Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Face of Hunger in America - July 2014 - Food Insecurity

Dear Folks,

This may be one of the most important posts I have ever put together.  Please read and share.  You don't have to live in a run-down neighborhood to be hungry, nor do you have to be unemployed.  You can be on social security, working multiple jobs,  a single parent, or the victim of a tragedy.

Wealth or a good paying job can be a great barrier to understanding, really understanding, what it means to be food insecure.  Someone on the outside looking at a clean, neat appearing, slightly overweight person at the check out stand of a grocery store using an EBT card (food stamps) and think, "hmmm, why does that person need food stamps?"  Likewise they may look at a messy looking individual using the same kind of EBT card and buying colored water flavored with sugar (substitute for real juice), white bread, cheap hot dogs or peanut butter and jelly and think "hmmm, trash, these people need to get a job and stop mooching."

The real trash is the quality of the food they are buying, because they have limited resources and limited knowledge on what to buy, so they give in to the children asking for food and drink and fill them up with what is filling but not anywhere near nutritious enough to help them -- in school, at work, get a job.

If you do not eat nutritious food you do not think well. Period.

And, if you think hunger won't happen to you because you feel secure in your job and life, keep in mind many before you have discovered through tragedy, sickness, or loss of a major career job that it only takes one major life-changing-event to change everything.

If YOU know how to feed yourself and your family in reduced/stressed circumstances, you will always, always be able to keep more of your life together and under control.

You may know someone ,or some people, who can use this information to help themselves and/or to help others.

On the heels of reading an article in National Geographic (NG) on Food Insecurity in America, I came across a free (PDF) cookbook aimed at the working poor and poor who survive on food stamps (SNAP) and food banks.

I read, with disgust, the frequent comments criticizing SNAP recipients for being overweight (there is a reason for that, that nothing to do with too much money); lazy and moochers.

Sure there are those who take advantage of any program, non-profit group, or the government.

But when people who work hard or who are disabled can't get the right foods in enough quantity to keep them out of ER rooms and hospitals there is something wrong with our national conscience.  And, using examples of jerks to keep food and information from those who need it is just plain wrong!

Did you ever look in a donation box of food collections going to food banks?

I have, and they bear out the NG article stating the donations are high calorie, low nutrition, high salt and sugar foods = Cheap!  Mostly that is what people donate, cheap food.

The same kind of cheap food most food insecure families buy for themselves - when they have the money or food stamps.

Boxes of sugary cereal; cans of green beans or corn, some peanut butter and high fructose corn syrup jelly, a rare can of meat like tuna and soups - cans and cans of soup.

Did you ever look at the nutrition label on a can of Cambell's soup?  I have.  In fact I started, but have not completed, a cookbook aimed at eating more healthy from pre-packaged foods, because the basic can of soup, even the ready-to-eat versions, have more salt than protein or fiber.

Growing up there were times when we might have been classified in the new term for hungry - food insecure.  My mom was creative, having spent a good part of her childhood and teenage years on a farm.  I hated a lot of the 'creative' things she made, but she was trying to feed 5 kids plus my dad and her.

She would take a can of Campbell's vegetable beef soup.  Add cups and cups of water and toss in barley and cook until the barley was done and that was dinner.

It was not always like that for us, but I remember it all to this day and food still becomes a source of fear - fear of not having enough or of not having the 'right' things, so I learned how to grow food and keep the pantry stocked with go-to-things so that 'fear' does not get triggered.

Most of today's food-insecure families do not have either the knowledge or the time to learn how to be creative, and they do not know where to go for help.  Food banks are the most wonderful and generous of society's conscience, but they usually are under-staffed with little 'wiggle' room for tutoring on how to put foods together to make them more nutritious and also appealing.

From the NG article:

When she learned that SNAP benefits could be used to buy vegetable plants, she dug two gardens in her yard. She has learned about wild mushrooms so she can safely pick ones that aren’t poisonous and has lobbied the local library to stock field guides to edible wild plants. “We wouldn’t eat healthy at all if we lived off the food-bank food,” Reams says. (emphasis added)

I can't say enough about learning how to grow some or most of your own food.  You take the control of what and when of food out of the hands of other people and into your own hands.


