Tuesday, April 27, 2010

#CAFB Hunger Project: Lessons Learned

We are a little over half way through our week of meager eating. Even though we are not sticklers to the food pantry menu, it is incredible what we have already learned thus far. There is so much we take for granted everyday. I've also learned a lot about myself and what I am willing to sacrifice in the name of taste. Food is a delightful pleasure, and when I am not able to enjoy it, I would just rather not eat. It has been difficult to change my mentality from "live to eat" to "eat to live." Here are a few other take-home-messages:
  • This may be obvious, but food = brain power. When whatever available is unappetizing, or if I make a conscious effort to not spend money on lunch, I make the incredibly poor choice of not eating at all. I don't notice an energy crash or stabbing hunger pains. Instead, the world feels like it is in slow motion and my reaction time is greatly reduced. My concentration sucks, and I become moody and mean. Not a great combination. I have to make a conscious effort to eat, for health and mood sake. Definitely a newly adopted "eat to live" mentality.
  • Frozen veggies are SO much better than canned veggies. The difference is surprisingly noticeable. Of course fresh produce trumps them all, but I will take microwaved frozen green giant over mushy canned peas any day!
  • That being said, canned mushrooms are delicious! They retain their firmness and flavor quite well. I guess some veggies just can better than others.
  • Beggars CAN be choosers. I will always take advantage of free food. But since this year, we have made a resolution to eat sustainably, cutting out factory farmed meat all together. We were at a baseball game with a free buffet, but without any veggie options. Ordinarily, I would've bought something else (nachos and cheese pizza anyone??). But in the spirit of this project, I tried to make do with what was available. I made a delicious potato-chip burger, complete with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, cheese, ketchup and mustard. It was yummy, I didn't even miss the protein. The chips added a nice crunch and texture.
  • It is very difficult, if not impossible to eat organic sustainable meat on a limited budget. It's as simple as Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Until your basic nutrition and hunger needs are met, who cares about the welfare of animals? You are going to make your dollar stretch as far as possible, regardless of the hidden costs. Unfortunately, the $8 terraburger is no match for Mickey D's dollar value menu.
  • Eating nutritious, well-balanced, and healthy meals takes practice with this diet. As you may have noticed, most of our recipes have been loaded with carbs. I'm sure it becomes easier to expand your repertoire. It is even harder with our "no-factory-farmed-meat" rule. Seafood is expensive. So is any organic meat. With a vegetarian diet, it is hard to get your protein. It's too bad the food pantry doesn't give out tofu! We have been relying on eggs, beans, and mushrooms for protein.
  • Variety is a luxury. We ate congee every morning for 4 days, and got quite sick of it. That was only 4 days!! As foodies, we really appreciate variation in our diet. I know some people like eating cereal every morning, but we are not those people. I try not to eat the same thing more than two days in a row.
  • We've had to get creative with our leftovers. I made mashed potatoes for dinner one night. The next day Justin made potato, egg, and cheese breakfast tacos, with some barbecue sauce. I added some wasabi and green onions to it for lunch as a side to my (non-food pantry) salmon. We finished off the potatoes, but had we had anymore, I was considering making it into a a chilled potato soup. Ah the possibilities!
  • There needs to be policy changes around food and nutrition in our country. Who can blame anyone for choosing a super-sized value meal (subsidized by government money for corn and ranching) over a spring salad that costs exactly the same?? What are our children eating for school lunches? A few things I remember from my teaching days are: frito pie, pizza, corndogs, nachos, and processed/packaged PB&J on white crustless bread. Keep in mind that for many kids, this is their only solid meal of the day. Full of fat, carbs, sodium, and sugar. As a testament to this, I gained 15lbs while teaching, from eating those lunches (oreos and chips for snacktime didn't help either... but that's what the parents brought!) and I lost that weight after moving to Austin and changing my diet. No wonder we have such round kiddos these days.
  • Major kudos to CAFB for providing nutrition education to families. Kids are picky eaters, and when you are trying to make ends meet, you don't exactly have the time or resources to get creative with making kid-approved healthy meals. I had one student who ONLY ate McDonald's, no joke. He refused all other food, threw his lunch away every day. Granted he had autism, and his parents just didn't know what to do. To make sure he ate, they gave in to his demands everyday. This was a huge financial drain on the family, not to mention nutritionally unacceptable. What else can you do? Thank you CAFB for your cooking classes and outreach to teach these families healthy alternatives.


Anonymous said...

Thought-provoking observations. Good work.

Addie said...

What a great post, Justin and Han! You guys came to some great conclusions, many of which I also experienced but wasn't able to pinpoint quite as clearly as you. Thanks so much again for participating.