No matter what we like or dislike about food, the one thing we can ALL agree on is that every single one of us needs to eat. Thanks to farmers like my friend Roy in Washington State, we can do just that. Yet, hunger is still a major problem around the world. And while there are lots of places in the States for people to go get food, like food pantries and soup kitchens, as well as government subsidy programs, like Food Stamps--there's still a large part of our population who are unable to take advantage of such opportunities. Both our youngest populations and our wisest populations face obstacles when it comes to getting food, often going hungry. It's unfathomable to me that there are hungry children in this world, let alone hungry grandparents. I lived with my grandmother--and gained 15lbs when I did--because all she thought about was whether or not I was eating well. When my nephews come over, my kitchen table is literally covered from one end to the other with food. "Boys need to eat to grow," is my common refrain. Given that my son is now a lean, mean 6'5", I think I might have been on to something there.
As a society, we have a lot of disconnects when it comes to food. Movies like The Devil Wears Prada call a woman's size-six "fat" (by the way, a woman who wears a size-six has a 26-inch waist-diameter; the national average is a size-14, or a 33-inch waist). On the opposite end of the spectrum, television shows like, "My 600-lb Life," use people who are morbidly-obese to entertain the masses. Doesn't that seem *a tad* exploitative??? Some of the richest American corporations got rich by using food scientists to create recipes that had just the right amounts of sugar and salt to turn off the hormone that tells us we've had enough in order for us to keep eating--buying more of their products in the process. One day, those same corporations will be scrutinized like Big Tobacco for using exploitative marketing on vulnerable populations--making people sick and shortening lifespans just to turn a profit. Talk about "fat"....
When the LA Times interviewed me on the future of food, I spoke about how protein farms (and not the kind with cows) were a likely future source of cheap, environmentally-friendly protein for humanity. If that seems "gross" to you, imagine what an alien visiting our planet might think of a person eating a lobster--boiling it alive, tearing off its shell, and eating its poop derived from all the other fish poop that a bottom-feeder like a lobster eats. Yeah, it's not a pretty picture. But we don't think of it like that as a society because we've been conditioned to accept the practice of eating lobster. Perhaps in 25-50 years, chefs will find a way to make grubs and crickets look and taste appetizing, too? Meanwhile, in 2018, we still have people going hungry.
Those protein farms can't get here fast enough....
In Atlanta, there are thousands of homeless children. Places like the Children's Restoration Network help, but we still have a lot of tiny tummies that go empty day after day. Sitting here right now, talking about food, I realized that I haven't eaten yet myself. If I weren't so distracted by my writing, I might've noticed the weakness in my left arm, the low grade headache radiating across my forehead, and that vague floaty-feeling of light-headedness. It's true, the last time I ate was a good ten hours ago, but there are people who haven't eaten in 24 or more hours. If I feel like this after only ten, how must someone who gets to eat once a day or less feel??? How can a child develop properly? How can anyone think properly? Move properly? And, how can we have some of the most advanced technologies in the world, yet still have human beings who go hungry day after day???
I was recently contacted by the National Council on Aging in Washington DC. I'd written an essay called "Breaking Bread" some years ago and the people in our nation's capital asked me to include their link. The website talks about the senior members of our society and their struggle to not go hungry. Surprise was my first reaction to the idea that any sweet grandmother or grandfather had no one to help feed them. Programs like Meals on Wheels can help seniors get at least one square meal a day--IF those seniors have people who can help them sign up for the program. Yes, help. It's not as easy as going on the internet and signing up if you have no internet, no computer and possibly, no phone. We have to remember that our most experienced members of our society (and so, our most valuable) are not always able to get up, walk, cook, shop, bake, let alone afford to.
In our rush to live our lives, fall in and out of love, deal with our childhoods, look for new jobs, pay our mortgages, and take care of our own families and friends, we may forget about the most vulnerable yet most valuable members of our population. Children are our future. Kids need stable homes, educations, clothing, shelter, and food to grow into adults who can provide those same things for not only the next generation, but the one that came before. And, though some may be tempted to think of our senior members as "the past," in fact, we are learning more everyday about how health and longevity are positively effected by both food and movement. You can't move if you don't eat. If you eat well, you move well. If you move well, the only way anyone will know you're "old" is if you tell them your birth date.
Fueling our bodies fuels our minds. I recently spoke to a beautiful lady who was 98-years young. She stood tall and straight and walked with confidence. Meanwhile, I'm more than 50 years her junior and I hunch my shoulders, have terrible balance and walk with a limp. When I asked her what her secret was, she told me she ate lots of fruits and veggies and whole grains, and walked everywhere she could. I eat lots of fruits and veggies and whole grains, too, but as a writer, I sit WAY too long and WAY too often. I'm a gym-person, lifting weights since I was 17, and love hiking and biking as well. But my lack of movement (and perhaps love of Southern cooking) is hard on my body. Sedentary lifestyles shorten not only our telomeres, but our lifespans, too. When I walk more, I stand taller. My balance improves. Most don't notice my limp but I "feel" it so it bothers me. But when it's nice weather and I can go hiking every day, I barely think about it. Know why? It's not there anymore. Simply moving more is the great healer, but we can't move well if we don't also eat well.
Everything is connected in this wide-world of ours. We often compartmentalize because it makes our hectic life a little easier. Less daunting. But amidst our 21st century angst, we really need to take the time to EAT well while helping others do the same. I'm including some websites below for more information. I also recommend you go through your pantry at least once a month and donate the food items that you know won't get used...the ones that you'll find a year later pushed behind everything else. Instead of eventually throwing away that food, why not put a box of it together and take it to your local food pantry? If you don't have a local food pantry, start one! Make sure you check in with local senior centers, nursing homes and homeless shelters while you're at it. See if you can deliver food to people in need. If we each take responsibility for our own little corners of the world, we'll be well on our way to making our planet not only a better place, but better-fed, too.
We can do this!
YOU can do this....
Facts about hunger and aging:
How to find your local food bank:
Find out more about Children's Restoration Network: