Archive for September, 2009

Unemployment, Changing the Face of Hunger

It’s no secret that unemployment numbers are on the rise. In August 2009, the national unemployment rate rose to 9.6 percent. In Michigan, with the fall of the auto industry and the struggle of small businesses to survive in a beleaguered economy, the jobless rate gained two-tenths of a percentage points last month, hitting 15.2 percent.

In Detroit? Well, the unemployment rate in Detroit has hit a whopping 28.9 percent. In a way, Detroiters have become the face of a dispirited America – those hard-working folks who continue to survive in the face of an economic downturn.

How has unemployment changed the face of hunger?

Last week, Assignment Detroit (a long-term feature by put out an article on the changing face of hunger in Detroit. They say, “As middle class workers lose their jobs, the same folks that used to donate to soup kitchens and pantries have become their fastest growing set of recipients.” They also point out that Gleaners Community Food Bank, host to Operation Frontline, has experienced an 18% increase in distribution, while the Department of Human Services has seen a 14% increase in applications to such federal asisstance programs as food stamps and WIC.

Like many articles before this one, Assignment Detroit points to urban argiculture as an alternative: “It’s not so much that these gardens are going to feed the city, although they certainly help. It’s more that they can be used to teach people, especially children, the value of eating right.”

Eden Gardens. Photo Credit: Think Detroit Blog

What do you think?

We’re wondering what you think about hunger in Detroit. Now that more and more people are in the same boat, will we continue to implement more sustainable options like urban agriculture in Detroit? What are those options?

When a nation like ours has an obesity problem, what is the value of knowing where your food comes from, to be able to cultivate accessible fruits and vegetables?

And for those 25 and younger, you can express those thoughts in a film competition called Faces of Hunger in America, a project of Palms for Life Fund. The project is meant to “visually depict in their communities the growing epidemic of hunger in the United States. This national competition for documentary short films… intends to bring the issue of hunger onto the forefront of the nation’s radar screen while at the same time empowering our youth, the future generation of leaders and activists, to facilitate positive change and challenge antiquated principles.”

September 29, 2009 at 5:58 pm Leave a comment

The Great American Dine Out – September 20-26


Along with Operation Frontline, Share Our Strength works to eradicate hunger through their other programs: Taste of the Nation, the Great American Bake Sale, A Tasteful Pursuit, and the Great American Dine Out.

This week, from September 20-26, thousands of restaurants are participating in the Great American Dine Out with the intention of raising money to support an anti-hunger campaign.

According to Share Our Strength’s website:

“The first annual Share Our Strength’s Great American Dine Out rallied nearly 4,000 restaurants across the nation—from coffee shops to fine dining restaurants—and millions of consumers. These restaurants participated in a variety of ways— donated a percentage of sales, promoted select menu items, collected money from suppliers and guests and much more. The funds raised from this campaign will support:

  • Increasing participation in school food and nutrition programs
  • Increasing the number of community gardens
  • Food banks and food pantries
  • Increasing access to fresh produce
  • Increasing utilization of federal child food and nutrition programs, e.g. food stamps, school breakfast, etc.
  • Advocacy around Child food and nutrition-related programs”

Check out Share Our Strength’s website for participating restaurants in your area.

September 23, 2009 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Battling Childhood Hunger


Photo Credit: The New York Times. "A meal from the cafeteria at P.S. 89 in Manhattan does not contain processed food."
Photo Credit: The New York Times. “A meal from the cafeteria at P.S. 89 in Manhattan does not contain processed food.”

On Wednesday, September 9th, the Detroit Justice, Peace, and Ecology Committee (JPE) of the Province of St. Joseph hosted a national Slow Food USA Eat-In to promote more nutritious school lunches. This event was part of a National Day of Action, where thousands of people across the country shared a meal to demonstrate the need for Congress to pass a better Child Nutrition Act. Among other things, the Child Nutrition Act covers the National School Lunch Program, and an increase in funding would mean healthier food for school lunches. 

Currently, the USDA reimbursement rate per child in public school systems is $2.70, and groups like JPE are asking for an increase of $50 million in funding, equaling to about $1 more per child.

There have been efforts across the country to improve school lunches, including farm-to-school programs, where schools reach out to local farms for a portion of their produce. Similarly, Chef Ann Cooper has partnered with Whole Foods and the Kellogg Foundation to implement a healthy lunch campaign in Berkeley, California; Boulder, Colorado; and Harlem in New York City.

However, there are challenges with implementing these new programs. Because so many schools have been outsourcing their food production (this is where tater tots and fish sticks come in), the only kind of kitchen equipment that’s necessary is a microwave. This means that many schools are without traditional kitchens and the tools needed to cook real food.

Along with the additional cost of buying kitchen equipment, schools would also need to hire a larger staff to prepare the food. With an already tight budget, it makes sense why subsidized government commodities look more appealing.

What should we do?

The best and easiest way to introduce healthier food in school lunches is to advocate for the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. You can do this by signing the petition or by writing a letter to your congressmen. Slow Food USA also has a few resources that you can use in spreading the word about this issue.

What connects the Child Nutrition Act with hunger?

