Mac & Cheese
Cake or Brownie Mix
If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you can hear me squealing, gasping for air, fanning my face, and reminding myself aloud to breathe! Where do I even start? Do I start with the fact that everything on the list is void of fiber, Vit. A, protein, Vit. C, etc? Do I start with all the sugar (or artificial sweeteners) and artificial colors that can cause problems for children trying to concentrate and sit in their seats at school? Do I even bother to mention the fact that almost nothing on the list will even fill up a hungry belly? Seriously, they want soup mix?
This is such a huge issue that I don't know if a single blog post can do it justice, but I'm going to give it a go. I'll start by saying that I am not an ogre who thinks that poor people should just starve. But we are not doing them any favors by giving them junk to eat. First, it's bad for them. (I personally do not consume a single item on the list.) Second, every item on that list is overpriced, because you could make a similar dish from scratch for about 1/4 to 1/2 the cost, which I do. Third, when the recipients do have more money, they'll waste it to buy more edible food-like substances (EFLS) because they think it's good for them. As someone just said to me yesterday -- I kid you not -- "They wouldn't give it to us if it was bad for us."
It should not surprise you that I disagree with Big Ag's assertion that world hunger can be solved by GM crops. Hunger can be eradicated by better distribution and education. Several "experts" have said that we already have enough food to feed everyone, but there is a problem with distribution. If you have ever worked at a grocery store (or talked to someone who did), you know how much fresh food gets thrown out on a regular basis. You'll hear a similar story from people who work at restaurants. Servings are obesity-sized, and many people don't take home left-overs.
When I went to the composting seminar in February, a man with a professional vermicomposting business said he picks up trashed produce from the supermarkets regularly to feed his worms. He said he quickly learned that there was a big difference between something that was not salable and something that was not edible. A store gave him an entire shipment of apples one time because they weren't shiny enough. The produce manager said people wouldn't buy apples that weren't shiny. (You know they're only shiny if they're waxed, right?)
In the documentary, Food, Inc., they follow a lower-class family through the drive-through of a fast food restaurant as they buy dinner for their children -- and then later at the grocery store when they tell the youngest that she can't have a pear because it's too expensive. The family in the KFC $10 meal challenge has the same problem with understanding the value of food. And this is where education comes into play. People need to be educated about food, cooking, and even gardening. This is not a new idea.
Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.Instead of giving people EFLSs, why don't we volunteer a couple hours to teach a cooking class at a homeless shelter? Or a class on making menus and budgeting for food? Until our church started talking about selling its current building, I was thinking that it would be a great service to have a community garden, where people from shelters could learn how to garden and get fresh produce at no cost. When I lived in the Chicago suburbs, I remember a garden at one of the jails. It was a coveted position for inmates to be allowed to work in the garden, and one woman was quoted saying that she was planning to start a garden when she was released. There have to be better ideas out there than giving people boxes of empty calories. What do you think?
To see more blogs about real food, check out Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade.