Holidays and Hunger

I’ve let myself go. It has been more than three shameful weeks since a new post on this blog, and I am disappointed in myself. Of course, I could use the excuse of the hectic holiday season–and I will. Whenever I sat down in front of a computer for recreational purposes, I almost always got sucked into online gift shopping.

The reason for the start of the hiatus was my being sick. I apologize for the weakness. I had the standard range of cold symptoms. It wasn’t the kind of thing that kept me from cooking completely, but instead of stopping every few minutes to grab my camera and take a photo or pick up a pen and make some notes, I stopped every few minutes to cough or sneeze and then wash my hands. Boy was my skin dry. The foods ranged from roasted sweet potato wedges and farro with mushrooms and greens to macaroni and cheese, the ultimate comfort food.

Starting in the first week of December, the clock seemed to run at double time after 5pm each weeknight. My holiday baking started so late that some people received packages after Christmas. Sigh. In case you are wondering, some of the treats I prepared were Smitten Kitchen’s sugared pretzel cookies, cornmeal jam thumbprints, hazelnut cherry chocolate bark, fudge-y brownies, peanut butter/chocolate chip cookies, and the standard frosted cut-out sugar cookies.

Time crunch aside, I have plenty to be grateful for this holiday season. That includes the wonderful fresh food I have available to eat each week.
A place at the table image
This would be a good time talk about a movie screening I attended last month, facilitated by Island Harvest, the local hunger relief organization on Long Island. In partnership with a cinema, they screened the film A Place at the Table, a documentary focused on hunger in America. It happens to be produced in part by Tom Colicchio and his wife, and Tom Colicchio attended and participated in panel at the end of the screening, which I will admit was a draw. While we sat and watched the film, I felt saddened, infuriated, and enlightened all at once. Any description I try to make will not do it justice, so I strongly recommend you buy it and/or watch it, and tell everyone you know to see it. Like I said before, I am grateful to be among Americans who can afford a home, health care, and all the food I need. IMG_0060Having a substantial grocery budget is a luxury, and such resources are not available for millions of people–for millions of Americans. In fact, millions of American suffer from food insecurity, which means they are unsure about where there next meal will come from. They are thinking about food all the time, and not in a fun way.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) directly benefits those who are struggling to afford food, and it continues to be cut amidst battles over the Farm bill. I, along with those involved with the film, think this is tragic. Of course it is possible to find points of contention, especially when it comes to something political. Plenty of coverage is focused on people’s concern about abuse of the system (why isn’t there more coverage of corporate executives jumping through loopholes?). I believe it should be noncontroversial to provide children with nutritious food every day. If we don’t, we are putting our poorer citizens at an greater disadvantage, and wasting their potential. Once people stop worrying as much about having enough to eat, they can better focus on the things we Americans place so much value on: working hard, absorbing knowledge, and taking care of oneself. Here’s hoping that politicians do their part to restore SNAP funding in 2014.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, and hunger-free New Year.

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