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Food Insecurity and Food Choices

April 20, 2012

A recent report by the USDA showed some alarming numbers for Alabama. As we, perhaps, see things from a slightly different perspective, we see also an urgency to change course. If it sounds like fear it’s more that urgency.

Americans, as a whole, have taken food for granted. We often grew up (as a society) without the food issues of other countries. Only of course, that isn’t always true, even here in the USA.

As a child, Jimmy Wayne never thought he’d become a famous singer someday. He moved from the care of his mother to foster homes and back, sometimes getting so hungry he was forced to steal food from neighbors. During this time, he endured more abuse and violence than most people could bear to watch during a movie.” Today, Jimmy Wayne is the singer of popular songs such as “Do You Believe Me Now” and “I Love You This Much.”

With the Alabama poverty rate at almost 19% (higher in rural areas), food insecurity is present in 17.3% of households, with 7% at very low food security.

The average farm is 300 acres, with 60% under 99 acres. Nearly 72% of those own their farms, while 4.6% are tenant farmers. Of those .3% are owned by non family corporations – 99% are owned by individuals, family corporations (often for tax purposes or legal reasons) or partnerships.  The overwhelming majority are not the farms the media focuses on.

But what about other states – those are higher right? New York has .6% non family corporate farms with 98.6% being in the hands of private farm families or partnerships. Their average farm size is 197 acres, with 12.1 and 5.9 – 18% of homes – listed as food insecure or severely insecure. Kentucky numbers are very similar. State by state that says that 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 homes don’t have enough to eat. How many are DOING something about it?

The excuses are many, and sometimes the reasons legitimate. It’s hard to plant a garden for a season if you don’t know if you’ll be there in 5-6 months, or if there’s a homeowner’s association or landlord that won’t allow it. Containers are one way to get around that, but it still takes containers, soil and seed.

Many don’t take food they don’t know how to cook, so pass by unfamiliar items. There are some areas that have cooking classes, and used to be school home economic classes, but many are ‘outdated’ as we ‘don’t have to cook’ today. I think that was a huge disservice to millions of people.

Supply is only part of the solution if people don’t know what to do with a fresh zucchini or whole tomato. Let’s do better by our kids. Teach them. Plant a seed in a 5 gallon bucket and watch it grow. Get a gutter, block the ends and fill with soil to raise some lettuce. Let’s empower the next generation and empower this one too!

Two years ago when Connor came here for the first time it was a culture shock. I told him go get eggs for breakfast and, with Dollar General nearby, he asked for money. I laughed and said no in the chicken pen. After a couple of weeks I’d say go get something and he’d pause – “Is that in the garden or out back?”He could make toast, heat soup and very basic things.

Today he’s raised chickens, learned to kill and dress them out and cook it. He’s learned the difference between bread flour and all purpose flour. He’s learned to moderate spices and salt and yes he’s made mistakes, but a few potatoes too salty was a small price to pay for a life lesson. He can make pancakes from scratch, cook eggs, make French toast and several other things. Yes we’re proud of what he’s learned but more than that – he’s got life skills!

Yes he started with boxes and cans, and he learned. You can too.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2012 8:16 AM

    I agree….getting people cooking is a major step to improving diets!

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