Tag Archives: nutrition

Hurricane Ida: Crisis in El Salvador


Courtesy SHARE Foundation (http://share-elsalvador.org)

Last week, we tweeted that Hurricane Ida hit the heart of El Salvador. Subsequent updates from the field have showed us how bad things really are. The storm destabilized weather patterns. Torrential rains & terrifying floods ripped through the capital city of San Salvador and 60% of the countryside. Nearly 200 people lost their lives, and over 10,000 lost their homes. Neighboring cities became islands, inaccessible except by helicopter. Crops were decimated, and those lucky enough to keep their homes lost access to vital services, health care, and food.


The SHARE Foundation, the Salvadoran Red Cross, and international aid workers work tirelessly for short term relief, but the real challenge comes after their efforts, with rebuilding and reconstruction. With worldly possessions washed away, how will Salvadorans live? With food stocks completely wiped out, how will Salvadorans eat? Looking forward to the second and future phases of recovery, the SHARE Foundation plans to restore agricultural production, emphasizing family farms & women’s co-operatives.


Courtesy SHARE Foundation (http://share-elsalvador.org)

For over a decade, MAZON has partnered with the SHARE Foundation to support agricultural programs & initiatives. Now, at this time of Salvadoran crisis, we ask you to partner with us for an emergency grant. Your support enables us to feed families in the short-term, and stay involved in the region in the long-term, as we have after Hurricane Katrina, to insure a healthy, sustainable recovery.


Please donate now. Under special instructions, tell us your donation is for El Salvador.


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Filed under International Relief, MAZON Grantees

Falling Princesses & Rising Obesity

Not-So-Little Red Riding Hood

Courtesy Dina Goldstein / JPG

Vancouver photographer Dina Goldstein‘s photo exhibit-in-progress “Fallen Princesses” takes an unorthodox approach to updating Disney fairy tales. Prince Charming leaves Snow White to raise four small children, Princess Jasmine fights in a war zone, and Cinderella drowns her sorrows in cheap booze. The most controversial of these is the newest addition, “Not-So-Little Red Riding Hood”. The image depicts an obese Little Red Riding Hood chugging a soda & carting a basket of burgers. Many commenters on the JPG website and the blog Women’s Glib believe it reinforces a stereotype “that fat people eat indiscriminantly and ‘unhealthily'”. I believe this photo tells a different story.

The dramatic rise in obesity has multiple reasons, one of them being an explosion in fast food consumption (the McDonald’s right next to our office boasts “Over 99 Billion Served”). One reason it’s so high in many regions is that it’s the only food available. “Food deserts” form in impoverished areas, wherein small markets & liquor stores cannot or do not stock fresh fruits & vegetables, and grocery chains fear to tread. This is why politicians such as Los Angeles’ Jan Perry push for grocery stores to develop in poorer districts & attempt to restrict fast food expansion into these same neighborhoods. The  deeply rural forest of Little Red Riding Hood & other fairy tales could be considered such a region.

Another reason fast food consumption is so high is that it’s the only food affordable.  For low-income households, hard choices must be made between filling bellies & filling gas tanks – healthy eating doesn’t even fit into the budget. One scene in Food, Inc. (you’re probably sick of hearing me talk about this documentary, but it’s really stuck in my mind) shows this when a working family prices out a healthy salad versus a fast food dollar menu. A single head of lettuce, not even enough for a salad, costs more than an entire meal off the dollar menu. Even families that can afford fresh produce & healthier foods can lack the time or knowledge to choose or prepare them. It’s important to note that Red Riding Hood isn’t sitting at a table scarfing all that food herself; she’s taking family dinner to Grandma’s, and that’s all they can afford.

Is fast food consumption the only cause of obesity? Of course not. But there’s no denying that hunger & obesity skyrocket amongst the lowest income families. And that is truly offensive.


Filed under Food For Thought, Hunger in the Media

TAKE ACTION: Tell Rep. Cynthia Davis to Support the Summer Food Service Program in Missouri

“Hunger can be a positive motivator.”

This shocking statement came from Missouri State Representative Cynthia Davis’ June 2009 “Capitol Report” as part of her argument against the Summer Food Service Program. Rep. Davis is Chair of the Missouri House of Representative’s Special Committee on Children and Families, Interim Committee on Poverty & serves on the Health Care Policy Committee, making her a key figure in promoting child health & nutrition in the state.

