The Art of the Cart–4

By Susan Brockway

The last two weeks have been a struggle for my adopted family.  She has lost some of her hours at work and is really struggling with fuel prices.  We have talked twice and shared 3 recipes.  I have made a commitment to her to share from my garden, which is finally in the ground after large spells of rain. 
I have been shopping 4 times and it continues to amaze me what people of all socioeconomic groups are putting in their carts and what is NOT being included.  Since I grew up in a home where we did not spend money on the limited non-nutritious food that was available, I am still saddened when I see struggling moms and dads so tired after working two or three jobs, spending money they don’t have on packaged meals with little to no nutrition.  What is the answer? 
I am still optimistic that working one-on-one with families will help.  I have heard from some of you who have also done the same.  Maybe a grassroots movement is what we need to look at in the future, making a difference one person at a time and then empowering them to do the same.
In addition, flooding in the Midwest is going to be a repeat crisis of New Orleans, but with a twist.  While driving through Iowa in the past week I saw green fields of rolling hills, and picture perfect farms.  Cities like Cedar Rapids and Iowa City have experienced more water than ever intended, and the real victims are going to be middle class families who thought they were insured, but will find there is nothing to start over with.  Many of their homes will be much like those in New Orleans, inhabitable. 
We will have people screaming for reasons why this happened, while we have not yet addressed why it happened in a city of rich in tradition and music and culture almost three years past.  Having spent a good deal of time in states hit by Hurricane Katrina, I can tell you the only difference between what people feel in the lower ninth ward and Cedar Rapids is a change of zip code.  I predict food banks and their agencies are going to see an increased surge of people needing resources, only to find their federal state dollars cut because someone is going to have to pay the billions, not millions needed to get people back on their feet.  And this, like Katrina is going to be a multi-year financial nightmare.
My family in Northwest Arkansas, much like families hit by Katrina and now the floods and tornadoes of 2008 have one thing in common:  They are hardworking and trying to make ends meet. 
My question for you today:  What can you change today to make a difference?  Let me hear from you…agree to disagree, but get in the game while we have a game to play.

13 Replies to “The Art of the Cart–4”

  1. Joyce Jacobs

    We have been much more aggressive in taking perishable food donations and trying to bring in as much fresh produce and meat as possible to provide nutritiious food to the needy in our community. Encouraging  organizations to increase their refridgeration and freezer capacity to handle this wonderful product. Agency clients tell the story of hunger so much better than we do. -A mother of six, whose husband has ben laid off from construction work, describes why summer is the hardest time:All six children will be home and all will need food three times a day. -A single male, laid of from restaurant work, now homeless, who never visited a food pantry before, asks not to be given rice. Why? How can he cook it when he’s living on the street corner? For two mothers, whose low-wage-earning husbands have been laid off due to the slow housing market, no time of the year is better or worse for hunger. When there’s work for their husbands, things are all right. Now with the increase cost in gasoline and food, everyone  is at risk for being hungry.

  2. Stacey

    The organization I work for – Citizen Schools – connects volunteers with middle school students for hands-on learning projects that last eleven weeks.  More and more of our volunteers have begun to work on apprenticeships with the kids that educate them on healthy eating.  This "organic" growth and interest among our volunteers has led the organization to begin work on a more formal curriculum for other volunteers.  We are in the process of pulling together ideas and Janie’s post on education made me think that this group might have some good thinking to share.  I’d love to hear if anyone has heard of similar projects and/or general thoughts!

  3. whitey

    Like Scotts idea also look at buying up plants of any type at reduced prices finding open lots and turning them into mini-garden plots I know there is a big area up by Jesse Cosby. Sure some of retailers would donate plants Harold Patterson 231-8328 would be a good resource to get this going.  

  4. Angela Courage

    I have tried one of the ideas I have to offer, and that in response to the food waste that goes on in our own kitchens. 

    I once had a neighbor who was a single father (foster kids that he adopted).  He owned a bed and breakfast.  When the inn was full he often needed help, so I would go help him change sheets, and get everything prepped for the guests.  In turn, he would invite my (not so small) family over after all the guests had eaten, and we’d enjoy the gourmet leftovers.  Then when he had no guests, I’d double my recipies and invite his not small crew of boys over, and we’d eat at my house.  We shared our resources.  We were neighbors who became friends . . . or was it friends who became neighbors?