Read the NG article to learn about the real face of the hungry in America, then check out Leanne Brown's cookbook.

Leanne Brown's Kickstarter Program.

Ms. Brown has generously made this PDF file available for anyone to use and share.  Print it out, distribute it to groups that help others, and READ it for yourself and your family.

As a graduate school project Ms. Brown went about developing recipes around the SNAP monthly allocation of $4 a day using healthy ingredients.  $4 a day - that is a Starbucks coffee and people need to eat sustaining meals on that amount.

The challenge for many folks is these recipes require cooking - I'm not being mean here - I'm being practical - to eat better and cheaper means doing some prep work and actually cooking.  It is certainly possible to do many meals in the crock pot.  Make use of limited time to cook large batches up and freeze or save for the next couple of days.

And about the over-weight / poor health thing.

says Melissa Boteach, vice president of the Poverty and Prosperity Program of the Center for American Progress, “people making trade-offs between food that’s filling but not nutritious and may actually contribute to obesity.”  Not to ignore diabetes and other health issues directly related to poor nutrition.

People who are hungry eat to fill themselves up: cheap fast food (very high fat); white bread (some vitamins and maybe some minerals but practically no protein); cheap dairy - I'm not talking milk here, I'm talking fake cheese that has added calcium but no protein.  So they put together a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches for a total calorie content exceeding 500+ calories (estimate) and maybe, maybe a total of 3 grams of protein and no fiber when a meal should have between 12 and 20+ of protein for an adult.

They ate a meal of sugar, salt, flour a few minerals, no fiber and someone outside looking at them figures they are doing just fine. NOT!

Download here

Her recipes are the kind I love to see when teaching cooking.  She uses inexpensive protein sources like eggs to create satisfying, healthy foods - savory oatmeal with scallions topped with a fried or poached egg!

I have touted the benefits of making oatmeal a side dish, not just a breakfast dish - use it in place of rice, pasta or potatoes.

I have used my savory oatmeal leftovers to make patties which can be heated up in the skillet the next morning (or microwave) and served with eggs, some meat or cheese for a filling and fast breakfast.  (Think hash browns only way better for you.)

She makes great suggestions for leftovers, and bases most of the dishes around seasonal vegetables (aka cheaper and better for you).  The recipes are to serve 2 or 4 but can easily be doubled.

Here is one of my Canned Meals recipes - I put together on a camping trip some years ago.  Try for low salt options - if you have the money (it is so interesting that when they leave out things like too much salt or sugar they charge more for it? - I know there is a production reason for this but still . . .)

This is enough for 2-3 people, depending on appetites

1 6 oz. can of water packed tuna
1 8 oz (apprx) can of cut green beans in water
1 8 oz (apprx) can of stewed tomatoes
Italian-type salad dressing/vinaigrette (homemade, dry packaged, or bottled)
1 small can of potatoes
1-2 tablespoons of capers
Other options include canned anchovies, olives, hard cooked eggs, red peppers, shallots, artichoke hearts and you might enjoy a rustic/crusty bread with it also.

Drain canned foods (Arizona Dun-Deane likes to drink the water from everything but the tuna - the bean and tomato water/juice are a cheap V8 sub - might as well use everything!), fold together gently - you don't want to mash the food - add capers if desired, toss with enough dressing to coat well but don't make it soggy. Eat and enjoy. Protein, Fiber, Lycopene, Vitamins, Minerals and some salt and fat - this is the kind of meal that is healthy and satisfying - just watch the salt content of the canned foods.

This not the best example of fresh is best, but canned can be a second option if combined properly.

I hope this post gives you some new information, helpful ideas and please, please share this around.

Thank you

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Farming in Croatia and how it can relate to the Valley of the Sun.

Dear Folks,

I wanted to share with you all a blog post by Greg Peterson at Urban Farm in Phoenix.

