April Food Day

April 1, 2010 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment

Today is April Food Day, a day when bloggers are asked to write about hunger in their communities to benefit the national food bank Feeding America and to raise awareness for national and local food bank services. The timing couldn’t be better. I’ve been working at the Capital Area Food Bank for a week and a half now, and it’s already had a profound impact on the way I’m thinking about food.

I came to the job – the perfect kick-off for Usey Communications, fourteen weeks filling in for a staffer on maternity leave – already aware of the good work done by CAFB, already troubled by hunger in the community, already a buyer of cans and stuffer of sacks for several food drives a year.

But I didn’t have the whole picture. I hadn’t heard some of the personal stories of clients in need – a mother looking for any work she can find to put food in front of her children, an elderly married couple whose meager monthly budget means they have to choose between prescriptions for diabetes management and healthy meals, a small businessman who worked hard his whole life before a medical condition cost him his business and then his home.

I hadn’t seen the newest numbers, the ones that show that 48,000 people a week — a week! — need help from the Food Bank and its partner agencies who distribute the food. Among the statistics about those helped by CAFB: 41% of those receiving food are children, 82 percent of them aren’t homeless, and more than a third of the elderly go extended periods without food. Similar numbers come from Feeding America, whose national statistics bear out the local increases in use of the food bank, costs for basic needs, and the pressure that puts on food banks trying to meet those needs.

And I hadn’t seen the foodbank itself, where more than 60 people work to fight hunger, or the warehouse where Capital Area Food Bank employees and volunteers stack and sort and repackage donations from throughout the community, from food drives and grocery rescues. Individuals and groups around Central Texas are generous with their nonperishable goods and checks, and the area’s grocers have gotten into the act in a huge way. Several times a week, trucks roll in with goods from stores like H-E-B, Randalls, and Wal-Mart (whose recent zero-waste policy has led not only to increased food bank donations but corporate composting and recycling too), with canned goods, baked goods, even meat and produce.

I don’t want to sound like an overprivileged naif who’s just discovered that some people go hungry. But working this closely with an agency whose mission is to nourish hungry people and lead the community in ending hunger gives me something to write about today for April Food Day, something to think about every day, something to do something about when I can. I am fortunate to have my own little business, to live in a two-paycheck household, to be able to run to the store when I need to pick up something for supper. I’m feeling that a little more keenly after the last two weeks. The day I spent in the warehouse with the rest of the CAFB staff, helping to sort and package boxes for our partner agencies’ food pantries, will stick with me for a long time. As a culture, as a community, as individual households, we waste a lot. I’m trying to plan meals now so they last a little while but not so long they wind up going uneaten. I’m trying to buy groceries that aren’t as expensive, not just for our own stretched budget but for the principle of less consumption, and when I splurge, I’m trying to acknowledge that this is a splurge, a luxury. And I’m trying to spread the word about hunger, to encourage others to think about the issue and how simple it can be to help.

Pick up a couple of extra cans of tuna and drop them in a food bank barrel. Buy $10 worth of unperishables and leave them for your postal carrier on Saturday, May 8. Reach out to your local food bank with a $10 check. Here in Austin, the Capital Area Food Bank uses monetary donations to provide more food to more people, even as they process the unperishables and get them to local food pantries. Nationally, Feeding America is doing the same thing.  If you’ve got a little something to spare, April Food Day is a good day to do it.

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Some of my cookbooks

In no order except for how they appear in my LibraryThing cookbook catalog: True Women Cookbook: Original Antique Recipes, Photographs, & Family Folklore, Janice Woods Windle (1997) * Made in Texas; H-E-B's 100th Anniversary Cookbook (2005) * The Texas Cowboy Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos, Robb Walsh (2007) * The Silver Palate Cookbook, Julee Rosso, Sheila Lukins (1982) * In the Land of Cocktails: Recipes and Adventures from the Cocktail Chicks, Ti Adelaide Martin & Lally Brennan (2007) * Braise: A Journey Through International Cuisine, Daniel Boulud (2006) * Moosewood Cookbook : Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant, Mollie Katzen (1977) * Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer's New Orleans, Susan Spicer (2007) * Saveur Cooks Authentic American: By the Editors of Saveur Magazine, ed. Colman Andrews (1998)

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