“48.8 million Americans—including 16.2 million children— live in households that lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis. As a result, they struggle with hunger at some time during the year.” – Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry – Hunger Facts
I spent the weekend feeling unsettled about the wrap up of the MyPlate on My Budget Project. In the few days since my last post I have thought a lot about my own family’s food spending. Each time my brain revisits the subject of food and affordability I find myself working through feelings of guilt, frustration, anger, and helplessness.
Who am I to have so much when millions have so little? Who am I to be able to run into a store at any time during the month and grab whatever I am in the mood for rather than forcing myself to work creatively with the ingredients in my pantry? Who am I to be able to say I don’t feel like cooking and spend my evening meal in the comfort of a local restaurant?
For many years I was a sometimes volunteer for a weekly free hot meal service in Seattle. I spooned pounds of salad and corn onto the trays of hundreds of people who probably only ate a few full meals a week. During college I worked on an extended project that looked at homelessness, specifically homeless women, in Seattle. I have always considered myself an advocate for social justice but somewhere along the way my walk stopped matching my talk. It is time to plug back in to my community. I started to do some research on hunger in America and the programs in place to help people make ends meet. What I found is a federal system in need of a lot of help and some wonderful organizations trying to fill in the gaps.
Today, Our Lady of Second Helpings is joining more than 200 other food blogs to take a stand against Hunger and Food Insecurity in America. This action was organized by The Giving Table to promote awareness of hunger issues in this country and present a call to action to all who read these posts. Please keep reading to the end for information on how to contact your congressional representatives and to view a trailer for the film A Place At The Table.
What is SNAP?
SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), formerly Food Stamps, provided assistance to 47,791,996 people during December of 2012, an increase of 1.3 million from the previous December (from Food Research and Action Center – frac.org).
There are several ways to be eligible for SNAP one is a household income no higher than 130% above the poverty line (2013 Poverty Guidelines). For a household of four people the poverty line is a pretax annual income of $23,550 (numbers differ for AK and HI). A four person household whose pretax income is at or below $30,615 per year or may be eligible for SNAP. (Am I Eligible?)
“The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work.” –American Dream as defined by Wikipedia
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour. A family of four with two people working full time at minimum wage could be earning $30,160 and very likely eligible for SNAP benefits. (assumes two people working a 40 hour week or 2080 hours each per year). A four member household that qualifies for SNAP could receive $668 of food assistance per month, but many households receive less. (How Much Could I Receive?).
This is where I get angry. Full time work, by any employee for any employer, should provide a family with enough money to put healthy food on their dinner table. What does it say about how we, as a society, value each other that millions of hardworking people are denied this ability? (SNAP Eligible Food Items)
Hunger Facts from Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry
- Food insecurity—the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food— exists in 17.2 million households in America, 3.9 million of them with children.
- Nearly one in five children in America lives in households that struggle to put food on the table.
- Hungry kids are more likely to experience serious short- and long-term health issues. They tend to have trouble learning and are more prone to behavioral and emotional problems.
- Nearly half (49.2 percent) of American children will receive SNAP benefits at some point in their lives, reports a study in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, November 2009.
- Food insecurity is most common in large cities but still exists in rural areas, suburbs and other outlying areas around large cities − 25 % of households with children living in large cities are food-insecure.
What about Food Pantries?
According Feeding America’s website – In 2011, 5.1 percent of all U.S. households (6.1 million households) accessed emergency food from a food pantry one or more times.
Closer to home – The food bank in my area serves people in five zip codes. According to their website they provide, “an approximately three-day supply of food is given to each household every other week.”
Though each location is different, many food pantries distribute food only one day a week and during limited daytime hours. People who work during the distribution times are generally unable to be served by the food pantry in their area. (Washington Food Banks)
What can we do?
As I work through my emotions I keep returning to a place of helplessness. “If I have so much, why don’t I have enough to just fix the problem?” That is why I did not hesitate to participate in today’s hunger awareness project. No one person has the tools to solve hunger in this country. Working together we can raise our voices and commit to actions that can, and will, make a difference.
- Use this link to quickly send your congress people a message letting them know how important Federal Nutrition Programs are to you and your community.
- Share your story. If you have an experience you feel will help others better appreciate the face of hunger please leave a comment on this post. Anonymous comments welcomed. Please keep the language in all comments respectful.
- Watch the trailer for A Place At The Table:
“A Place at the Table premiered on March 1st, 2013. This documentary from Participant Media—the same studio that brought you Food Inc.—follows three families struggling with food insecurity, and sheds light on the very real problem of hunger in America.” The film is playing in select cities across the country and is available for purchase from iTunes or Amazon.
From The Giving Table – Find other participating blogs:
- Twitter: Follow @thegivingtable and look for tweets with the hashtag #takeyourplace
- Facebook: Visit The Giving Table’s fan page and look for links to participating posts.
- Pinterest: A board has been created to collect all the posts in one place.
Shrimp and Rice
When I was growing up we did not qualify for any assistance but my parents were frugally minded people and our food spending was monitored closely. My mom had a nice rotation of budget friendly dinners and Shrimp and Rice was one of them. Her version was a way to use leftover rice to make a super fast weeknight meal. The original dish is very satisfying just as it is, served along side steamed frozen vegetables Shrimp and Rice becomes a balanced meal in minutes. For the dish in the image I took Mom’s basic meal and jazzed it up just a little. Whichever version you make should leave you with a full tummy and a happy wallet.
Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: varies 15 minutes if using leftover rice/ 45 minutes if cooking brown rice. Yield: 4 servings
- 2 1/2 cups cooked brown rice, cooked a day ahead if possible
- 3/4lb (12 oz) tiny (cocktail) shrimp
- 1/4 cup soy sauce (low sodium variety is preferred)
- optional: 4 oz. imitation crab (krab), 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, green onion tops, 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
If the rice is cold reheat it in the microwave or in a large saute pan.
Once the rice is hot – use a large sauté pan over medium high heat to cook the shrimp (and krab if using). After 2 or 3 minutes the shrimp will become firm and curl up a little, add the rice to the pan and stir well. When the shrimp and rice are combined add the soy sauce and rice vinegar if using. Stir well and let everything cook together for 1 -2 minutes. Garnish with green onion and sesame seeds if desired. Serve hot with steamed or stir-fried vegetables (fresh or frozen).
Approximate Nutrition for dish without optional ingredients: calories 228, fat 2g, carbohydrates 29g, fiber 2g, protein 21g, PP = 5
Approximate Nutrition for dish with optional ingredients: calories 263, fat 3g, carbohydrates 33g, fiber 2.5g, protein 23g, PP = 6