For the last month, I’ve been tinkering in my new community garden plot. I have spent time there toting water, planting garlic and onions, pressing pea seeds into the soil, making drills for lettuce and radishes and spading in raspberry bushes along the back.
In England this would be called an allotment, in France a potager. The idea of each, and mine, is to grow enough food to add freshness to the table every single day. I am not a farmer, just a gardener, growing food for my household in a 10’ x 20’ space.
For these few weeks, it’s been deeply satisfying to think of this little plot of land and imagine how it might feed us. I’ve been testing recipes for strawberry jam and making fresh cheeses. Wandering the farmers market as it comes to life. Dreaming of ripe tomatoes and peaches and the first raspberries of the season.
All that optimism was shattered when I watched the new film, A Place at the Table, from Lori Silverbush (aka Mrs. Tom Colicchio.) The film reveals a humbling truth about this country. We are letting our citizens starve.
I know this is not my intention nor is it yours. We all believe in the power of good food. How it lifts us up. How it fuels us, comforts us, allows us to express ourselves in generous and loving ways.
How then, can we live with the appalling reality of hunger in America? And how can we make change?
A Place at the Table is putting the statistics right out there.
• One in five children in America lives in a home that is “food insecure,” where their next meal is uncertain.
• One in six Americans does not always have enough to eat. Yet a quarter of our young adults are too overweight to even serve in the military. How does this happen? Reliance on fast food and lack of access to good, fresh, real food.
• How about having to walk or ride several buses to get choices beyond the processed convenience foods at the neighborhood bodega? To get fresh fruits and vegetables? There are over 6500 food deserts in America, where fresh foods are miles away.
• How is it possible that our fresh foods cost 40% more than ten years ago, yet fast food is 20% cheaper? When will we start subsidizing the right end of the food chain?
• How can we literally let our children starve? Here in this big wide country full of hope? Even the school lunch program, for many children the only meal they can rely on, lacks nutrients and rarely includes fresh, unprocessed foods.
Chef Tom Collichio speaks eloquently to the subject but the voices that stopped me in my tracks were the mothers trying to cobble together enough food to keep their children alive.
I have an idea. (and you know what happens when I have an idea, as Dennis says…)
Maybe the canners in this big country will Preserve Food To Fight Hunger? Would you? It seems all retro and victory garden like and very possible.
Let’s all put up an extra batch, an extra jar, a little bit more, all summer for the hungry people in your community. Perhaps your child’s school, your place of worship or another community source can hook you up with a family in need. Imagine what a dozen quarts of tomatoes or soup or juice or jam or pickles might do to change their circumstances just a little.
If you’re in, let me know in the comments. I don’t know how this will come together, but we’ll figure it out. I have a feeling we can make a difference.
Let’s raise a ruckus. Start a discussion. Talk about policy and how to make change. With all the land, (wo)manpower, and gardeners out there supplying all the talented cooks and passionate preservers, don’t you think we should be able to feed ourselves and a few more?
This is not a new idea. My friend Faye Rojchin told me the Torah tells the wealthy farmer to allocate a portion of his land to those less fortunate, so they might feed themselves. Let your own good fortune spill over to benefit others.
I’m ready to work to make change. Are you? I preserve the foods of the season because I respect it. Because it’s beautiful and smells good and tastes like the earth and the sun when I open the jar six months later. We honor the farmer by preserving his crop in sparkling jars along the shelf. Maybe we can feed some hungry people along the way.
I ran across this amazing Ted talk about starting urban gardens and growing food in the space between sidewalk and street in South Central LA. It has made me think for days.
The full gripping, sad story of poverty and hunger in a slide show from Bill Moyer’s group.