Think of this as a blueprint for how to 'grow' a local food system that benefits you, your family, neighbors and community.

While this is not a backyard gardening guide, I think some of the points made by Greg are applicable.

Too often folks get caught up in the 'its too big' or 'what can one little xxxxx' accomplish mentality.

Greg's post is in part about his trip to Croatia and learning about their local food system and how it relates to our food system(s).

Read through the related posts (found on the right side of the site) to learn more of what Greg discovered


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Ribbon Salad

Dear Folks,

This refreshing salad is just perfect for those hot summer days.

Hopefully you have lots of the ingredients growing in your garden :-)


Sometimes my recipes come almost fully formed from my imagination because I have been out what we call "wafting" in the garden and the aromas and visuals give me ideas.

Other times I see a recipe and say "how can I do that differently?" This is one of those. I wanted a lighter, more colorful salad than the recipe I saw, with a special mint for flavoring. Using a potato peeler, creates wide ribbons of flavor for making this fresh salad.

1 yellow crook neck squash, peeled
1 green (light or dark) summer squash/zucchini, peeled
1/2 cantaloupe, seeded, and peeled
1 cucumber, peeled if desired
4 tablespoons pineapple mint, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar (not seasoned)
pinch of salt

Using a potato peeler, cut thin ribbons of each vegetable or fruit, so you have one cup, loose packed, of each. Place in colander over a bowl, and allow to drain and catch juices for 10 minutes. Reserve juices and chill.

Make a dressing by dissolving the honey in the vinegar. Add an equal amount of reserved juices, add salt and stir well. Mix in mint. When ready to serve, gently toss the ribbons to create a mix of colors. Place 1 cup on each plate and pour about 2 teaspoons of dressing over each. Serve immediately.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Inflation and Gardening

Dear Folks,

Powell over at The Valley Permaculture Alliance posted a good and thoughtful piece on why it is more than time to consider growing some or more of your own food.

I am including it here with the link to the post so you can check out related articles.

One of my all time favorite quotes:

Unemployment is capitalism’s way of getting you to plant a garden. ~Orson Scott Card

To which I would add, and "economy" and "inflation".


"The past two weeks I have been monitoring stories on inflation.  As even the "mainstream media" has reported on grocery prices going up fairly significantly and uniformly across the shelves.  This reinforces another reason to start a garden . . . while it is still likely more cost efficient to buy food from a store it becomes less so (especially using > $4 a gallon gas to travel to and from there) as prices shoot up.  While initial investments in gardening are high in both time and money people have pointed to some pretty easy ways to start.

Our soil is actually pretty good---chock full of nutrients.  It may be alkaline, but generally not so much as to prohibit growing food.  It may be low on carbon and nitrogen, but there are low cost (even free ... start a compost pile at the same time) ways of amending this.  There are ways of dealing with weeds.  It may be compacted but that can be dealt with.  It may be dry.  It may be salty.  It may be convenient to outline or define its bed.  It may require stoop labor.  It may require daily labor.  It may require protection from birds and other competitors for our food.

But inflation at the store = a reason to start devoting time to a garden.  Start small and make your mistakes (and successes) first.

As Catherine will remind us in a week or so, the middle of July is when the winter sowing of seeds begins.  Three weeks to outline, plan and dig a garden bed.  Three weeks to make a start on all the other reasons besides cost for growing YOUR OWN (I grew this!) food.

If you are relatively new to this web site, the VPA or even the area or even visiting from a similar arid environment the how to's can be found here as can people ready to help.

Sadly, I see a day when growing your own food makes more sense economically than buying it.  It is possible that day will be soon.  Part of life is preparing for this possibility before it arrives.  Maybe in the journey you will discover all of the other reasons for growing your own food."

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Free Seed Share - June 27th

Dear Folks,

FREE!  Seed Share!

This is my semi-annual seed share I host 3 times a year at the Mesa FM.