Rep. Davis has the right idea in promoting farmer’s markets and locally grown, organic produce. These are fantastic programs that allow wider access to healthy foods & sustainability within local farming communities. She also supports educating families on how to prepare healthier meals – which MAZON grantees in the state implement via the Club F.U.N. (Ozarks Food Harvest, Springfield, MO) & The Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry (Jewish Family & Children’s Services, St. Louis, MO) programs. Unfortunately, there are thousands of working Missourian families who cannot afford to shop at farmer’s markets or eat healthy. Rep. Davis is lucky “not to [have] seen this problem in [her] district” (her 19th district encompassing St. Charles County, the wealthiest in the state), but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Rep. Davis strongly believes in private food banks & pantries versus public programs, like “what they did when Louisiana had [Hurricane Katrina]”. A charity support system is being stretched to a breaking point in this tough economic climate; Missouri Food Banks such as Ozarks Food Harvest find their donations decrease as demand increases. As President Obama said earlier this year, food banks across the nation “don’t have enough to meet the demand”. The Ozarks Food Harvest Food Bank is able to reach over 41,000 people a month, but over 310,000 households in Missouri are food insecure, with another 118,000 classified as very low food secure (Food Resource Action Center’s State of the States 2008). While these numbers are sobering, the experiences of these hungry Missourians are downright heartbreaking; I encourage you to read these here. These are households at or below the poverty line ($22,050/yr for a family of four), where it becomes a decision between buying healthy food or life-saving medicine; greens for dinner or gas to get to work.

Children are the most vulnerable to this food insecurity. If kids can’t eat, they can’t learn and they can’t grow. Nearly 18% of Missourian children live in poverty (Food Resource Action Center’s State of the States 2008). For many of these children, school breakfasts & lunches are main, not supplemental, sources of nutrition; it isn’t that poor & working parents don’t want to provide nutritious meals, it’s that they can’t afford to. Ozarks Food Harvest and other Food Banks recognize this need through backpack programs so kids can continue to eat over the weekend when they can’t access school programs. Although school may be out for summer, hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation & the Summer Food Service Program is a vital extensions of existing programs. Yet, while over half a million children participate in the National School Lunch Program in Missouri, fewer than 50,000 participate in the Summer Food Service Program.

Beyond the immeasurable loss in child welfare, this lack of participation costs Missouri millions in federal aid. If just 40% of Missouri’s eligible children participate in the Summer Food Service Program, it would net the state an additional $4 million in federal money (Food Resource Action Center’s State of the States 2008). Otherwise, it all has to come from Missouri’s already strained pockets.

Please, Rep. Davis, support healthy kids & working families. Support the Summer Food Service Program in Missouri.

Missouri State Representative Cynthia Davis can be reached via e-mail at cynthia.davis@house.mo.gov, via phone at 573-751-9768, via fax at 573-526-1243, or via mail at 201 West Capitol Ave. Room 112, Jefferson City, MO 65101. Please be respectful, and identify yourself as a constituent (if you are one). If you’re at a loss for words, feel free to copy & paste any part of this article (that’s what I plan on doing ;)).

(Thanks to Twitter user reeniecollins for pointing us towards Joel Berg of New York City Coalition Against Hunger‘s article about Rep. Davis in the Huffington Post.)


Filed under Food For Thought, Hunger Advocacy, MAZON Grantees, MAZON News

Food, Inc. Review

When you buy a pair of sneakers at the mall, you are assured of uniform size, color & quality, whether it’s in Berkeley, Biloxi or Baltimore. A kiddie pool is just as good whether purchased during the hot summer months or “out of season” in an icy winter. In the last 50 years, food has become just as mass-produced as these items, and the final product is just as artificial.

This is the driving force behind Food, Inc., a new documentary that features food journalists Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) & Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food), farmers (organic & industrial) and consumers in a fileting of the modern food industry and the shockingly few corporations that control it. The bulk of the film focuses on the production of meat: the cramped, unsanitary conditions broiler chickens & cattle inhabit while alive, and the assembly-line dissection of them by equally disposable, cheap labor (animal lovers beware: while less gruesome than a PETA production, this footage can be upsetting). This leads to an oxymoronic abundance of both deadly bacteria and hazardous chemicals, exhibited in outbreaks of E. Coli in meat products and unrelated products like spinach due to overflowing animal waste.

