USDA subsidies were introduced to farmers during The Great Depression, so that farmers could get a fair price for their crops. The hope was that our nation would not go hungry. It was meant to be applied in times of crisis or emergency. Once that crisis was over, the intention was that the market would take back over. These days, the main beneficiaries of this subsidy are corporate farms. The small, produce farmer just can’t seem to get ahead and compete. The main food crops that are being subsidized are grains such as wheat, corn and soybeans. All these crops are what my Daddy farmed with great love of the land. The day of someone like Daddy making a living off of grain farming is dwindling as large; factory farms receive the highest amount of subsidies. This corporate welfare is a main contributor to our new crisis…hunger!
My husband and I watched A Place At The Table this weekend. This is a documentary about the faces of American hunger. My mind has been racing ever since. I am angry that we are a nation of great wealth, and people are going hungry. I am angry that those people are not given the appropriate tools to eat a nutritious diet. I am angry that obesity and hunger are relatives. But, I am also inspired. I am inspired by people who give a damn!
I live in Nashville, where food deserts are on their way to being eliminated. The average food stamp budget is $3-4 a day per person. Because of the grain subsidies, processed foods have become a cheaper way to live. While the cost of a box of Cheerios has declined since the 1980’s, the cost of a box of fresh produce has risen. Community Food Advocates are doing their part by helping our local Farmers Markets accept EBT cards. James Cayce Homes is exactly .6 miles from the closest Producer Only Farmers market. This market opens in May. So, until then The Turnip Truck is only .8 miles from the East Nashville housing development. Both places are offering locally grown produce for the EBT consumer. This is huge! Before organizations such as Community Food Advocates and Second Harvest Food Bank got involved, the James Cayce Homes resident’s only choice was a run down, CeeBee Food Store where you were lucky to find a black banana or half rotten tomato, from lord knows where!
Before I became a part of the sustainable food movement, I had a hard time not judging the contents of an EBT consumer’s grocery cart. Dr. Mariana Chilton of Witnesses to Hunger explains this situation by saying, “It used to be called emergency food…when in fact it is chronic use of a broken system that people can’t be held accountable.” I am sure there are many feelings around this subject. I have experienced anger, frustration, and hopelessness when just thinking about it! We CAN be a part of the solution! First, please watch A Place At The Table. Click either Amazon or ITunes to stream this film. After you get all fired up, click here to tell Congress how you feel. If you are like me and love to tweet information, give Congress a holler by using these tweet ideas . If you live in Nashville, please be on the lookout for a great event coming up on April 29. Trust me, it’s gonna be good!
This weekend, I also made a trip to the newest Producer Only Farmers Market in West Nashville. Many of their producers will also be vendors at the East Nashville Farmers Market in May. I found turnip raab from Bells Bend Farms for $3 per pound! Kroger offers very affordable options for pantry staples. Again, my mind began to race. What if, an EBT consumer could make a nutritious meal out of Farmers Market produce and pantry staples that wouldn’t break that food stamp budget of $3 per day?
Turnip Raab and Bean Pasta
Serves 4 for $1.67 per person (This is using organic ingredients! Yep, organic can be so affordable!)
|1 Tbsp. olive oil or any budget friendly oilBlack pepper and salt
1 clove of chopped garlic
½ lb. of Turnip Raab
1 cup of chicken broth
Splash of lemon juice
|Heat oil over medium heat in skillet. Sauté garlic and pepper with raab. As the raab starts to become tender, add the chicken broth and salt. Gently toss to coat and cover to steam on low for approximately 10 minutes or until fork tender. Squeeze lemon juice over the mixture and toss again. Set aside to cool.|
|1 tbsp. of olive oil or any budget friendly oil½ white onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
Pinch of thyme
Salt and Pepper
¼ cup of diced carrot
1 15 oz. can of white beans
½ cup of chicken broth
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp. dried basil
|Heat oil, thyme and pepper over medium heat in sauté pan. Add onion and carrot. As vegetables begin to soften add garlic, and broth. As the broth begins to simmer, add the beans and a little of its canned liquid. Heat through. Mash the beans with fork or hand held blender. Cover and simmer on low for approximately 15 minutes or until liquid has reduced by half. Salt to taste and finish with lemon juice and dried basil. (If dried herbs are not in the budget, they may be omitted. However, if you have a window seal and a little patience with seeds. Herbs are a cost effective way to impart flavor on any pantry item)|
|1 box of dried pastaOlive Oil
Grated Parmesan Cheese (optional)
|Salt a pot of boiling water, before adding the dried pasta. Boil until the paste is al dente. Add a spoon of the pasta water to the bean sauce to give it extra body. Drain cooked pasta and toss into bean sauce over low heat. At this point, you have a budget friendly and nutritious meal. If budget allows, adding a seasonal vegetable such as turnip raab can impart such a burst of flavor. Gently toss the raab into the pasta. I finished this dish with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and grated parmesan cheese. However, some folk’s budget or palate may not require the finish and that is totally fine.|