It sucks to be poor. The poorer you are the poorer the quality of food you have access to.
The poorer you are the higher the rate of food insecurity.
Food insecurity refers to the lack of availability of food and one’s access to it.
It goes hand in hand. This isn’t some sort of rant, make-you-feel-guilty ploy. This is the reality. And this is what I witnessed firsthand yesterday at the Capitol Food Bank where my classmates and I volunteered.
Our role was to walk the food bank’s clients through the faux grocery store setup and let them chose what items they wanted (or didn’t want).
The grocery store consisted of these items for clients to chose from:
10-12 small onions
10-12 small-medium potatoes
1 head cabbage
Morningstar veggie burgers
1 package of pie crust
1 can of beans and rice (15oz)
1 can of tuna (5oz)
2 cans of black beans (15oz)
Northern beans or pinto
1 can of corn (15oz)
1 can of green beans (15oz)
1 can of spinach (15oz)
1 can of tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce (15oz)
1 can carrots (15oz)
1 can peas (15oz)
1 can of pineapple
1 can of mandarin oranges
1 can of peaches
1 can of applesauce (unsweetened)
5 packs of peanut butter crackers
2 boxes of peanut butter pop tarts (big box)
1 bag of oatmeal or 1 box of cornflakes
Breads including almost ready to be thrown out- baguettes, ciabatta, foccacia, hamburger buns, sliced whole wheat, multigrain, seeded bread
High sugar. Gluten. Highly processed. Canned.
What’s the first thing you think of when you see this list?
At least they have food.
That’s not my problem.
They should go get a job, then they would be able to afford better food.
Hopefully you’re not in the first category. It’s that exact type of thinking that leads to the institutional structures and systems that have been kept in place for years. The same systems that “attempt” to remedy certain issues (like hunger and poverty) yet nothing seems to get better (it’s getting worse).
I know for me I was shocked at the quality of food that was being served to the people coming through the doors of Capitol food Bank. While the food has been given through the generosity of places like HEB and Central Market, I couldn’t help but wonder,
What can I do to help provide access to lower income community to more nutritious food, even in food banks?
And while I do not have a solution just yet, I am very clear about this:
Healthy eating is not always a personal choice. There are communities that simply do not have the access or the resources to make those choices.
Going to your nearby Whole Foods is a luxury, not a necessity. (click to tweet)
There’s nothing to feel guilty about here. Though I was struck with both guilt and gratitude during my visit to the Food Bank I also know that being grateful for what we have right now, serves as a catalyst for paying it forward to those who may not be as fortunate or blessed. (click to tweet)
So what can you (and I) do?
I’ve come up with a few things that I plan on implementing over the course of the next 6 weeks. Feel free to use those ideas:
Donate a portion of what you buy to local food banks. I plan on visiting my Costco and buying green vegetables in bulk so that the people coming to the Food Bank will have access to more nutritious food that they may not normally have access to.
Share with a friend and family members. I have found that most people are happiest when they are giving to others. I definitely can think of a few people in my life who would love to pay it forward in this way.
It’s OK to ask for and give help. Remember we do not live on an island. Whether we like it or not we are an interdependent species.. If you see someone struggling, help them. Putting yourself in another human being’s shoes is the first step towards having a more compassionate consciousness.
Evaluate how much food we’re buying and wasting. It’s soul crushing to throw away perfectly good food when there are millions of people starving each and every day.
Most importantly- do not shy away from becoming aware about what’s going on in your neighborhood. I get it. The statistics are staggering and can be depressing. But turning a blind eye or thinking that it can’t and won’t affect you is like avoiding a growing rash.
I also highly recommend the movie A Place at the Table.
You can watch the trailer here: http://youtu.be/Stx5PGsFj20
Here’s to your nourishment,