    We need to learn how to share again.  We do not have to look very far to see someone that we could not only share our abundance with, but who also has an aboundance (probably of more than just food) that they are looking to bless someone with.

    I am looking for friends and neighbors now to help me apply this same idea to grow my own fresh garden.  As a now single mom, who has raised 5 children on not fast or pre-prepared food, I simply do not have all the time or energy I need to do all the work of a garden.  However, I could not eat all that my garden would contain . . . nor preserve it all.  How about a neighborhood garden?  This concept could solve several problems.  1.  The problem of nutrition.  2.  The problem of not knowing our neighbors  3.  The problem of skill (or lack thereof) in how to grow and/or prepare healthy foods. 

    I’m betting that if I humble myself and go ask my elderly neighbors for help (who know how to do everything!) we would all learn a few things, we would all eat better, and we would all feel a little more important and cared for in this world.  We would be good neighbors . . . or is that friends?

    This year I finished Grad school.  Next year . . . neighborhood garden, my back yard.  Whaddaya think?

  5. Ed Nicholson

    Carol–You raise a very interesting point.  The market–consumer demand–is what has led us to where we are today.  There are many who believe food companies are responsible for the emergence of fast, convenient and inexpensive. Fact is, food companies respond to consumer demand–they really  have no other choice. In spite of what some believe it is really virtually impossible for marketing to send consumer demand in a direction to which it’s not naturally inclined, and price is a huge factor.  When Tyson introduced certified organic chicken six years ago, it lost money hand over fist for the four years the product was on the market. Because of economies of scale adn the ability to absorb those losses, Tyson was able to offer the products at a lower cost than most others offering organically produced chicken.  Yet consumers were simply unwilling to pay the extra required to produce the product (due to certified organic feed ingredients and other more expensive inputs).   When local organic farmers can effectively compete  on the basis of price with large scale production(and granted, some do), buying locally will be a more attractive option for those to whom cost is a major factor. Meanwhile, your idea of offering stir-fry recipes with organic vegetables is a good one. Education will go a long way. Translating economies of scale and convenience into better nutritional choices for all would take it a step further.

  6. Carol Freeman

    We need to get past the idea that poor food choices are dictatated by class–poor food choices, which all of us make, are dictated by what is fast and easy, despite widespread knowledge that fast food and easy carbs are bad for us.  Where is a drive in farmer’s market?  Where do organic veggies come with a stir fry recepie attached?  Why does my 80 something mother have to sign up for food stamps (which she will not do) to afford fresh produce?  We have created the fast food nation–and we can recover our country of wise local food choices if we put entreprenurial energy into the solutions.  Franchise farm stands, anyone?  Carol F

  7. ana
    Every day thousands of pounds of perfectly nutritious and tasty meals are wasted… right out of our homes. In my case, cooking just for two is hard for me. I grew up as part of a family of seven. All of my recipes could easily feed ten people, so even when I scale them down, the pots and pans showcase enough food for at least five. I always end up arriving at one of two bad choices: a) between my husband and I, we overeat by consuming one and a half more than a regular portion by “cleaning” the plate…and pots…and pans… or b) we store food in the fridge in one or several of the many recycled containers I also learned to wash n’ save when I was growing up. The next time that my husband or I would pick up this container, it would be when we are disposing of it. I think this challenge of mine, is actually an opportunity. This is the spark your question created: What if I could find a way to share rather than waste? How can I change this practice for the better? How many other people in our community experience the same frustrating culinary dilemma? Right now, I am part of the problem; however, I know I can be part of the solution. I am thinking that this could be converted into a program in partnership with my local food bank, local industry and my beloved Tyson. Let me explain. My local food bank may be able to identify individuals or families in need and their location. At the same time, via email or web other unintentional wasteful loving cooks out there can register their kitchen to share their meals with someone in need. The food bank finds a match (i.e. a family that lives in the cook’s way to work), makes the introductions and the families adopt each other. More on the mutual adoption in a moment, but for now the local industry part of the equation. Rubbermaid, Glad, Tupperware, etc. have ties to Northwest Arkansas… what if I was to approach one of those companies and see if they would be interested in designing a food container with a purpose? Along with the registry at the food bank as a cook, I would love to purchase specially designed containers (featuring food preparation tips, promoting the program, or any other useful information), if I knew that a percentage of the cost will support my community’s food bank cost of operation. These containers could be distributed and purchased through Wal-Mart or any other regular channels already in place, which makes the program easy to replicate in other communities in association with their local food banks.  And finally, I would continue purchasing my favorite Tyson protein products to prepare my meals and to honor the many team members who –just like you, continue to positively challenge me to be a better person, even in the kitchen! Now, on the point of mutual adoption… well, there is more to the story. Of course, I love to cook… but I am cooking less and less because I hate to waste. When I don’t cook, the quality of my home’s meal goes bust leading to carbs abuse and quite unbalance choices. I know that if the food I cook would find a higher purpose – other than to become a forgotten container in the fridge, the health (and soul) of everyone involved would improve. I too believe in the power we have within to change the world one person, one meal at the time. Now is your turn…What do you think? Good, feasible spark? Bad idea? Please give me some feedback. J
  8. Angela Courage


