Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty

Note:  This post was written for Blog Action Day 2008.  This year’s issue is Poverty, and you can find more about Blog Action Day here.  Since this post is also during VeganMoFo and relates to food, well- it’s a two for one deal!

I am a vegan.  I am also a student.  I am also a therapist working part-time in the impoverished city of New Haven, CT.  While most people probably think of New Haven as the home of Yale University, one of the most well-endowed schools anywhere, what many don’t realize is that vast majority of the surrounding area is low-income.  Being that Connecticut has one of the highest median incomes in the US, well, it’s a huge division.
Most of the clients I see are on some type of “assistance.”  Currently, everyone on my caseload is on the state Medicaid program.  Many receive SSI or SSDI, housing benefits, food stamps, WIC, make use of a food panty or any combination of the above programs and probably other ones that I’m not listing.
Obviously, with the American economy in the toilet right now, the issue of poverty isn’t going to be getting better any time soon.  I’ve already read that food pantries are receiving less in donations, even though we’re fast approaching the holiday season, a time when donations are typically much higher.  
I thought about making a vegan dish for today’s post containing ingredients that would typically be found in a food pantry.  I came up with something along the lines of rice, beans, canned spinach, garlic powder, dried minced onion, salt and pepper.  Then I thought to myself:  “I’d never eat that.”   I pretty much don’t eat white rice unless it’s in the form of sushi rice or risotto. You probably won’t find brown rice in your local food pantry.  I also like my spinach fresh or frozen, depending on the dish, and I like fresh garlic and onion.  So I thought some more.  Pasta and sauce, right?  With beans thrown in?  I could do that, but I don’t really want to post it, and again, if we’re talking about a food panty, we’re probably talking plain white pasta, not whole grain.
Then it hit me.  Food pantry food isn’t the most nutritious in the world.  A reasonable person might think, well, that’s just to supplement food stamps, right?  So, it’s kinda okay? Except for how food stamps don’t come close to covering a typical food bill for a family.  
According to this website, the maximum benefit for a family of 3 is $426/month.  I would think that most families of 3 could eat quite well on this.  Except, notice that it is the MAXIMUM benefit.  While I can’t get into specifics of the families that I work with, I can assure you than none of them are receiving even close to half the maximum benefit, though their basic living expenses (housing, utilities, transportation, clothing) exceed their income.  And for anyone who thinks “Hey, I saw someone using food stamps while wearing 982734928374 pieces of gold jewelry and designer clothes and then loading all their groceries into a Lexus SUV…” well, I don’t know what to tell you, because that’s not what I see at my neighborhood grocery store.  
So I want to issue a challenge to all you vegan cooks out there.  Design a tasty, nutritious and visually appealing vegan meal from the most frequently needed items listed here at the Connecticut Food Bank.  Post it here!
Can’t come up with one or don’t have the time?  Consider donating some non-perishable nutritious foods to your local food bank instead.  And consider doing it on a regular basis.
And now I return you to your regularly scheduled VeganMoFo posts.

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