Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Food for Thought Continued

The comments to my previous post on this thread continue to furnish new things to think about. Aine and Jackie (who even brought one of my favorite writers, Barbara Ehrenreich, into the discussion) gathered into the fold all those folks who are living in their vehicles, or in weekly room rentals in less-than-savory parts of town. These folks don't even have the equipment to make Kraft mac & cheese out of a box, unless they're using illegal hot plates or other fire hazardous pieces of cooking equipment. And there are probably more of these people than most of us realize. The book Jackie references, Nickled and Dimed; On (Not) Getting By In America, was written ten years ago, and documents the conditions at that time for the working poor. A point Ehrenreich makes is that the low-wage jobs held by the majority of the working poor are exhausting, and both physically and mentally degrading. Ten years on from Ehrenreich's investigations, the number of folks who have lost their jobs, well-paid white collar jobs as well as manual labor, their homes, and their vehicles, is bound to have grown by leaps and bounds.

Lisa has some interesting ideas about education in the use of commodity items, and Aine brings in the use of the crockpot, or slow cooker, something I was planning to introduce myself. I want to say something here about the students in my ESL class, who are all Mexican immigrants, working as service employees at the Univ. of New Mexico. They are legal immigrants, some are already citizens, some are working on the process. As presently all of them are women, food and cooking are frequent topics of our class discussions. None of them receive any government benefits, they are fiercely independent and proud of being able to hold a job in this country, no matter how menial cleaning the University Hospital clinic bathrooms, or the dorms or the classrooms may be. They have brought the cuisine of their native country with them, and cook every night for their families. Those who work the night shifts cook meals in the morning before they head to work, which they leave for husbands and kids to warm up when they get home. They use the slow cooker as one of their main cooking tools, for a staple of their diet, beans, as well as soups and stews. It is ironically interesting to me that the food movements I mentioned in my last post are mainly based on foods that were originally peasant fare, poor people's food that needed a lot of ingenuity and time in order to produce something savory and delicious. My students are cooking peasant food without belonging to any trendy "movement," simply because they don't have a lot of money and the nutrition of their families matters to them very much.

Something else Lisa brings up is a truly fascinating idea, that of a "foodmobile" modeled on the bookmobiles used by libraries to get books to rural areas and parts of town and cities without a nearby library. I have some doubts, as does she, that this could be an effective and viable government program. But what it could be, I think, is a food bank program. Getting to the physical location of the banks is bound to be difficult for many people, as they are often located in distant industrial sections of a town or city. A mobile pantry, stocked with nutricious staple items, and staffed by an educational volunteer willing to give cooking classes travelling through areas where people need the help the most, maybe biweekly - giving live demonstrations and hands-on participation in how to use the items in the van that session. I have to bring in Growers' Markets as a resource here, as in this town anyway, all of our markets accept WIC, EBT and Senior food checks (Commodity Supplemental Food Program) for fresh seasonal produce, some of it organic, some not. All of it better than what can be found in neighborhood groceries. I have suggested to our local food bank that they connect with the Growers' Market managers to get a deal going where leftover produce from the markets could be donated to Roadrunner Food Bank and distributed to their clients. At the market I usually frequent, there are often demonstration projects to show market customers how to use produce that may be new and a little scary to them. That market is located in an area close to downtown, and has customers of every class, ethnicity, walk of life. It's education for the masses.

Okay, this is way too long, and I think I have run dry. Please continue to add your thoughts, to post on this subject. We have by no means exhausted it. I, however, am a little exhausted by it for now. Thanks for all the input, what a great crew reads and writes on this blog. I am so glad to be part of the gang.


Nancy said...

Love Barbara E's writings....and get this. Her daughter was in my mom's classes, and I used to be Barbara's mother's helper. What a brilliant woman! (Her kids ain't bad
Anyway, glad to hear your views...a great post!


JACKIE said...

There are also programs in the Eugene/Springfield area that allow gleaners to harvest crops and these go to the local food banks.

Another good book is Hope's Edge by Francis Lappe and her daughter. Community gardens, school gardens, even jail gardens.

Also an indictment of coporate news gathering. Thank heavens for the net and the blogosphere. We'll get the news out somehow.

alphawoman said...

I saw on 60 minutes (I think) one of the football coaches in CA who goes out into the neighborhoods where the homeless live and distributes soup and warm food to those who want it. I believe he makes it himself! What a world it could be if all our good intentions and good ideas could be put into action.

marigolds2 said...

What a world indeed. What a wonderful idea, not just an idea, but an actuality.

emmapeelDallas said...

Ehrenreich's book is so should be required reading for all CEO's, IMHO.