From as far back as I can remember, I've always considered myself to be a self proclaimed, "foodie". This term being defined as, someone who not only knows a lot about the topic of food, but also, someone who is very adventurous, and willingly to try a wide variety of foods. Even as a tiny child, this is a title that I did not take lightly. When going out to dinner, I wanted to try new flavors, and experience new ingredients. Instead of fawning over the usual cast of characters that were listed on the segregated children's menu, I wanted to explore the exotic and thrilling "adult menu". I got to try new and exciting flavor profiles, like asian glazed salmon, or pan seared scallops. My six year old self was convinced, I had surely won some type of food lottery.
But my "foodie" mentality didn't stop there. I was even more excited to be cooking inside of a kitchen, than to just be served from one. Some of my fondest memories are of my (very Italian) mother and I spending hours together in the kitchen making homemade tomato sauce. No recipe was needed, just foodie intuition, and few "pinches" and "dashes" here. The delicious aroma would fill the air as we would chop fresh basil, or press cloves of garlic. To this day, it is the most comforting scent I can image. Here food was not only a sense of adventure, but also of love, tradition, and family.
And to this day, this is an identity that I was quite proud of. When anyone has a question regarding cooking technique, or food knowledge, I am the first person they turn to. When I'm not pursuing for a new recipe on Foodgawker, or drooling over a new episode of the Food Network, it is to no one's surprise that you might find me in the kitchen, whipping up a pesto frittata for dinner.
But for all these years I've honing in on my "foodie" identity, I never took a moment to ask why I was so proud to label myself as a foodie, or even why I chose to do so. After some thoughtful consideration, and reflection (over a Bolivian chicken salad for lunch, naturally), I concluded that, the reason I have been able to develop this passionate relationship with food is because, I always knew I would have access to it.
My family and I also joke that our pantry at home has enough food in it to sustain us through a Third World War, and we need a hardhat to get anything out of our abundantly packed freezer. Even as a poor college student working two jobs, I know that when I come home from a long day, that I will have fresh food in the fridge, and items stacked in my pantry. And even if this was not the case, I have enough resources to be able to go the nearest grocery store and pick up what I need.
But, for 50 million Americans this is not the case. Hunger is a real issue in the United States, and with an unbelievable statistic like, 1 in 6 Americans are dealing with hunger on an annual basis, it is an issue that desperately needs to be addressed.
But numbers like these are hard to conceptualize. What does 50 million hungry Americans look like? How can we gain a better understanding of the hardships faced by these people who have to worry about food everyday? It's hard to image life without food, when you have the privilege to have access to it. This is where the SNAP Challenge come in. The SNAP Challenge invites people to try to live on how much food lower income families that are on the SNAP Program, Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (formally known as Food Stamps), live on each day. The average SNAP patron lives on $4 a day. This challenge involves being thrifty, creative, but also, more conscientious of how hard it is to obtain health, and sustaining food on such a limited budget. People who are interested in taking the SNAP challenge, can do so by signing up here: http://frac.org/initiatives/snapfood-stamp-challenges/. You can try it for a full week, or even a day. The experience is very eye opening, as well as rewarding.
While I haven't yet personally taken the challenge, there is one powerful thing that the SNAP challenge has taught me; and that's to reconsider my own personal relationship with food. While I can't imagine what's it's like to go hungry, because I am in the position to be fortunate enough to have access to food, I am more conscientious of the privileges I do posses.
When I am in class distracted by the thought of what I want to make for dinner, I take a step back and think about how lucky I am to be in that position. Many college aged students, and younger can't focus in class because of the uncomfortable, and draining feeling of not being fed. When I go home to a full pantry, and fridge I am reminded that for many, this is not a common sight.
Want to help hungry people in Tompkin's County?
1. Be conscientious: Reflect of your own relationship with food. Don't overbuy, and be careful not to waste.
2. Donate: Also give extra food away for those who need it more. Here is a place to donate food that will help hungry people in Tompkin County: http://fighthungertompkins.blogspot.com/.
3. Volunteer: Help the Food Bank of the Southern Tier's Backpack Program. It packs food pacts for lower income elementary schools kids for over weekends, and breaks, to make sure they have enough food while not in school. To donate, or help pack backpacks for children in Tompkin's County, click here: http://foodbankst.org/index.asp?pageId=154.
Food is a necessity that we all need for growth, development, and survival. It is something that everyone should have access to. If we all continue this dialogue, and do are part to examine our own relationship with food, we can all make a difference.
Your conscientious foodie,