Austin area food bloggers have embarked on a cooking & blogging project to promote hunger awareness in Central Texas. Given a list of contents from a current local food bank allotment, we are challenged to cook from the box and recount our experience.
Fortunate kitchens we food bloggers inhabit, our participation in this adventure constrained by such happy conditions as our children’s snack day at school or soccer, a weekend festival, groaning larders that must be purged promptly, lunch dates, dessert addictions and other hallmarks of a comfortable life. Plus our gardens groweth over: local asparagus season is short, sweet Texas strawberries beckon, and few foodies can resist the prickly charm of spring artichokes. Happy circumstances allows us to pick and choose, experiencing food insecurity by proxy, on our own terms, not having to decide between food and rent, food and utilities, or food and medicine.
When I read Addie Broyles’ post on the project, I was disturbed (although I can’t say surprised) to learn that Texas nearly tops the list of states in percentage of hungry residents. Mighty Texas—whose nearly teflon economy dipped much later than the rest of the nation’s, never sank to the widespread miserable depths, and began its recovery ahead of the other states—ranks second from the top in state GDP yet second from the bottom in food security. The economic mechanisms, politics and cultural schisms underlying the gross inequalities in distribution of wealth, power and access to resources are worldwide topics for (mostly) another blogger, however.
Lisa Goddard, Online Marketing Director of the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas, gave the Austin Food Bloggers a tour of the 60,000 square foot CAFB warehouse, located in south Austin. Working with 350 partner agencies in 21 surrounding area counties, the warehouse distributes 1.2 million pounds of food per month to local food pantries, feeding 48,000 people each week. A key asset in supporting the food bank’s goal to reduce area hunger 25% by 2014, volunteers give some 6,000 hours of help every month to the CAFB.
Austin Farm to Table‘s Kristi Willis, a longtime volunteer with the food bank, revealed that many people in need of food delay seeking assistance as long as they can, ashamed to ask for help. I’m reminded of a story told by my musician friend, Amanda Hickey, whose 5+ siblings never realized as children that the wolf was at the door. Her mother didn’t let on about the hardship and uncertainty of feeding the brood. The occasional visits from the grandparents, bearing sopa, fresh garden produce and homemade tortillas, seemed a celebration to the kids, not a graciously answered—reluctantly voiced—call for help.
The partnering of local food bloggers with the CAFB supports the mission of the food bank “to nourish hungry people and lead the community in ending hunger” and reinforces the ideal of fellowship in our society. The CAFB’s “Hunger is UNacceptable” campaign encourages all of us to take steps towards ensuring that no one, in this world of more than plenty, goes without food. My own beat, on this blog, springs from an eco-friendly angle, so I recall my current favorite quote, from environmentally outspoken chef Dan Barber, who asks, “How can we create conditions to allow every community to feed itself?”
The myriad answers to that question are varied and complex. As always, we begin with awareness. We brainstorm and plan. We come together as a community and we take action.
We hope to help. Check out Goddard’s bloggings for updates on the project.