Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hunger Action Week

Last week was United Way's Hunger Action Week, where they challenged individuals or families to try to live on $7 of food per day per person, which is the average amount someone on food stamps receives in this country. Many bloggers got in on the action, writing long and detailed blog posts about their efforts, including many shopping lists and recipes for creatively preparing food on a such an extraordinarily limited budget.

At first glance, it seems quite noble as they hoped to draw attention to the struggles of hungry families in America. But the more I read, the more I got the feeling that these posts smacked of self righteousness, and very clearly illustrated the the vast chasm between the haves and have nots. The have nots have not been to culinary school. The have nots don't belong to a food co-op. The have nots don't spend time pouring over cookbooks for recipes to help them make the best of what they've got. The have nots don' t have hours to braise a pork shoulder that can be eaten over several days. The have nots don't have a partner to help wrangle children while they grind wheat and bake bread from scratch. What they do have are young children struggling to keep up in school, multiple jobs to help make ends meet, and real stress that you and I cannot begin to imagine.

I am certain that these bloggers had the very best intentions in taking on this challenge. They know that hunger is a real issue in this country (though our poor our the most likely to be obese, the most likely to eat fast foods and convenient foods, and the least likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables...eh, we'll leave that for another day). But it seemed like there was an awful lot of back patting going on...."look how creatively I've fed my family this week!!"

Did Hunger Action Week make people more aware of hunger? Perhaps. But the good that comes from this new-found awareness is for naught if people don't get out into their neighborhoods and get to work. Work in the food kitchens, teach free cooking classes, and become an advocate for the hungry with your local and state representatives. When we were in Brattleboro, VT this summer at the farmers' market there, they gladly accepted food vouchers. This was quite a revelation to me. This should be the case all over the country! And food bloggers, now that you've shared how wonderfully you've fed your family of three for $21 a day, get out there and share that information with those who don't have time to sit and write (or read) blogs all day....Just my 2 cents.

Stepping off my soapbox now....

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!


Yuri Kim said...


My name is Yuri Kim and I was one of the main people behind getting the food bloggers on board for the Hunger Challenge. I thought I'd respond a bit to your criticisms and also link to my post where I talk a bit about the Hunger Challenge overall.

First, I completely understand your criticism. The Hunger Challenge is not perfect. However, I do see it as a valuable awareness tool for this very important issue.

We all know (and the food bloggers know) that this hunger challenge won't make you know what living in poverty and being hungry means. And frankly, that's not the intention of the Hunger Challenge. It's designed to get people thinking and talking about hunger in their every day lives. In that sense, the bloggers did a great job.

What's more, if you read their posts, especially their reflections, you see that they understood what the Hunger Challenge meant and how it has made them think differently about food, waste, and hunger in the US.

And beyond awareness, this campaign got lots of people to take action (one of the bloggers is actually going to be teaching a healthy cooking in Auburn, WA.

I wrote a bit more about criticisms on our blog: http://www.uwkcblog.org/2010/02/04/hunger-action-week-tying-up-loose-ends/

I appreciate hearing your input on Hunger Action Week. Like I said, I understand your criticisms and think they make sense. However, I still believe the Hunger Challenge is a valuable way to make a difference around hunger.

Aaaand, I can't help but make a plug for donating to United Way. One of our cool programs we are funding is an attempt to get healthier eating in "food deserts" by working with corner stores on accepting food stamps and having affordable healthy food alternatives. :D

Anyhoo, thanks again for your thoughts!

Alison said...

Hi Yuri,


Thanks so much for your response!

I agree that raising awareness of this issue is a most important matter and I appreciate that the Hunger Challenge did do that. It's also good to hear that bloggers (and others) are taking action beyond the challenge!

Thank you for your hard work with the United Way and I do hope that people find it in their hearts to donate to this very worthy cause.

All the best,

Unknown said...

I am one of the people on food stamps in this country. It's not something that I'm proud of but I am greatful for the program because it's there for me to use when I need it. I do work a full time job but still don't make enough money for my family to survive on. What little is left for food just isn't enough. I am definitely a foodie. I love to cook and spend time in my kitchen experimenting with different foods and am able to make my food stamps stretch enough to fill my family with the help of my church who has a great food pantry that's available to its members. I love looking for new recipes and trying new things. I can't say that I appreciate the Hunger Challenge. People really don't get it. Thanks for your post. I definitely don't want to get started on my soap box...the one thing that I would like to say is that while I am grateful for the food stamp program, i still wish that I could be able to afford to eat how I want to and not have such a small limit.

Alison said...

Hi Tiffany,

Thanks so much for sharing your story. Your family is lucky to have such a hard working mom...and one that cares enough to feed them well.

All the best,