1932 called. It wants it’s food back.
As I looked this morning at the variety of “food” I was given, it struck me that food banks like this, while keeping the bellies of the poor on the not-so-empty side, do nothing to improve their lot in life. Or, more importantly, the lot of their children. Sugar. Lot’s and lots of sugar….processed food, crackers, bread; and processed food with sugar. No juice, no milk, little meat, a box of flavored rice, cupcakes, cookies, more cookies, still more cookies. Granola bars, but not the good kind, no Clif Bars or Luna Bars here, just the crap ones with huge chunks of chocolate and little nutritional value….with the rice, ground turkey and small bag of bell peppers, I can make a meal or three that’s moderately healthy, but, if this WERE my food for the week, I would spend probably five of the seven days subsisting on sugar.
Now me, I have options. I may be poor, but I still have my own business, and yesterday, after the food bank, a friend ordered a couple of blouses, so today I’ll have $80, plus more over the weekend, and several shows in the coming weeks with money to be made. I’ll be fine. The food bank was a stopgap for me, a way to eat during a momentary place of penny-lessness. Today I’ll take that Eighty bucks and go and buy fruits, and vegetables and milk and fish, salad makings, a box of good, healthy, hippie-ish cereal. And dog food, can’t forget the dog food. So yes, I’ll be fine, and I will be healthy and clear of mind with the eating of good, wholesome, non-processed foods.
But what about the people who depend on the food bank for their daily sustenance? Not so good I fear! And trust me, so many of these people, perhaps most, do depend on this food bank to keep themselves and their families fed. I got the impression while waiting the two hours, post sermon (it WAS a church, after all, so Jesus was spoken of) that most of these people knew each other, that this was a social hour (or two!) for them, as well as a place to get food. I saw obese people, who must’ve been eating this way for years, slow of body, slow of mind, how ever could they raise their place in life? And children, children running around, hyper, as that drank their free iced tea, bellies full of sugar and caffeine. I even saw one woman pour a bowl of the tea for her tiny dog to drink…as if chihuahua’s don’t shake enough as it is! What about these people? How will they ever raise themselves, or their children, or their children’s children above the poverty level if the only thing they have to eat is crap that makes them sluggish and slow and unable to think clearly? In a way, it reminds me of the Catholic church, who for centuries kept reading and writing away from the general populace, in order to keep them subservient, and compliant, and in their place! Are we at such a place in our nation now? Where only the wealthy can afford to eat well, where the poor aren’t even taught about nutrition and how to feed their children. Where the poor are kept down, not only through lack of education but also, through lack of access to healthy food?
When my son was a boy, I read an article in the L.A. Times about nutrition and learning. It referenced studies that showed that children who’s diets consisted mostly of carbohydrates, breads, cereals and such, were many I.Q. Points and several G.P.A.’s below their peers who ate a diet rich in proteins and whole foods, meats, milk, fruits and veggies. Reading that article inspired me to add healthier foods to our diet, and not let my kid survive on all the things made with flour and sugar like he would’ve liked (I was never TOO bad about diet, as my son can attest: he was forever mad at me for not buying him the white bread he desired! Nope, whole grain with nuts and seeds, he’d have to put up with that!) When my son would argue with me about our diet, I would remind him about the studies, and tell him how essential intelligence is. (he’s “lucky” I let him have McDonalds and other fast food, though, in my defense, he also got sushi!)
But, here’s the thing: I was raised middle class. My parents had been teens during the depression, they had known hunger, but they had been brought up with the idea of lifting themselves and their children up. (to be fair, they both came from middle class families, the poverty they suffered was a sign of the times, not their lot in life!) They raised me, and my brothers, with the idea that you worked hard in life, and that you always strove to make a better life for your children.
Again, we were firmly middle class. Now, I know the middle class barely exists anymore, but it’s such an ingrained feature of the American landscape, that I can’t imagine it being gone long from our lives and our’ country…but these people who were raised poor, who have only known poverty, whose children have only known poverty? What of them? What of those children? How can we as a nation allow this to continue? How can we possibly let it get worse, as we have in the last decade, with the rich getting richer and the rest of us sliding down the path to poverty? We have to do something, and in my mind, effing liberal that I am, it starts with better food and education…and education about better food. Instead of a sermon on Jesus (now, don’t get me wrong, this church is doing their best to help, and I applaud them for that!) how about ten minutes on proper nutrition for growing minds and bodies? How about handouts on how to feed ourselves and our children? (and, I hate to say it, these handouts cannot be based on the USDA food Pyramid, as firmly in the pockets of big Agri-biz as the USDA is!) How about we use some of our famous American generosity to improve the lot in life of our own people. Feed them, and feed them well. Teach them and teach them well. Do it for our country. Do it for our future.
2012 called. It wants our lives back!