Friday, June 27th – 9 a.m. - Noon
Mesa Community Farmers Market
Center & University
Mesa, Arizona

How It Works:
Choose:    Any seeds we have – small envelopes will be available with pens to select and mark what you want to take home.

Bring:     Any seeds you harvested.  Share any organic or heirloom seeds you purchased.  Focus on edible seed varieties.

What:    No -  GMOs - if you are unsure if the seeds you have are GMO, please just bring yourself to choose seeds available.

Why:    Grow some of your own food, help “your economy,” and share with friends and family.

You Do Not Need To Bring Seeds to participate.


Hope to see you there,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Unabashed Promotion - Music!

Dear Folks,

I posted information on my Google Groups about the news that my dear Deane and friends have a new CD.

Forever Surf!

The guys, led by Deane's friend Mike Finney, have been writing and working on this CD for quite a few years.

I hope you enjoy the music!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Monday, April 07, 2014

Important Bill in the State Legislature to Restore rights to Keep Chickens

Dear Folks,

This bill (SB1151) would restore the right of single family homeowners to keep some chickens (fowl) regardless of city restrictions.  This would not take away a city's right to manage nuisance issues.  Just as homeowners can keep cats or dogs, the right to have some chickens for eggs etc. was a right in the past fully supported and encouraged by the government.

Please, politely, call and email the Speaker and Chairman to have this bill put on the agenda.  Chairman Robson has refused to put it on the agenda.

Please share this with everyone ASAP.

Here is the group supporting this bill Facebook page.


*SB1151 Update 4-6-14* (Our Freedom Must Be Restored)

Everyone needs to understand the importance of SB1151. This is the only Bill that is about Personal Freedom currently in the Arizona Legislature. Every other Bill is attempting to take/regulate something away from you. We need to make sure this is not just about Fowl (there is a big picture here). This Bill is about OUR FREEDOM. If we do not put everything we have into getting it heard and onto a full vote we will see more of our freedoms disappear.

Please tell everyone to help get this done. We need to not get discouraged or feel we can not win. If everyone here took 10 minutes of their time and called these 2 phone numbers along with 2 emails we would have already had a final vote on the Bill in the House and it could possibly be law or currently waiting on the Governor. (but 700+ of you have not even done this) So I ask everyone to else to help and get everyone you know to help. If we can not as a group even step up and make some simple phone calls then why are we a group and why are you a member? Are you hear to have everyone else do things for you? I promise if you do not help this will fail and it will not be the fault of those that have worked hard because so many of us hear have giving it everything we have and more. It will fail because the rest of us hear are not willing to give a few minutes of their time to help. Then when the next law is passed by your city or town and you loose more rights it will also be your fault because you did not stand up and turn this around. The silence of everyone is the reason we loose rights. -DO NOT BE SILENT ANYMORE- The members of the House that are opposed to our Bill are trying to run out the clock. We must put so much pressure on them they can not do this.

We must continue to call and write emails. These are the current two who stand in the way of Freedom. Let them know you want SB1151 heard and you want the Bill brought to a Full House Vote.
At this point we need to focus on these two. *Phone calls* are the most effective tool we have to use and we need to focus all our attention on that on that. If you also email please (cc) COPY both of them on everything we send via-email. We must be respectful we are above political games and we must present our selves this way.

Basics of what to say and or email - You are asking them to put SB1151 on the agenda and asking for them to tell each other to put the Bill on the agenda. This way whomever is writing the agenda will get the message. Tell them this Bill is important for you and important for freedom/property rights. Make it personal and they will remember what you have said. Remember the Assistant that answers the phone does not work for the Representative. The Assistant works for the State of Arizona and was assigned to that member so his/her views could be different from the Member. If you do not want to tell a story tell them you support the bill and would love that the Members allow it to come to a vote. It is very simple and only takes a few minutes of your life

These all who we must contact currently until you hear from me otherwise.

Andy Tobin (Speaker of the House)
(602) 926-5172

Bob Robson (Chairman of the Committee)
(602) 926-5549

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady