The Art of the Cart

On a recent trip to the grocery store, I decided I would do a little “investigative shopping” to determine if food prices were really the problem, or just an excuse to give a social issue more leverage.  I was saddened to see people pick up healthy products and then place them back on the shelf, instead going for things like sugar based fruit drinks instead of juices and 99 cent boxes of high fat and sugar packed pastries instead of eggs and fresh fruit; and little protein.  I looked in my own cart and realized how lucky I was that while I am definitely in that “middle class” being slammed with everything from higher gas prices and foreclosures; I could still add nutritional choices to my cart. But I am a family of one, not fighting to feed a family of four.  My fellow shoppers were carrying calculators to make sure they could make it, not because of choice, but necessity.  Please join me over the next months as I try to decipher the art of the cart, or how to get good nutrition into a shrinking budget.

Posted by Susan Brockway

2 Replies to “The Art of the Cart”

  1. John T. Evers

    I greatly appreciated the shopping insights and observations.  Education, specifically nutritional education, is always something that is left out of the long-term solution to alleviating hunger.  Maybe it is often left behind since it is an intangible or a "process" goal rather than simply providing food.  The more immediate and satisfying sight of shipping a van full of food to the local pantry versus the cook-shop or recipe card development seminar. In a related vein, we often try to make the choice of food (client choice if you will) left to the individual as much as possible in order to stress dignity and not merely infer "here is your food – be happy with what you get."  It is an ironic twist we have not fully ironed out: do we provide what is wanted to insure we are not mandating or imposing menues or do we try to encourage different eating habits at the risk of having unwanted food thrown out?

    As food bankers we strive to gather food or recover food that would go to waste and then, in turn, stock the thousands of pantries located around New York.  But, more is needed to help insure sound eating habits.  In fact, I often state that it is akin to the old proverb about giving a person a fish versus teaching a person to fish.  One is short term, the other lasts a life time.  Food banking is not just about canned goods and bulk food – it is about fresh vegetables, meats and proteins, dairy, milk, and high vitamin foods such as fruit instead of sugary snacks.  We always give canned goods – which are good, stable products – but we have a responsibility to supplement these with foods many middle-class people take for granted.  Once people are educated, and actually realize how to prepare such foods, the process leads to better shopping habits and greater well-being. 

    But, make no mistakes, it is a hard road and there are no easy routes.  At least we are aware of the necessity of such needs as food bankers, and we are trying.  Our current economy does not help and we often find that getting can goods is hard enough.  Thank God for summer and the return of fresh fruit and vegetable season.  We are proud of our renewed commitment to getting fresh fruits, vegetable, ethnic favorites, and locally grown produce to our pantries.  With a little education, recipes, and subtle coaching, shopping trips may include a new endeavor – looking for that wholesome food in the supermarket found last week at the pantry. 



  2. Betsy Reithemeyer

    I join Sue in lamenting over the state of the food choices many of our neighbors are currently being pressured to make.  It is tough when you have to choose between a lesser quality food choice for your children  due to balancing of food, fuel, and bills.  And yet I also wonder why so many of the packages are so big and portions are so large.  In this time when every penny truly is counting, it is also a good time to have better guidelines on what a healthy portion of food is vs everything being super-sized all of the time.  In my own household, we are working to this end.  We can still enjoy some of the foods we have grown used to – -but in a smaller serving.  And, drinking water out of the tap vs bottles of water all of the time, much less soda.  These are tough choices and hard to explain to children — but as the wallets continue to shrink while costs rise, they are some of the ways we are all going to have to consider to keep healthy choices in our basket.

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