A Place at the Table

8 Apr

The Real Deal it’s not, but for many in America, it’s all that is available and/or affordable.

A Place at the Table is a new documentary produced by the team behind Food, Inc..  Nichole Gulotta of The Giving Table has asked a group of food bloggers to draw attention to the film and the more than 47 million Americans who do not have a reliable, daily supply of adequate food.

A Place at the Table

Click Image to View Trailer

I watched the film last week and although it is about hunger, what stands out is the disparate connection between not having enough to eat and being significantly overweight. How can they go hand in hand? The reality is that the foods that sustain health frequently are economically out of reach.

An important aspect of this blog and an underlying motivation is to draw attention to issues related to food system reform including access and affordability. Overall, it’s about the food, but not just from the end of the spectrum where it shines ingredient by ingredient, but also from the other end where solutions are needed to address insufficient, inferior options.

The food movement has gained prominence and momentum since its start in the early 1970’s with the publication of Frances Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet.
Diet for a Small PlanetIn a recent essay in The Nation called The Food Movement: It’s Power and Possibilities, she is asked if things have gotten better or worse since she wrote the book. Her answer is both. In a positive direction, it is challenging “a failing frame: one that defines successful agriculture and the solutions to hunger as better technologies increasing yields of specific crops. This is typically called ‘industrial agriculture’, but a better description might be ‘productivist’ because is fixates on production, or ‘reductivist’ because it narrows our focus to a single element.”

Industrial agriculture does produce enough, but the focus is narrowed to a limited number of crops, specifically corn, soy, wheat and rice that are the building blocks of the unhealthy, processed products that fill grocery shelves.

Udo's Choice™ Food Processing Pyramid

It is this nutritionally devoid food that is often the only economically viable choice for individuals and families who are part of our national food program SNAP (Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program). Food stamp participants are allocated an average of $3-4 a day for three meals.  As defined, this amount is intended to be a supplement, but to be eligible for food stamps, a yearly salary must be below $25,000 a year for a family of three which is not much of a budget to build from.

The U.S. ranks worst among IMF’s Advanced Economy countries on food insecurity. One out of every two kids will be on food assistance at some point in their childhood. Yet in November, 2013, these benefits are scheduled to end.  On the other hand, since 1995, the government has spent a quarter of a trillion dollars on subsidizing commodity crops.  This leaves us with more than enough food, just not what individuals and families living on the edge financially or geographically need for a healthy diet. The relatively small producers who grow fruits and vegetables don’t have the clout of large agribusinesses which has caused the price of fresh fruit and vegetables to go up 40% and obesity to rise while processed food prices have gone down.

As Raj Patel says, it’s a paradox. “Welfare for the poor is scorned but corporate welfare is endorsed.” What can be done? As this movement continues to gain momentum, we as citizens who have the luxury to enjoy fresh, healthy, real food need to move from the position of conscious consumer to engaged citizen, directing awareness, resources and action toward this problem. To start, you can

1)   Watch the movie

2)   Write Congress and show your support of anti-hunger legislation

3)   Follow Farm Bill legislation and push for changes

And what will I do? I hope to raise funds with The Whole Pantry to provide consultation and assistance to people struggling daily to cook more and eat better. I hope to help these individuals and families by:

1)   Purchasing pantry staples and fresh produce in bulk, keeping the price low, and arranging farmers market deliveries.

2)   Developing and sharing recipes for meals that can be stretched into two or even three dinners.

3)   Offering information on cooking and eating seasonally when produce is at its best while being at its lowest price point.

4)   Providing a budget-based plan that will make a once a week grocery run possible.

5)   Teaching and empowering kids and teenagers to prepare healthier snacks and meals.

Lastly, I’ve been asked to provide a budget friendly recipe featuring reliable pantry staples and ingredients that are accessible in most supermarkets. Because I am traveling, I am reposting my stir fry recipe but I will be adding a section within the blog so that going forward, The Real Deal can be a resource for inexpensive cooking ideas.

Spring Veggie Chicken Stir Fry

CHICKEN and VEGETABLE STIR FRY

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoon Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Canola Oil or Vegetable Oil
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen diced vegetables (Carrot, Broccoli, Carrots, Green Beans, Peppers, Mushrooms, Onions or a combination.  If fresh, preferably in season) *
  • 2 Boneless Chicken Breast, cut in large bite sized pieces *
  • 5 Kale or Chard Leaves, vane removed, sliced thin or Spinach Leaves
  • 2 Whole Garlic Cloves, pressed
  • 3 shakes of Soy Sauce, approximately a tablespoon and half
  • Seasoning Salt or Salt, Pepper and Thyme, to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oil in heated frying pan.
  2. Add vegetables and chicken, starting with those that take longer to cook like carrots, peppers and onions.
  3. Stir frequently.
  4. Add kale or chard, garlic, soy sauce and seasonings.
  5. Place a top on the pan and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes or until chicken is done.
  6. Remove whole garlic cloves.  Adjust seasoning.

Serve with a grain like rice, quinoa or bulgur.  Purchase unseasoned and cook with water or chicken broth, adding your own seasoning to taste.

* Look for supermarket sales on produce and meat and buy extra at the lower price to freeze for later use.  Or visit the Farmers Market toward closing time and buy produce at a discount.

UPDATE - April 18th, 2013

Results from the Event

Food Bloggers Against Hunger

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