Take Your Place
We’ve all felt it. But have we really? Most of you reading this probably really haven’t. I know I haven’t. That feeling of hunger that is not just the need for sustenance… but the feeling of not only needing that next meal, but having absolutely no idea where it is coming from.
Recently a documentary called A Place At The Table took on the task of bringing to the forefront an alarming fact. Over 50 million Americans are food “insecure” – that means they could be anywhere from unsure where there next meal is coming from, all the way to starving. That is an alarming number when you stop and think about it. 16% of our population. Thats worse than the unemployment rate, and its only getting worse as the years tick by – not better.
There is so much talk about the increasing rate of obesity in America and around the world. And that is not an epidemic that has escaped those who are hungry. In fact in most cases the opposite is true. Processed food is often the cheapest option available. So naturally when you need to stretch every food dollar you have, where else do you think most people would turn? There are lots of factors to blame when it comes to how cheap processed food is (coughgovernmentsubsidiescoughcough) but with out getting too political (although this problem knows no party lines, only financial ones) there has got to be better options out there when it comes to spending your food dollar wisely, no matter how few of them you have.
In response to that dilemma, The Giving Table rallied food bloggers around the country together to explore some solutions. The facts of the matter are rough. The average family living on food stamps (or SNAP as they are called now) has just about $4 per person per day to spend on food. Thats as much as most of us would spend on a cup of coffee on the way to work. A family of 4, fed on just $16 a day. Makes it pretty easy to see how that dollar menu at McDonald’s or that bag of chips and a bottle of cola sound like the best you could do, huh?
So the goal here is to think about how would we do it, if we were in those shoes. At first glance it doesnt seem to bad if you think about it long term – $16/per family per day, thats $112 per week. I think the problem that most people in this situation face is the lack of time to plan and make good food decisions. $112 at the grocery store for a week of food could stretch pretty far if you try hard and plan ahead. But most folks just don’t have (or take) that time. They are working multiple jobs, they are stretched thin in too many other areas as well.
As I brainstorm meals… ideas… recipes… I keep coming back to the whole chicken. It really is just such a great option when you think about cost savings and stretching food into multiple meals. A whole chicken can run you about $6 for a 4lb bird. Roast it with a bunch of veggies and you could have many a great meal ahead of you. A 1lb bag of frozen carrots – $2. A 5lb bag of potatoes – $3. Add a bunch of each to the bottom of your pan, add the chicken on top , rub with a little salt, pepper and oil and roast.
The chicken can either be cut up and eaten as is (and feed said family of 4), or pulled for a variety of different meals… tacos, enchiladas, sandwiches, bbq, quesadillas, pasta, soup, pizza, salads…. the list could go on forever. And the best part about a chicken (okay, 2nd best part) is the leftover bones. Throw those bad boys into a pot of boiling water, with some extra veggies if you have some, and make a stock. The next night, add some noodles and you could have chicken noodle soup on the super cheap.
I do not envy people in this situation. Not in the slightest. But this is a situation we can do something about. We can help. Share Our Strength, a fantastic organization aimed at ending child hunger in America, has organized a call to action, to bring the issue to the attention of our nations politicians. Take a quick minute and add your name to the list!
Donate to your local food bank. The broader solution to this problem stretches further than food banks can reach, but that doesnt change the fact that those donations still end up on the dinner table of some needy family. Every little bit helps. Spread the food love.
And of course, check out A Place At The Table. It may not be in your local theater anymore, but you can watch it on demand on iTunes or Amazon.