Archive for March, 2013

a place at the table.

place at table

If you haven’t seen this documentary yet, you need to. What a lot of Americans don’t know (and I didn’t know!) is how incredibly prevalent hunger is in our country. Also known as “food insecurity”, 1 in 6 Americans don’t have enough to eat. 1 of every 2 kids in America at some point will be on food assistance. And to round out these statistics, the US ranks WORST among the International Monetary Fund’s Advanced Economy countries on food insecurity. Fabulous, right?!

The documentary follows a number of families across the country, in very different areas, and illustrates how incredibly ineffective our government is at helping solve hunger in this country.

One family, in rural Colorado, receives donations every week from a food bank. Their shelves are filled with processed foods, breads, and pastas—they haven’t had vegetables in months.

A single mother with two children in Philadelphia grew up eating Oodles of Noodles and Chef Boyardee and now has to feed the same things to her children because the food stamp program in America is so horribly underfunded. How underfunded, you ask? Well first, your income must be under $24,000/year. If that’s the case, your allotment is $3/day for groceries. A bunch of C-suite’ers interviewed in the movie tried going shopping for a week on this, and struggled immensely. They realized they couldn’t afford any high quality foods, but filled their carts with pop, chips, cookies and junk like so many Americans that are food insecure.

Mississippi claims the highest rate of food insecurity AND the highest rate of obesity of American states. A second grader they interviewed, Tremonica, already has diabetes and is grossly overweight for her age. Her mother knows she should be feeding her more balanced meals, but simply can’t afford them. In Tremonica’s school, their teacher teaches them what honeydew melons look and taste like—even letting them pass a pre-sliced melon around the class, in an effort to help them recognize this in the grocery store if given the opportunity.

Problem is—Tremonica and her classmates live in a food desert, which basically means an area so far off the beaten path that food distribution companies [read: the trucks that deliver fresh foods to grocery stores] just can’t justify the delivery costs to deliver to these places. That leaves areas with a few grocery stores that are more similar to convenience stores or gas stations than they are to grocery stores. They will maybe have an occasional banana but nothing in the way of fresh or nutritious foods.

onenation

How did we get here? In the 1930’s, the government subsidized farming as an emergency program to get the economy out of the Great Depression. BUT… we never let the market take over after the economy settled. Essentially, agribusiness took over family farms, and started cranking out a ridiculous amount of soy, corn, cotton, wheat and rice. These are also called commodity crops, and according to the documentary, comprise 84% of government subsidies. Dairy and livestock receive about 15%, leaving fruits and vegetables with less than 1% of total government subsidies. One reason? Most fruit and vegetable producers are small, and don’t have the political clout of the big guys producing the commodity crops.

So what does that mean for us as consumers? Government subsidies = cheaper product. Cheaper product = more profit for the food industry. More profit = the ability to invest in huge infrastructures to process these commodity crops into the packaged goods [read: crap food in the middle aisles] that we consume today. To summarize, more subsidies = more crap = us eating more crap. (I’ve said it before, people!)

The real processed icing on the processed cake? Since 1995, the USDA has spent a quarter of a trillion dollars ($250,000,000,000… lots of zeros.) on farm subsidies. And guess where that goes? Big Agra.

So what is the government doing about it? Every 5 years, Congress meets to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act.  A few years ago, schools spent an average of $0.90 – $1.00 per school lunch in America. THAT’S LESS THAN YOUR STARBUCKS COFFEE EACH MORNING. In 2010, in an effort to “help” fight child hunger, Congress passed “The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act”. Awesome, right? Ehhhh, not so much. Instead of accepting the proposed $10 billion in funding activists were asking for, they allotted a $4.5 billion increase over 10 years. That roughly equals a 6-freaking-cent increase per meal. What really was the knife in the back was that over half of the bill was paid for by cutting the food stamp program. In the words of one of those interviewed, it’s like pushing your mashed potatoes from one side of the plate to the other and saying you were fed. Nice, Congress. You sure solved that problem.

In case $4.5 billion sounds like a lot to you (which it did for me), let’s put it into perspective. For the bank bailout, the government gave $700 billion. When Bush passed the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%, they ponied up $1.3 trillion over 10 years.

jeff

he’s really “the dude”.

Jeff Bridges, a child hunger advocate since the 80’s, said it perfectly, “If another country was doing this to our kids, we’d be at war.”

The cost of hunger and food insecurity to the US economy is $167 billion each year, and is getting worse. One example—1 in 3 children born in American in 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes. ONE IN THREE.

What can we do? Food banks and charities are a start. But to most interviewed, they are a bandage on the bigger problem—the legislation surrounding nutrition and hunger in America. (And want to know a big proponent of legislative change? My boy Tom Colicchio.) If you are all about getting your voice heard, check out Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry website. You can also check out Feeding America to find charities and food banks near you and also find resources for advocating for change.

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So being a foodie AND paleo makes life hard sometimes- like, really hard. I LOVE food. I love trying new foods and dishes and restaurants—but most usually have some element of gluten, which even though tastes delicious going down, feels not so nice afterwards.

Chicago just finished up their restaurant week, and let me tell you—it was amazing (as usual). I tried 4 new restaurants and each did not disappoint. I was trying to plan an outing with my friend Annika during restaurant week (who has a gluten allergy) and I forget how un-fun a week like restaurant week is for those people that actually CAN’T eat gluten (unlike myself who just feels like crap the day after). You pay a bunch for food you can’t eat!

Heaven behold. Senza: a new restaurant that popped up recently in Lakeview that is entirely gluten free. Alcohol-food-dessert-everything gluten free. And with 4 courses (and an amuse!) for only $50 (which if you think about it—is basically just as much as restaurant week and you get more courses AND can pick what you want). WIN.

And let me tell you. This place is SO GOOD. The chef, Noah Sandoval, came from Schwa (which has one Michelin star and who’s chef [Michael Carlson] has been nominated for a James Beard Best Chef: Great Lakes for the last 3 years). The food was delicious (oh- AND they bring you a whole loaf of gluten free bread, too!), the ambiance was awesome and service was great. And both of our cocktails were the bomb dot com.

Here’s my menu recommendation (from what we both got and liked!):

DUCK CONFIT || huckleberry | saffron | pea tendril

PARSNIP SOUP || pear | celery | lobster | caviar

SCALLOP || golden raisin | cauliflower | foie gras

SPIKED APPLE CIDER || sorbet | gingerbread

I recommend this to anyone—but especially to those with gluten allergies or someone like me, trying to have a foodie night out, without feeling like complete crap in the morning!

breadsenza 1entreesdessert

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