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Friday: Food Day reflections

Friday, October 24, 2014

Did you know that Friday was Food Day? Events took place all over the country. I love that food has become a national topic, and not in the “how can we grow food with more chemicals for less money” kind of way (I’m sure that conversation is still happening, but the outrage is building).

Here’s a disturbing fact that makes sense if you think about it: food insecure people are MORE LIKELY to be obese. Everything is stacked against them: when you have no or limited access to healthy food, either because you don’t have the cash or don’t live near a market, your options are scarce. Fast food offers a lot of calories for not a lot of money and zero time in the kitchen; plus, it’s often right around the corner in the form of a convenience store or a fast-food chain, which is no accident. It makes sense to set up shop near your most likely customers, after all.

Some good work is being done by a lot of people to ameliorate the effects of so-called “food deserts.” There is no quick fix: every community needs an individualized approach. But it all starts with awareness, and there’s growing momentum in the right direction.  If you’re reading this, you’re part of that awareness!

So, what did we eat on Friday, our last day of the challenge?

Breakfast: Fried eggs and toast

Not much to say here; this is a typical breakfast for us on any given day.

Lunch: Potluck!

The gals from the Gardens Project decided that we should eat as a group on Food Day, so they organized an informal potluck and brought the starring dish: a fantastic spicy coconut squash soup with roasted seeds to top it off. Carson and I made cornbread (not technically in the budget but cornmeal is cheap and we fed five extra people this week!) and a visiting Americorps member brought brownies.  There was also a bag of undressed lettuce passed around by another Challenge co-worker; it was surprisingly popular.

It was great to come together as a group at work and NOT be in a meeting.  Carson joined us too, and we spent an easy half hour chatting and laughing. I work with the best people!

Dinner: Leftover beans and stuffed squash

I originally thought that by Friday night we’d be totally out of food. My plan was to eat at Plowshares, which seemed like a fitting end to the Challenge: even the best budgeter will run out of food some weeks on such a tiny budget, and Plowshares is one of the incredible safety nets available in Ukiah for the food insecure.

However, we had an entire pot of ham and beans and a stuffed squash left in the fridge. We were both a little sick of the beans, but this week wasn’t about variety. When you’re hungry, you eat what you have! We talked about the week as we ate, and Carson said he was really glad we had done it: “It definitely makes me appreciate what we have.” He even thanked me for my commitment to the budget, and for cooking the majority of our food most weeks. What a guy.

Post-Challenge

At midnight on Friday we found ourselves at Jensen’s Truck Stop, the absolute best (worst?) place if you want late-night food. Remember, Carson and I aren’t purists – in fact, we love junk food. (It’s been engineered for addiction, after all!) We had gone to see a friend’s band play in Willits, and on the drive home our hunger hit. Free from the restraints of the Challenge, with Carson craving late-night breakfast and our passenger demanding French fries, we stopped. I ate hash browns and Carson’s biscuit, and I tried to feel guilty about it.

But, since someone had recently given me a copy of Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is, I didn’t.  I’m not usually into the self-help genre but this was an interesting read, and Katie makes some compelling points. I particularly like her take on activism: Don’t be righteous. Do the best you can, and assume everyone else is, too. So why should I feel guilty for having a late-night meal after a fun night out with friends? Does it negate the CalFresh Challenge experience I just had? No. Does it mean I can’t continue to support local farmers, or help create access to healthy food among low-income folks? Of course not. It means that I’m a normal person, doing the best I can, just like everyone else.