“50 millions Americans exist without enough to eat in a nation with more than enough food.”
This is what I learned thanks to the eye-opening documentary about hunger in America, called A Place At the Table.
When Pablo was three weeks old, we realized he wasn’t gaining weight. I was breastfeeding exclusively at that point, and wasn’t producing enough milk to feed him sufficiently. When I found this out, I had this feeling of panic, guilt and overwhelming sorrow. If Pablo had been crying so often, it’s because he was hungry. I thought, “I am a mother, and I have been starving my child.”
This terrible feeling I had, resolved in a matter of hours by supplemental formula and a reassuring pediatrician, this unbearable feeling is felt by millions of mothers and fathers on a daily basis as they face the unfathomable burden of food insecurity. They do not know where their or their kids’ next meal will come from. 1 out of 5 children, 16 million kids, struggle with hunger in America.
Levels of food insecurity match high rates of obesity. Some children are obese and hungry because they eat nothing but chips, cookies and sodas, as those are the only “foods” their family can afford. Meanwhile, our government is massively subsidizing the huge agro-businesses producing these non-foods.
So the most affordable food is often the unhealthiest.
How can this be possible?
I am not an activist at heart. I often feel helpless in larger causes, and feel my only way to make a difference is to try to focus on nurturing the Good around me, one person at a time.
And I suppose this post is one very small way to do that.
The challenge set by The Giving Table for Food Bloggers Against Hunger, was to present a “budget-friendly” recipe, and reflect on what I would do if I was hungry. At first, I had planned on posting a soup recipe, before realizing families on food stamps most likely do not have blenders or mixers. So I tried to come up with a nutritious meal with minimal means.
If the food stamp program gives about $4 per day per person, that meant I had 16 dollars for a family of 4, a little over $5 per meal. I went to the supermarket with my $5 budget in mind. I walked in, passed the $4.99 box of cookies, and $5.99 cheeses, and started looking for my ingredients, counting pennies. Organic was out of the question, of course. I splurged with the sardines in olive oil (vs. the less expensive ones in soybean oil). Buying dill was a downright luxury. The lemon, I got from my neighbor’s tree to stay within budget.
Bottom line is, I’m humbled and I take a lot for granted. I can’t really imagine what it would be like to live like this, day in and day out. I can’t imagine not feeding Pablo any fruits and vegetables.
I have been sharing with you here my journey nurturing my son. I am always in awe of potential. Of how much is possible, if we can nurture our children and help them grow a healthy body and mind. Like a gardener feeling a profound need to nourish his seedling, to create all the right conditions for it to grow, to protect it.
This potential is being destroyed, malnourished, starved, for millions of children, with devastating mental and physical consequences. Today. Right here. Millions of futures are stunted.
If you feel strongly about it, here are some things you can do:
– Get informed, starting with the Share Our Strength website.
– Go to this link and take 30 seconds to send a letter to Congress asking them to support anti-hunger legislation.
– See this documentary either in theaters in your city, or on demand through iTunes or Amazon.
And on a personal level, let us continue to promote the family meal and the use of real food by supporting local organizations focusing on education about real food, by talking about it around us in the community, by finding out where our food comes from and boycotting processed junk foods if possible, and by cooking at home and appreciating the immense value of real food. Let us revive the lost of art of homemade family cooking, of gardening one’s own foods, within our family, our circles.
And let us be grateful for the access to those real foods and the ability to have a place at the table.
Sardines two ways
Inspired by “Sardines en boîte, les 30 recettes cultes” by Garlone Bardel
Note: This is two separate meals, feeding 3-4 people each.
Age for babies: 8-12 months
Grilled sardines with onion, garlic and lemon
1 can of sardines in olive oil
1/4 small onion
1 garlic clove
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup peas
2 slices of wheat bread
Quarter the potatoes, place them in cold water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes.
Open the can of sardines, and pour 1/2 of the oil into a frying pan.
Dice the onion, slice the garlic. Slide the slices of garlic between the sardine fillets in the can. Add the onion on top. Drizzle the juice over it, and place the can in the broiler for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat, add the peas and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring a couple of times. Remove the peas, reserve the oil. Place bread slices in the frying pan and toast/fry with the little bit of leftover oil.
In a plate, mash the peas with a fork. Spread on the fried bread.
Serve the grilled sardines with half a mashed peas toast and a couple of pieces of potato.
Sardine, cottage cheese & pea tartine
1 can of sardines in olive oil
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup cottage cheese
4 slices wheat bread
1 tbsp diced onion
1/4 cucumber, diced
2 sprigs of dill
Open the can of sardines, drain and reserve the oil.
In a frying pan, heat a bit of the oil over medium heat, add the peas and cook for 4-5 minutes.
Place the peas on a plate. With the remaining oil, fry the bread slices over medium-high heat until just brown on one side (one at a time, adding a bit of oil every time, if frying pan is small).
In a bowl, mash the sardines, peas and cottage cheese together with a fork. Stir in the onion.
Spread the mixture over the bread, add a few pieces of cucumber and a bit of dill for garnish on top.