    The hunger problem calls for a mass change in values across the board.  Yes, tired, single, working moms sometimes have to opt for the cheapest and fastest way to feed several children in the hour break between job 1 and job 2 or between job 2 and classes.  However, people willing to work that hard are not the nutrition/hunger problem.  I know, I am that single mom with 2 jobs and going to school, and McDonalds is NEVER However, I don’t like being stereotyped as an "at risk".  Perhaps it is that we are all much more "at risk" than we realize . . . New Orleans, and now the Midwest.

    Nutrition is becoming a lost art . . . as is being a neighbor.

    My parents and grandparents had the family garden . . . what was grown and preserved from that garden was what the family existed and sometimes subsisted on for the rest of the year.  Now, we seem to have more resources available, but are less resourceful.

  9. Janie Singleton

    Many families in poverty are doing all they can to just put food , any food, on the table.  We certainly know that most high carb food is much cheaper than good nutritional food.  I see at risk families in line at the fast food places.  They are tired from working and want the cheapest, fastest way to feed their children. I know that even if fresh vegetables and meats were available,  many of these families wouldn’t know what to do with them.  They take preparation time for the family to eat them.  The working Mom is too tired to prepare the meal and the kids are really not much help.  Many at-risk mothers are part of the poverty cycle that grew up with no the kitchen knowledge on food preparation and nutritional information.  They have nothing to pass on to their children since many of these moms dropped out of school and can not get a job that pays above minimum wage. No education and no help and no money. We can also help those in need with accessing food stamps, but they must learn to spend what little they have on wise choices. 

    Education is so important.  We need to do all we can to keep these kids in school and taking survival courses such as cooking and sewing.  At least I learned to boil water and know the foods that were good for me.  (I know this last statement really dates me)  Now cooking is no longer required.  In fact, many of the skills kids need to take care of themselves are no longer being required in school.  this also includes gym that promoted exercise.  They are not getting these skills at home either.  I would love to get cooking and sewing back into the schools and really make the courses beneficial to the kids.  Maybe the pendelum is swinging back.  I think many of us in food banking and in the food business can take advantage of these hard times to train families better in money management and food nutrition.  I know we are continuing to have more nutritional food at the food bank since we are now having to purchase so much of it.  Nutrition education is a goal at our food bank.  We will be doing more of this after we complete our new Community Kitchen.  We are now preparing 850 dinner meals a night to take to four local Kids Cafes in Amarillo public schools.

  10. Scott

    We we’re a little late reserecting an old food bank program called Plant A Row. So we modified it a little. We made wanted posters calling for Donate a Row. We’ve placed them in all Co-ops, nurseries, garden centers and wherever else sold garden supplies. It’s been a week and we’ve had numerous calls. We will be doing the same thing with the posters for Hunters for the Hungry. I personally will be giving some of my garden. Old ideas need to be brought back. The saying goes if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Folks, I’m here to tell it’s broke. Please share ideas they worked in the past for feeding people n need. Nothing is insignificant.

  11. Candy Gilmore

      We have an annual food drive for local food pantry collecting non-periishable items from our Team Members.  Also, we have two major events  in the plant where food is served and send all remaining to Salvation Army or food pantry. I’m sure there are many great ideas out there and I’ll be watching for other comments.

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