Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day and the Blurring Poverty Line

Participating in Blog Action Day is something new for this particular Allergic Diner. Recently, I've read several blogs on the Internet in which the writers participated in the San Francisco Food Bank Challenge. They were to live for an entire week, 3 meals a day, on $1.00 a meal, the approximate amount of the food stamps per person. These bloggers/food writers were working with the S.F. Food Bank to develop tasty/healthy/filling recipes for their patrons. Some of the recipes were extremely creative and looked quite tasty. You can check them out at: Cooking with Amy, The Inadvertent Gardener, and Vanessa Barrington. I admit to finding Vanessa Barrington's the most interesting because she thought a lot about other constraints of those with limited budgets (i.e., transportation, cooking tools,etc). The link I've supplied you with to her blog shows you what a modest donation to the Food Bank gets them (you can see her other articles about the challenge as well).

This got me thinking, however, what happens to a person with food allergies, or a condition such as diabetes? How do they exist on food stamps with special food needs? Could I feed myself for a $1 a meal? The sad, but realistic answer is, probably not. Someone who had to purchase specialty foods, like sugar-free, would probably be even further out of luck. The thing nobody tells you about having allergies, or celiac, or diabetes, or any other condition that affects what you eat is that it's EXPENSIVE.

$1 a meal. I could probably subsist on beans, potatoes, and frozen veggies, but what about protein? How could I vary my already allergy-proof diet so that I might eat well and still adhere to the system? Lactaid milk at last check was $4 for a half-gallon. I spent days thinking about this challenge and it's possible consequences and ramifications for someone like me, and came up with this: I can't keep my allergy-free diet with that cost factor ($1 meal/day = $3 a day). I'd miss out on calcium, among other things a body needs. This makes me feel angry and very lucky all at the same time. You have my word you will never hear me complain here about the high cost of specialty foods again.

See, my family will forever joke around with me about my not being a “food person.” They’re not wrong, I’m not. I’m definitely an “eat to live” person, not one who lives to eat. I don’t have the luxury of being a foodie. I can’t eat without paying attention to every single ingredient every time. When NAH and I were in Florida earlier this year with my non-allergic inlaws, we were out to dinner at a lovely restaurant, the Lighthouse. I took out my Lactaid pills when my food arrived, explaining that there was cheese in the Caesar salad dressing, the possibility of buttermilk in the fresh-baked rolls, etc. My mother-in-law looked at me and said words that were truly magic to my ears. “Every time you eat, you have to stop and think about it, don’t you?” The thing that she understands, and that sometimes people spend their whole lives not understanding, is that food for any allergic person is a process, and a difficult one at that. Now, I couldn’t ask for better families, as both sets of parents keep their homes stocked with “allergic diner safe food.” But what happens to someone without the same resources and support? What happens to someone with my allergies who ends up on food stamps? How can they do this for $3 a day?

Half the recipes I read on those blogs were things I was unable to eat. By tweaking them so that I could eat them (i.e., removing the tomato paste, canned milk, etc) I would either lose a good portion of the nutritional content, or I would’ve been over my budget on that particular day (substitutions of chicken broth are EXPENSIVE).

Blog Action Day 2008 is about poverty. Every night, more children are going to bed hungry. Hardworking, decent people are living paycheck to paycheck, and praying that they will be able to put food on the table and keep their roof over their heads. Animal shelters are bursting at the seams because pets have become a luxury most families can no longer afford. Our economy is in the toilet, and what nobody seems to understand is that this isn’t a “poor” problem. It isn't a Republican problem, or a Democrat problem, or even just a government problem. It’s an everybody problem. The poverty line is blurring. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, "there were 37.3 million people in poverty in 2007, up from 36.5 million in 2006. " That was before the current economic tailspin in which we find ourselves.

Lest I be one of those bloggers who opines, but offers no real solutions about anything, tomorrow I will share with you the ways in which NAH and I work diligently to cut costs wherever possible (tomorrow’s post). When you sit down to dinner with your family tonight, take a moment to think about someone who might not be so lucky. Then DO SOMETHING about it. Donate food, money, and/or time to a charity that works with the poverty-stricken. Nobody judges your donation, the point is to do something, because as trite as it sounds, EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS. The newspapers state that more and more middle class families are reaching out to food banks for assistance. These centers, and others like them, need the most help when it isn't the holiday season, because that’s when most people open up their hearts, wallets, and homes.

You can make a difference without altering your lifestyle. Please know that I am not suggesting you feel guilt or shame about your ability to purchase food, or own a home. That's not who I am or what I'm about.

What I am suggesting is that you teach your children that civic responsibility isn't just a notion, and be thankful for what you have.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

Allergic Diner


becoming minimalist said...

thanks for using your blog and taking the time to raise awareness for the reality of poverty. good for you.

i hope it encourages your readers to donate to a charity of their choosing.

kouji haiku said...

for my part, i turn to sites like freerice, kiva, and goodsearch, as ways to help alleviate poverty online.

saw this post via the front page of blog action day. it's great that you're participating. :)

Dawn said...

Beautiful, thought-provoking post. I hadn't considered how it might be to "afford" an allergy like this. Thank you for a new perspective.

allergic diner said...

Thank you all for stopping by! Hopefully Blog Action Day will have the intended effect.
Kouji - I'm going to look into those sites. Thanks for the recommendation.