Ensuring that our children get a healthy meal at lunch is important not only because it will help them to concentrate in school, but also because it might be the only balanced meal that they receive throughout the day. Share Our Strength, the parent organization of Operation Frontline, makes it their mission to end childhood hunger. They recently gathered schoolteachers’ stories about the hunger they see in their classrooms. One middle-school teacher said, “The only meals that this little one, Kimberly, was guaranteed were served at school. Anytime we had leftovers, she would always want to take them home. She’d wrap up the leftover food to take home to her little brothers and sisters. She was a second grader trying to make sure her family got fed.”

Here is a video that depicts the hunger that teachers see every day:


September 22, 2009 at 5:09 pm 2 comments

Recipe: Hearty Minestrone

This recipe was adapted from the Low-Fat, Low-Cost Cookbook, something that has been on my mother’s shelf for years and is now on mine. It offers tons of recipes that are nutritious and inexpensive, while showing the calories and fat per serving, as well as the cost per serving. Minestrone is one of my favorite things to make as the weather gets cooler, because it’s so versatile and comforting. The recipe below has my own twist to it (with borrowed ingredients from’s Corrigan’s Minestrone), but you can add anything that you like.


Photo Credit: Corrigan's Minestrone from (Sorry for the lack of an original picture!)

Photo Credit: Corrigan's Minestrone from

Hearty Minestrone (Diana’s Comfort Food)
Serves 12


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped potatoes
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 (14 ounce) can vegetable broth
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 1/2 quarts water
  • 3 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups cooked elbow macaroni or small shell pasta

  1. In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, potatoes, garlic, carrots, and celery into pot. Cook and stir for 5 minutes, or until onions are soft.
  2. Mix in broth, tomato paste, chickpeas, and water. Cook and stir for 5 minutes.
  3. Add Italian seasoning and salt. Cook and stir 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
  4. Mix cooked pasta into pot. Continue cooking 10 minutes, making sure to not overcook pasta.
  • The Low-Fat, Low-Cost Cookbook’s version of the recipe costs $0.39 a serving. If you change the ingredients, the price will vary. However, in order to keep costs down, you can:
    • use vegetables that are in season
    • use dried beans and cook them ahead of time
    • use leftover pasta
  • Because this recipe makes a big batch, you can freeze the leftovers and save it for future meals. Soups and stews are great for leftovers, because the flavors become more concentrated after sitting for a day or two.

September 11, 2009 at 7:18 pm 1 comment

Food Budgeting Tips

In the past few weeks, I’ve been gathering together news articles about food budgeting, which has been a surprisingly popular topic. Articles in the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, and even The New York Times have been including tips on how to eat healthily on a limited budget – a skill that is particularly important in an economic recession. Studies have shown that those with lower incomes spend a greater proportion of their budgets on food. However, all of us could use a little help these days.

The Detroit Free Press published an article last week called “Top 10 foods healthy for bodies, budgets” that is especially helpful. According to Robin Miller, host of “Quick Fix Meals With Robin Miller” on Food Network, there are a lot of foods out there that are both nutritious and inexpensive. Here are her top ten:

1. Pasta. Miller likes whole-wheat pasta because it’s cheap and satisfying. “It’s got more fiber, which is wonderful, but it also fills you up more quickly, so you’re likely to eat less.”

2. Canned beans. “Put them into soup or stew and they stretch a meal,” she says. They’re rich in folate and fiber. “A big bang for your buck.”

3. Yogurt. “Yogurt is always on sale,” she says, sometimes for as little as 50 cents per cup. Yogurt is a good source of calcium and vitamin D.

4. Canned tomatoes. Miller is never without this pantry staple: stewed, diced, petite diced, whatever. The canned version has more cancer-fighting lycopene than fresh tomatoes, and it adds flavor and color to soups and sauces.

5. Asparagus. Not usually considered a budget item, but vitamin C-rich asparagus in March is cheaper because it’s in season.

6. Oats. “Cereal is so expensive. It’s like $4 for a box of air,” Miller says. Oatmeal is a hearty, nutritious and inexpensive way to start the day.

7. Brown rice. Brown rice has extra B vitamins and more fiber than white rice.

8. Almonds. Plain almonds are inexpensive when bought in bulk. Miller loves them to round out a meal with a burst of protein.

9. Eggs. Eggs are hard to pass up because of the price. “How many times can you get 12 things for a dollar? Never.” Miller likes to make frittata for dinner. “It’s a great, affordable, protein-packed food.”

 10. Canned or pouched salmon. Fresh salmon is expensive, but salmon in a pouch has more calcium because it’s processed with the bones.

As Mark Bittman puts it in his New York Times’ blog, real food is simply cheaper than junk food. If you can learn how to be creative in the kitchen, you’ll realize that home-cooked meals can be made for a fraction of the cost. If you need help learning the basics, there are plenty of cookbooks out there that provide good descriptions and great recipes. A few include “Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics” by TV chef Ina Garten, Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” and “Cooking Know-How,” by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough.

September 4, 2009 at 6:27 pm 1 comment

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USDA Statement

This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. This work is supported in part by the Michigan Department of Human Services, under contract number ADMIN-10-99011. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Michigan Fitness Foundation or the Michigan Department of Human Services. In accordance with Federal law and USDA policy, these institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720- 6382 (TTY). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more contact the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline at (855) ASK-MICH. Space-Limited USDA/DHS/MNN Credit Statement This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. These institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. People who need help buying nutritious food for a better diet call the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline: (855) ASK-MICH.