Food Bloggers Against Hunger

8 Apr

When my mom, brother, and I first moved to the States, we were poor. And I don’t mean watching your vacation spending, cutting down on mani pedi’s-poor; I am talking about sewing patches on your jeans, re-using Ziploc bags, buying groceries using food stamps-poor. We weren’t the only ones: 59% of food-insecure households reported that in the previous month they had participated in one or more of the three largest federal food and nutrition assistance programs: SNAP (formerly food stamps), School Lunch and WIC.

Fortunately, thanks to family support and a ton of hard work and frugal living on my mom’s part, we were eventually able to reach a level of financial stability that allowed us to be more flexible in our spending and afford some luxuries. When I reflect on my childhood, I feel lucky. Although I remember knowing that my family didn’t have as much money as my friends’ families and that weekly mall trips to Abercrombie and Hollister were never going to happen, I didn’t feel deprived of my basic needs and I never once went to bed hungry. Some people don’t have that luxury and you don’t have to go far to find families who are struggling to put food on the table.

Hunger is not just an issue that affects children in Africa or rural China – over THIRTY percent of the children living here in D.C. experience food insecurity throughout the year (check out where your state stands here). That puts our nation’s capital at the top of America’s list for highest percentage of children under the age of 18 who will experience limited availability of nutritious food during the year.

Seriously? We can do better than that.

Right now, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), what used to be food stamps, is at risk of facing cuts to the budget.  44.7 million Americans used SNAP on average per month during the 2011 fiscal year.  This is over 4.4 million more participants than in the year 2010.  Almost half of the participants are children, with 18.5 million children receiving SNAP benefits.

According to a 2009 study in Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, nearly half (49.2 percent) of American children will receive SNAP benefits at some point in their lives.

I know this topic can get political quickly, but I just want to focus on what happens when people receive SNAP benefits.

The average monthly SNAP benefit in 2011 was $133.85 per person, or ~$1.44 per meal.

Let’s stop and think about that.

Imagine spending less than $5 for a day’s worth of food. Assuming three meals a day for a month of 31 days, you would have $4.32 to spend on breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I know people who spend more than that on their coffee every day.

Unlike most of us, those using SNAP don’t have the luxury of “going over budget” on groceries for the month. Once the money is gone, it’s gone.

For many families, the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables seem astronomical and the stress of nutritious meal planning for a family can be too much – especially for those who may be working multiple jobs or going to school. The Dollar menu at McDonald’s starts to look pretty good – no worries about cost or preparation time. My family was all about the 49 cent cheeseburgers at McDonald’s on Wednesday evenings.

Some people don’t have the time to think about the long-term impacts of malnutrition – they’re too focused on making sure their kids go to bed with something in their stomachs. Unfortunately, a childhood of processed foods, sugar, and fast food can lead to significant health problems later down the line.

Healthy, nutritious food is something that should be accessible and affordable to every citizen and right now, it’s simply not. The Giving Table is an organization that’s trying to change that. Inspired by the documentary, a Place At the Table, the Giving Table is trying to raise awareness about hunger in America and encourage citizens to speak out about making anti-hunger legislation a priority.

If you’re curious about the documentary, you can watch the trailer right here and see if it’s playing in your area. If it’s not, it’s available on iTunes or Amazon On Demand.

If you can’t watch the trailer right now, here is the synopsis from the production company:

Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine this issue through the lens of three people who are struggling with food insecurity: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her and has trouble concentrating in school; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford.

Their stories are interwoven with insights from experts including sociologist Janet Poppendieck, author Raj Patel and nutrition policy leader Marion Nestle; ordinary citizens like Pastor Bob Wilson and teachers Leslie Nichols and Odessa Cherry; and activists such as Witness to Hunger’s Mariana Chilton, Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio and Oscar®-winning actor Jeff Bridges.

Ultimately, A Place at the Table shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation, and that it could be solved once and for all, if the American public decides-as they have in the past-that making healthy food available and affordable is in the best interest of us all.

This issue is very near and dear to my heart and I am happy to do my part to bring awareness to the situation.

Food For Thought: Do you have any experience with food stamps or SNAP? Do you know somebody who has ever used these programs?

3 Responses to “Food Bloggers Against Hunger”

  1. Aunt Rebecca April 8, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    All your clothes that first winter in Seattle came from the Lopez community, too. Gifts from my people!

  2. bezzymates April 8, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    Great post. I work in a school and sometimes I wonder if any child is going home without dinner tonight. We all can do our part. I often give to the local food bank.

    • Sara @ Magia e Pasta April 9, 2013 at 11:23 am #

      Every little bit helps, I think. I always think about children at the school where my boyfriend teaches and it makes me sad to think that so many kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

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