Think Nationally, Act Locally

The research for and writing of the past three weeks’ blog posts has been stimulating and thought provoking for me.  I immersed myself in articles, passages from books, reports on webpages and interviews with people speaking on the causes and results of poverty, some sharing first-hand experience.  I could tell I had hit a homerun with the topics, as the response I got from readers was some of the best I’ve had since I started blogging.  Unfortunately, everything I read or listened to when conducting my research was pretty bleak and depressing.  Consequently, as I started to think about what to write about this week,  I wanted to focus on something positive, some small success for those who are food insecure.  While I have to believe those successes are out there, I struck out and could not find any to report.  The result of all that research and the inability to find a single positive story to share this week has left me feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem of poverty and disheartened that the causes of poverty will ever really be addressed in any meaningful way.  I find myself asking, “How can one person ever hope to make a difference?”

baseball                       CDub jersey                       bats

When I first started on this journey I would often become paralyzed by this sense of despair, but now I have learned to recognize its approach and shift my perspective in order to deflect the feeling of hopelessness brought on by studying the full scope of the problem of poverty on the national level.  When I am ready to throw my hands up in the air and declare my efforts futile, I think about a quote from Mother Teresa that a friend from high school sent to me when I first encountered this paralyzing sense of despair.

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.

When I reflect on that quote I remember that the problem of poverty is not mine to solve, nor could I if it were, but I can work locally to try and make a difference in my community.

With that said, I have decided to take the next few weeks to focus on actions I can take to assist the food insecure locally.  I will continue volunteering in the food pantry, as well as spending time planning the initial steps for starting a non-profit.  During this time I will probably post very little, if at all, to the blog, but I have a favor to ask of you.  Take a look in your pantry and let me know what staples you have that you couldn’t imagine having to cook without.  These staples could be spices or condiments or ingredients used in baking, like flour or baking soda.  Keep them practical.  Items like this are usually not available in food pantries, or even larger food banks, but are necessary in order to prepare healthy food that tastes good.  As always, I appreciate your feedback!

This week’s blog pictures brought to you by Baseball!  Sorry for the baseball puns.  I couldn’t resist.

 

 

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A Plan of Action

I have not been able to volunteer the past two weeks due to family appointments.  Even though I know clients will continue to get their food, I feel bad not being there and realize that I am contributing to the instability of emergency food as discussed in Janet Poppendieck’s “Seven Deadly Ins” of emergency food.  My inability to volunteer does not mean that I have been idle.  This past week I have been thinking about last week’s post and the goals I put forth in it.  While looking for inspirational quotes to include in that post I encountered this one goal dreamand it has been haunting me since.  I don’t have any deadlines; I admitted as much in my post.  While I am not sure my current family responsibilities will allow me to create firm deadlines, I have decided to shift my attention, slightly, away from strictly blogging and more toward working on my goals and creating squishy deadlines.  I plan to take the summer months, when my boys are home from school and my work day will be a little bit more disrupted and noisy, to do some researching and planning.

Toward that end, I started scouring my cookbooks for recipes using oats.  Oats, to me, seem likeoats a no-brainer for a food bank or pantry to distribute.  They are an incredible source of soluble fiber, more than any other grain, which slows digestion and keeps one full longer.  The soluble fiber in oats also helps control blood sugar levels, so oats may help to reduce a person’s risk of Type 2 diabetes.  Oats have been proven to lower cholesterol and contain a protein, nearly equivalent in quality to soy protein, which has been shown to be equal to other forms of protein, like eggs and meat.  All of these benefits have lead some to label oats as a super food.

Despite all of the benefits of oats, they are not a staple at either of the food pantries where I volunteer.  Sometimes donated containers of oats will be available, but more often than instant oatsnot what is available are the packets of instant oatmeal.  This type of oatmeal often contains lots of sugar and salt.  It has also been processed more, allowing it to digest quicker, reducing the benefits associated with the slower digestion of rolled or steel cut oats.  Furthermore, instant oatmeal can only be used for one thing, a warm breakfast cereal.  Oats, on the other hand, can be used in many recipes.  Without spending too much time I was able to find about a dozen suitable recipes using oats, and I haven’t even begun to probe recipes using oats for side dishes.

Other areas in which I want to invest some time researching are starting a non profit and finding potential seed funding for that venture.  I have a neighbor who just used crowdfunding for a video series on horse slaughter in America with the help of Indiegogo.  This was a new concept to me, but seemed to be successful for him, so it warrants further investigation.  In addition to registering and funding my non-profit, I need to determine what food items I will supply to food pantries and how the distribution will work.  I currently see a featured partnering of items with accompanying recipes.  For instance, drawing oats cinnamonupon oats, I would donate oats and cinnamon to the food pantry.  Clients would then be able to take the paring of a container of oats and a bottle of cinnamon along with a handful of recipes.  The items partnered together would change with the seasons, featuring items that made sense for the time of year.  Lastly, once items to be donated have been chosen, I need to determine how I get the items to donate.  Do I partner with retailers and/or wholesalers, accept donations, make purchases or a combination of these options?

Sounds like I am going to be busy this summer!  I don’t imagine I will get all those objectives solved in the space of a few months, but I now have a plan of action.  Presently I need to return my attention to gathering a few more recipes for oats and getting them typed up.  At the same time I need to start collecting some recipes for kale and collards.  The Chester Country Food Bank posted on Facebook this week that volunteers harvested 350 pounds of kale and collard greens.  I imagine that will start to trickle down to the food pantries soon, as will other vegetables.  Can’t wait!

local produce