Lest you think you’re safe because you’re a vegetarian, the film exposes the genetically modified (GMO) soy bean crop, owned and mass-produced in a 90% market-share by Monsanto (formerly of Agent Orange & DDT), which pursues its patented plant so aggressively that legitimate farmers & agrarian businesses are put out of business through overwhelming legal terrorism. There’s also a short piece on the “cornucopia of options”, in which hundreds of seemingly unrelated products are revealed to be partially or entirely consistent of corn and corn by-products. So much for a well balanced diet.

And so much for a well balanced documentary. To their credit, Food Inc.‘s producers sought out the input of TysonMonsanto, Perdue and Smithfield; as title-cards inform throughout the film, all declined. Monsanto and a meat & poultry coalition have created websites decrying the film’s gritty details, but this dispute fails to address a more important issue: can food be produced cheaply and safely? A family that consumes “dollar menu meals” nightly cannot afford to “vote with their dollar” by buying the more expensive organic foods praised by Food, Inc. Yet, there’s no denying the industrial food system has failed people like Barbara Kowalcyk, whose young son Kevin died from a gruesome infection after eating a contaminated hamburger, and the increasing masses of poor families suffering from obesity and diabetes.

So what can we do about it? Food, Inc. closes with a quick text list of ten calls to action (including reintroducing H.R. 3160 – Kevin’s Law – named after Kowalcyk’s son), and lists another ten on its website Hungry For Change, but little on how to actually achieve that change. Participant Media (producers of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth) has released a tie-in collection of essays (which I have not read), and Hungry For Change contains a petition for Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (which MAZON fully supports as part of our “Hunger Doesn’t Take A Summer Vacation” campaign), but how can the family that works until 10 at night be expected to read & research even more?

The sad answer is they can’t. So it’s up to us to educate ourselves – watch Food, Inc., sign the online petition for Child Nutrition, and stay involved through MAZON and Hungry For Change – so that we can help everyone. Because everyone’s got to eat healthy.


Filed under Hunger in the Media

How Low Can You Go…And Stay Healthy?

Recently, NPR aired a series entitled “How Low Can You Go?”, in which listeners, website users, and chefs share recipes which can feed a family of four for under $10. The first episode of the series features Spanish celebrity chef José Andrés preparing a chickpea & spinach stew.

The recipe isn’t for everyone –Andrés recommends using dried chickpeas (which must be soaked overnight, then rinsed & boiled for an additional hour) and several commenters on NPR’s website note that Spanish olive oil, sherry & saffron aren’t exactly common kitchen items – but this isn’t the point. For increasing numbers of food insecure families, a $10 dinner (regardless of what’s in it) is a luxury, and many think the only way they can afford to feed their family is with macaroni, spaghetti & fast food combos – dishes full of calories, but with nutrition even lower than their price. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else – during MAZON’s Food Stamp Challenge last year, I lived off potatoes, ramen noodles & frozen burritos, and as a result became dazed and sluggish. I was only looking for calories; I just assumed fresh food & nutritious meals were out of my price range.

Andrés’ recipe leans towards the fancy, but it feeds four for less than $10. And it’s pretty healthy. If NPR’s series and recipes inspire even one family to go low and still go healthy, then that’s worth setting alarms & checking the beans.

One more thing; NPR recorded José Andrés & his recipe at DC Central Kitchen, where Andrés volunteers. For the last 20 years, DC Central Kitchen has recycled tons of food in the Capitol area that would otherwise go to waste. Their program entails culinary job training that empowers homeless & hungry people with professional skills while helping nourish their peers & strengthen their community. We are proud to include them amongst our grantees, and wish them the best on their 20th anniversary. You can learn more about them at: http://www.dccentralkitchen.org/

NPR’s original feature is available at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102854605&ps=cprs

MAZON’s Food Stamp Challenge video blogs are available at: http://www.youtube.com/mazonusa

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Filed under Hunger in the Media, Interviews, MAZON Grantees