideas and recipes in your comments to this blog below, or post them on The Giving Table’s Facebook page. To see the other food blogger’s contributions, go to The Giving Table’s Pinterest Board: Food Bloggers Against Hunger
SEE THE FILM/REQUEST A SCREENING
Those who see A Place at the Table cannot help but be moved by the stories.
If you haven’t seen the documentary, look for it at your local theater. You can request through iTunes, or On Demand. Here’s a preview.
If you live in the Nashville area:
On Monday, April 29th, at 6:00 pm there will be a special screening of A Place at the Table at the
Downtown Presbyterian Church, 154 5th Avenue North hosted by Nashville Food Bloggers
There will be a healthy affordable meal prepared by local chefs, and the opportunity for Q&A with leaders from the Community Food Advocates.
CALL TO ACTION
I encourage you, my readers who live in the U.S., to follow this link to advocate for change. We want to flood Congress with thousands of messages that we the people have the will to solve the problem of hunger and food insecurity in the United States. Now, they must show the political will. Cutting SNAP benefits to those in need is a criminal act. In our own state: linking those benefits with children’s good grades puts a family responsibility on the backs of children. It is not only wrong and counterproductive, it is diabolical.
We want to make a place for everyone at the table.