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Archive for the ‘Food Insecurity’ Category

Sage

We found out on Saturday that we were lucky enough to get a plot at the Liberty Lands community garden. I’ve only done a little container gardening the past few years so I’m excited to have a bigger space to grow some veg. We’ve also added a little herb garden in our new-ish backyard. To say that our yard needs some work is an understatement, so it’s really nice to be able to have some separate space to do some gardening.

Cat mint

One of the awesome activities that the garden participates in is the City Harvest program. Gardeners grow produce that’s then donated to a local feeding program. Obviously I can get on board with that. Seeds and seedlings (started by inmates of the PA prison system) are provided to gardeners who plant them in their own gardens. Liberty Lands donated over 300 pounds of produce last year. Between the earthquake in Chile and the bad weather in Florida (among other factors), food banks are going to be super lean on produce until well into the summer, making this program even more crucial this year.

Chives

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I am obssessed with this blog. Every time it pops up in Google reader as having a new post, I immediately click. I just can’t get over the fact that these folks dumpster dive for their groceries. I also can’t believe how much I can’t believe it, since I work for an organization that RESCUES food that would typically end up in the garbage. That’s what food banks DO, for pete’s sake. And let’s be honest, a lot of the food we get doesn’t meet certain standards for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s short-coded or on the brink of expiration. Sometimes the packaging isn’t quite right or the labels are on upside down. Sometimes a store is just turning over their inventory and we get the stuff that doesn’t have the shiny new and improved marketing look and feel. Somehow, this seems different to me than what the Frugans are doing. Of course we’re not fishing stuff out of the garbage, obviously.

I know myself, and I know that I would never eat something that was fished out of the trash. It harkens back to a Seinfeld episode about a famous eclair. The Frugans eat cupcakes out of the garbage! Why do I have such a strong reaction to this? Part of it is that someone else rejected it, so it must be bad. Plus, garbage is stinky sometimes.

It makes me think harder than usual about how I can waste less. I’m pretty cognizant to begin with yet there’s still that bunch of floppy celery in the fridge, staring out at me every time I open the door. I’ll probably try to revive it by shocking it in ice water, like I learned from Kale for Sale. I’m also looking forward to doing some composting this summer and putting less stuff down the garbage disposal.

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PB&J: yummy, (relatively) nutritious staple that doesn’t often get donated.

Help out by droping off your peanut butter and jelly donations at one of three locations:

1. The Farmer’s Market at Suburban Square, Anderson and Coulter Avenues, Ardmore, PA
2. Most stores at the Promenade at Sagemore, 500 Route 73 S # E1, Marlton, NJ
3. Philabundance’s Galloway Street location in South Philadelphia (3616 South Galloway)

You can also make donations at www.ilikebenfm.com, proceeds will go to buying PB&J.

You can also become a fan of Philabundance on Facebook. ShopRite will donate MORE PB&J for every new fan between now and February 15th.

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The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) published study results earlier this week citing the hungriest congressional districts in the US. Pennsylvania’s First District came in at number two. Here’s the link to the Philly.com article.

The most interesting piece to this study was that the results were based on the answer to a single question: “Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?”

Such a simple question to which the answer says so much. And now, “food hardship,” a new buzzword for us to use.

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1 in 50

1 in 50. The number of Americans whose ONLY cash income is food stamps, according to the New York Times. And according to the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, the average monthly benefit in Philadelphia in November was $264. Nationally, the averages were $101 per person and $227 per household in FY 2008. (according to the USDA).

Considering that I grew up in the 80s and my mom had $100 a week for groceries, $227 per month these days doesn’t seem like a whole lot of money, especially since you can’t buy non-food products like toilet paper and laundry detergent with food stamps. We did okay and my mom was a crafty shopper. Week after week, she stretched the $100 to feed the five of us. We ate stew made with cheap meat, mixed frozen vegetables (with baby lima beans that I picked out) and frozen flounder, the discount fish. The freezer was stocked with frozen chicken that was bought on sale. Simple food that was inexpensive. My mom shopped sales, always, and never spent more than the allotted amount. The BOGO was her BFF. We were never hungry but we never ate out and we never really ate anything “fancy.” Our food splurge for the week was a large cheese pizza from Italian Delight on Saturdays after 5:30 mass.

The lack of compassion from the commenters really got me down. It’s really disheartening to read such negativity, especially since we’ve been floundering around in this recession for a while now. Thanks (for once) to the media, it’s pretty obvious that it’s not just “poor” people who are struggling. We’ve all heard the story about the couple in the foreclosure, struggling to make ends meet after one, then the other loses their job. Everybody needs a hand sometimes, ya know? And guess what? Food stamps = economic stimulus for everyone.

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Behind figuring out how to improve access, the “how much is enough” question probably comes in second for what keeps me up at night. And the question is not only “how much?” but also “how good is the quality of the food we provide?” There’s never enough food to go around. At least that’s what it seems like when hundreds of people call our food referral line and then stand in line outside food pantries for hours on end. And as we continue to put food into the community, time and again, the “how much is enough?” question comes up. Sometimes, some communities seem like bottomless pits.

Is feeding a hungry belly processed macaroni and cheese better than not feeding it at all? More and more often, it’s not always an easy answer. Perhaps that hungry belly won’t be hungry after eating the mac and cheese…but more and more often, we’re seeing that a lifetime of processed foods has the possibility of leading to serious health problems. Shouldn’t we be aiming to not only provide enough food, but enough good food?

Enough good food. At times, aspiring to that seems insurmountable. I think that’s why I liked this interview so much with Brad and Libby Birkey who started the Same Cafe in Denver, CO. I had heard about the Same Cafe a while back but came across it again through Dafna Michaelson’s cool blog 50 in 52 Journey. The premise at the Same Cafe is that EVERYONE is welcome to come and eat a meal. You pay what you can for the meal and if you can’t pay at all, you “pay” with your time by contributing to the operations of the restaurant. The best part is that the food is GOOD, fresh, and a lot of times, locally sourced. While Brad and Libby weren’t the first ones to create this type of model, they’re doing a great job. Their interview with Dafna can be found here.

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Have you seen this commercial? The first time I saw it, I thought it was going to be for Glad storage containers. Instead, it’s for a trash bag, into which about half a meatloaf is thrown. I guess the family was still hungry because then they ordered a pizza. The first time I saw this commercial, I was flabbergasted. I literally laughed out loud because I couldn’t believe it. Then it made me really sad, because obviously food gets thrown out all the time and is apparently an acceptable practice. And I’m guilty of it myself, though throwing out leftover meatloaf especially seems like a crime.

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