4 December 2011

I record Doctor Oz throughout the week, and watch episodes when there's nothing else worth bothering with on TV. If I don't get to them during the week, I watch (sort of, I mostly have it on for noise while I play online) during the weekend, presuming I don't have HGTV on while I ignore it in favor of JigZone or Bookworm.

Today I decided to watch an episode while I had lunch. And dammit if the whole thing wasn't on hunger in America, and I sat there with my chicken salad sandwich while listening to people talk about the realities of being broke and trying to feed kids... yeah, I had to choke the sandwich down. I wanted to grab those kids through the screen and cut them loose in my kitchen. There are some less than stellar choices in my pantry right now, but's food. And I have a phone. Order pizza! I just wanted to feed every last one of them.

We've been broke. When the boy was a baby we measured anything we considered purchasing against how much formula the cost of that would buy. That book? No, not gonna get it. That would pay for two cans of Similac. Pack of new underwear? Three cans. Let's go commando instead. He needs vaccinations? Cripes, the one shot would buy 5 cans of formula. What to do? Sell the coveted 12 string guitar, for one. That'll cover shots AND a lot of food.

We ate a lot of generic macaroni and cheese because it was only 10 cents a box, bought generic canned vegetables by the case when they were on sale, and had weeks on end of peas or corn or green beans. Every now and then the Spouse Thingy's mom sent care packages that included blueberry muffin mix, we were thrilled.Sometimes we made the mac and cheese without butter and cut the milk needed, but the muffins? They got every drop of the 1/3 cup the mix required. MUFFINS!

A night with mac and cheese, peas AND muffins? That was a farking feast.

Meat? When we were lucky, we'd catch tubes of 70% ground beef on sale. Seriously, hamburger in a tube. It sliced into freezable patties nicely, and with some creativity was pretty freaking good. It took a jar of generic spaghetti sauce that would usually only be enough for 1 meal into 3, AND we got to have hamburgers every now and then.

We had parental help here and there, so we never truly suffered. We didn't go to bed without having had dinner. Our son always had food, even though he refused to eat it half the time. Those parents I watched while I tried to swallow past some chicken-laden guilt, they're suffering. Their kids are hungry, and they're doing everything they can to put food on the table for them, but today's realities mean that sometimes they go without.

Kids are going hungry. These kids are so hungry that if given food they hate, they'll choke it down.

And it's unconscionable that this happens in the U.S. It sucks that it happens anywhere, but in a land of abundance, no one should go hungry.

Ever wonder why so many people who are on food stamps, who stand on street corners holding signs asking for change, who seem to skip lunch every damned day are overweight?

The food they can afford, when they can afford it, is packed with simple carbs. Pasta is cheap. Ramen noodles are cheap. They're also calorie dense. So yeah, you can be very, very hungry and gain weight. During the years I ate the least amount of food overall, I gained the most weight. Living on mac and cheese and spaghetti will do that to you.

But we never went hungry. We probably qualified for food stamps but never pursued it, because we had food. I doubt we even realized it was horrible food. But we had it, and it wasn't until much later--when the Spouse Thingy was in the USAF and we notched up from Tube Meat to slightly better hamburger--that the realization of our likely malnutrition occurred to us.

We're more aware of it now. It doesn't escape me that we can go out for dinner on a whim and spend more on one meal than we did in an entire month nearly 30 years ago.

We've done the donate-the-canned-goods thing; a couple of times a year someone sticks a notice on our door saying they'll be in the area in a day or two collecting canned goods, usually the Boy Scouts. If we have enough notice--we don't always--we stick a few cans out. That's painless.

It's easy during the holidays to do something because grocery stores run their Buy-a-Bag food drives. For $20 right there at the cash register you can buy a bag of food that will be donated. That's painless, too.

I know you can make cash donations, but I wasn't sure exactly to where, so I engaged my Google-Fu and looked for local food banks, and actually let out a Duh when it coughed up the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano County. I see that name on the food donation bins in Safeway all the time. I've seen their ads more than once. Hell, I've written them checks the last couple of years.

I don't know why I didn't immediately think of them...but there you have it. I doubt I'm the only person who kind of shoves the uncomfortable things in life into the recesses of the brain.

They make it easy to help, too. A direct link right there on the website. Hell, they make it easy to have a monthly donation automatically charged to your credit card, if you so choose. But one of the more unique ways to donate to them surprised me.

Like, BART tickets.

Every time you ride the BART train into the city, you buy a ticket based on distance, and there's always a few cents left over at the end of the day. If other people are like we are, they toss the tickets because hell, it's a nickle. Or a dime. We went into San Francisco several times this year, and the grand total left on all the accumulated tickets was probably $5. Tossed 'em.

But ya know what? Five bucks can buy 10 meals. And the CCS food bank can take those tickets and get cash for them. I wish I'd known that. Sending them our used tickets with the pennies left over? Painless.

You can bet I'll be saving them throughout next year.

And you can bet if they had something like the 3 Day, I'd be walking in it.

I've eaten crap because crap was what we could afford, but I've never been truly hungry, and I hate the idea that I could throw a baseball in any direction and hit a neighbor who might be. And today, that's entirely possible. Someone might have the house, might have a car in the driveway, but they might also be so very, very close to losing it all, and they may be going hungry to make sure they keep a roof over their heads.

It sucks.

Depressing blog entry to read? Maybe. But there's something we can all do. Find out where the local food bank is, and if you do nothing else, pop $5 their way.

Look at their website. See if there's anything different you can do, like saving subway tickets to send in.

It doesn't mean you have to get deeply involved and volunteer to bag food and stack boxes, though that would be nice, too. Just a few bucks here and there.

Me...I'll do something because that chicken salad sandwich is sitting like a lead weight in my stomach.

I'm allowed to be selfishly motivated.

Whatever works, right?


Cheysuli and gemini said...

Historically obesity was considered a sign of malnutrition (one of many) so I really find it offensive when people point fingers at the fat person and say they clearly don't need financial help. Clearly, those people do.

Been there done that, though not quite as strictly as you all--I only had me to feed at the time and I also had family who would help out if need be. I always have some dollar bills in the car for the people pan handling--as well as giving to charities that do more than I ever could-

Angel and Kirby said...

Many of us have been there. My Hubby was laid off and we had a tiny baby. He worked part time, a couple of hours a day for 50 cents an hour. The baby always had food, we could live on peanut butter. I help when I can!

las794 said...

I've had some lean times, too--bread & bologna, peanut butter, cereal if I was feeling really flush. My local food bank is definitely my favorite charity, & I do the monthly draft thing.

Christie Critters said...

In our area we have Interfaith Community Services and they have a food bank (and a "soup" kitchen and showers and a shelter...). We send things their way when we can.
I heard a story over the weekend about a church who was collecting for their congregation Thanksgiving baskets...they weren't getting enough donations so the committee doing the baskets got on the phone and "strong armed" other church members. they not only filled their boxes, had 15 boxes left over for the local food bank.
Talk about your loaves and fishes!

epk said...

There is an organization that does walks to end hunger. They are world wide and usually work locally and internationally. Check out CROP walks:, bet there is one in your area.